“Song of Nunu is Riot Forge's best game yet, emphasizing gameplay variety and an emotional narrative about processing grief.”
- Excellent, emotional story
- Filled with gameplay variety
- A kid-friendly introduction to Runeterra
- Instant-fail stealth sections
- Occasional performance problems
From Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to Astral Chain to Soulstice, single-player games where players technically control two characters simultaneously have always enticed me. That’s why I was excited to find out that Riot Forge — which creates single-player, narrative-driven League of Legends spinoffs — was working with the developers of RiME to create Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story. The cinematic 3D puzzle-platformer stars two somewhat lesser-known League of Legends champions: the Yotai named Nunu and his Yeti friend, Willump.
The adventure seemed even more promising once it was clear that it was a successor to some of Tequila Works’ best titles, RiME and Gylt. The result is the best Riot Forge title yet. While Song of Nunu’s constant set piece variety meant that I occasionally came across a part I didn’t enjoy as much, the adventure’s brisk pace, creativity, engaging story, and accessible look into the world of Runeterra make it a solid all-ages introduction to and expansion of the world of League of Legends.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story follows Nunu and Willump on their quest to find Nunu’s mom, whom he was separated from when his Yotai caravan was attacked, and to learn more about a magical artifact called the Heart of the Blue. The pair explore Runeterra’s icy Freljord region, encountering other League of Legends champions like Braum, Orrn, and Lissandra in an adventure that prioritizes its narrative as it tells a story about found family and how people of all ages process grief. Having lost a pet earlier this year, these themes struck a chord with me.
I’ve previously praised Riot Forge for offering unique looks into specific characters and parts of League of Legends’ world that are impossible to explore in the popular MOBA. The publishing label continues to bear fruit with Song of Nunu as it fleshes out a distinct and less well-trodden corner of Runeterra via a compelling adventure. This might also be the most approachable and all-ages League of Legends game yet. The story certainly has darker, emotional moments that address death and grief. It balances those heavy themes with family-friendly lightness, creating an entertaining fantasy adventure in the vein of Disney films like Brother Bear or Onward.
If you’re a parent who loves League of Legends, but do not want to expose your kid to the toxic vitriol that can come with that online game, Song of Nunu provides a kid-friendly way to share your love of Runeterra with them. And if they show interest in the world, Song of Nunu features an approachable written glossary that fills out throughout the adventure and will make players an expert on this part of Runeterra. I knew little about Nunu and Willump going into Song of Nunu, but now they’re up there with the likes of Jinx and Sylas as some of my favorite League of Legends champions.
Tequila Works has created a linear adventure and puzzle-driven 3D platformer in the vein of story-focused games in the genre, like its own RiME. It’s not an adventure focused on intricate movement like Super Mario Odyssey, as Nunu and Willump control pretty heavily and lose momentum after landing a jump. Instead, it leaps from idea to idea to whatever seamlessly bolsters the tone or story of that game section the most.
One moment, I was climbing along ledges Uncharted-style, and the next, I could be playing a song with Nunu’s Svellsongur flute to move a large creature, or freezing water with Willump’s powers to create a path, or sliding down an icy trail on Willump’s back, or getting in a snowball fight between Nunu and Willump. Song of Nunu emphasizes variety, keeping the adventure concise and consistently fresh. It only took about six hours for me to beat Song of Nunu, but every moment of that felt handcrafted.
This approach also means that if a particular gameplay style doesn’t click with a player, portions of the game will feel like a lull. This happened to me with a late-game stealth section that instantly reset me to a checkpoint if Nunu got caught. Thankfully, as this was only a tiny chunk of the adventure, I was able to quickly move on to something else that I enjoyed as the game dynamically flowed from idea to idea.
Song of Nunu technically features two playable characters, but Nunu serves as the primary character and commands Willump in some puzzles and the occasional combo-based combat encounter. In some cases, Nunu will get off Willump’s back and have to climb around and solve puzzles in specific segments independently. In these situations, Willump retains all of the abilities the player would have while controlling him, like freezing water or climbing up particular walls.
Tequila Works has mastered the subtle design choices that can enhance a narrative …
This makes Willump feel like a living companion character and enables Tequila Works to introduce mechanics by having him do them first or having him direct players in the right direction during a puzzle. Moments when the two characters are separated become all the more tense as a result. It’s a refreshingly straightforward way for Song of Nunu to handle having two main characters in a single-player adventure, and it reinforces the brotherly bond between Nunu and Willump at the narrative’s core.
Tequila Works has mastered the subtle design choices that can enhance a narrative, like carefully framing the camera in specific gameplay sections for emotional impact or ensuring there is little dead air between set pieces unless it is emotionally necessary for the story. This, along with how gameplay dynamically flows between Nunu on his own and Nunu riding Willump, makes Song of Nunu feel like a naturalistic adventure, which further immerses me in its world. The PC version of the game always looked crisp and emboldened its vibrant visual design, although the frame rate would occasionally stutter and take me out of certain moments.
As the story wraps up, Nunu goes from grief-stricken to a hero worthy of being called a League of Legends champion. The completion of that emotional arc hit my heart. Song of Nunu is not the most complex puzzle platformer around and has its occasional frustrations. Still, everything it does is in service of a compelling narrative that’s only enhanced by its unique two-for-one gameplay. Riot Forge’s games have only improved with time, so I recommend trying out Song of Nunu and keeping an eye on its future games like Bandle Tale, even if you aren’t interested in League of Legends.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story was reviewed on PC.
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