Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story review: simple 3D platforming with lots of heart

When was the last time you played a good 3D character platformer? For me, it was probably Psychonauts 2. But before that? Outside of Mario? I’m not sure I’d be able to tell you. For whatever reason, the 3D character platformer has become an increasingly rare breed, it would seem, which makes them even more heartening to see when they do occasionally poke their head above the parapet and leap onto our screens. Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story is one of them, channelling the joyous, boundless enthusiasm of its late 90s and early 00s predecessors to create a simple, but straightforward adventure that you could just as easily enjoy alone as an adult, or with a child in tow. It did not, alas, quite make me cry as developers Tequila Works intended (that honour still belongs to Rime and Rime alone out of their back catalogue), but there’s much to admire here while having your heartstrings lightly plucked at the same time. And you don’t need to know a jot about League Of Legends to enjoy it.

Indeed, the extent of my LOL knowledge stretches no further than a single episode of Riot’s Arcane TV show on Netflix, but that didn’t stop me from having a good time with young lad Nunu and his blue fluffy yeti pal Willump. Nunu is a chatty, but endearing presence as he travels through the Freljord’s icy mountains to find his long-lost mum and an appropriately magical macguffin known as the Heart Of The Blue, and that’s thanks in no small part to Adrian Raio’s winning voice work. His narration might be a little on the excessive side, but he’s certainly never veers into becoming another over-sharing Atreus-type, and considering he’s only got Willump’s emotive grunts and sighs to work with a lot of time, it’s a testament to both Raio’s performance and Tequila Works’ considered script that they come across as affably as they do.

A young boy and his blue yeti friend stare at an icy landscape in Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Riot Forge

They’re very easy to warm to, regardless of how much you know about League Of Legends, and the same goes for occasional companion (and fellow legend) Braum, and even the villainous ice witch Lissandra, whose motivations for interrupting Nunu and Willump’s quest are explored with surprising care and sensitivity. I won’t spoil what they are, but she’s far from the straightforward evil lady I was somewhat expecting her to be.

When she’s not trying to get in everyone’s way, Nunu and Willump are mostly jumping and leaping across icy plains, solving some light puzzles to progress in their quest, and maybe indulging in the odd snowball fight – which, yes, is just as winsome, daft and silly as it sounds. I wasn’t kidding when I said they were a enchanting twosome, and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel just a little bit won over by them. The platforming itself isn’t terribly complicated – there are no wall jumps or backflips or complicated manoeuvres you’ll have to perform here. Just simple jumps across gaps and chasms, and scuttling across shining rocky ledges – very much in the vein of your Uncharteds, Tomb Raiders and other modern, third person action games.

A boy plays a flute while his yeti friend chucks magical balls at exploding plants inside a cave in Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Riot Forge

A boy plays a flute to align pillars of light in Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story

A boy rides his blue yeti friend inside a forge in Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Riot Forge

Since Nunu and Willump come as a pair, most of its puzzles are based around them working together, such as using snowballs to hit exploding plants to clear the way while climbing on Willump’s back, or using Nunu’s flute to trigger moving platforms to create gaps for Willump to fire magical spells at, err, more exploding plants. There are a lot of exploding plants in this game, it turns out. The flute is used to particularly great effect here. While it has four main notes you can play, presented as corners of a square and handily mapped into a square-like configuration on your controller or keyboard, you can also combine them to create additional notes and pitches, adding an extra tactile spritz to its puzzles.

Thankfully, it’s not all about bursting conveniently placed flower sacs. Later on, you must ferry magical ice orbs between different parts of the environment to repair broken objects in the world, twist columns of light to open new pathways, and slide toward the camera on Willump’s belly to escape a giant (and very Kratos-esque) electric bear. There’s even a small stealth section toward the end that sees you go full Plague Tale in the way you have to ding noisy shields to draw attention away from yourself, but that’s about as taxing it gets. Nothing here is particularly strenuous, and most of its solutions are easy to parse at a glance. If you’ve played these sorts of games before, it will probably all feel very friendly and familiar.

A boy plays his flute while his yeti friends dances round a camp fire  in Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Riot Forge

Its occasional bouts of combat against some cartoonishly mangy wolves are similarly undemanding, consisting mostly of mashing your light and heavy attack button while performing some very generously telegraphed dodge rolls. Which is fine, really, if you’re looking for warm, fuzzy, switch-off-brain kind of game you can quite easily polish off in six hours or so (I played it start to finish in a single day) – or indeed, if you’re looking for something digestible and approachable that kids might enjoy.

So yes, Song Of Nunu won’t win any prizes for ingenuity or platforming prowess, but it is very handsomely made, and I had a lovely, heartwarming time with it. It certainly feels like a step up from Rime, the game that helped put Tequila Works on the map for these kinds of soulful adventures, even if it doesn’t wrench quite so violently at your heartstrings. If nothing else, it will remind you of simpler, perhaps happier days when every third-person adventure game wasn’t just another grim Soulslike you had to endure, and that there’s still plenty of joy and warmth to be found in a story about a boy looking for his mum with his big yeti dog friend. Whether you like League Of Legends or not, it’s another notch we can add to the recent ‘good character platformer’ list.

This review was based on a retail build of the game provided by publishers Riot Forge.

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