Inspiration – ‘the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.’
Wilma sat at her desk, head in hands and fighting her demons, plagued by the sounds of the voices drowning out her inspiration. I sat there with the controller in my hand, feeling myself well up as I drew comparisons with my own life and how I often struggle to be creative.
This was a very strong start to The Lions Song.
Already out on Mobile and Steam, Mi’pu’mi Games now bring their episodic point and click adventure to the Nintendo Switch.
The game takes place in an early 20th Century Austria and follows the lives of three creative individuals, struggling with internal conflicts and inspiration. In episode one, you have Wilma, an extremely talented Violinist suffering with writers block. She is sent to a small cabin in the mountains to try and gain some focus amongst the peace. The pressure of success had got to Wilma, sending her into a spiral of doubt and internal suffering. Episode two follows a young talented painter called Franz who has the innate ability to see peoples layers. These layers generally refer to his subjects personality traits, exposing their inner fears, desires and sometimes hidden beauty. Franz himself though is missing something from his work. Something which is stopping him from truly becoming a great artist. In a slight change from the first two episodes, three shows the struggle of Emma’s battle to make her voice heard in the male dominated mathematical institution. Early on in the episode, she disguises herself as a man in order to try and make others take her ideas on the states of change, seriously. The final episode follows a journalist, Albert, boarding a train to an unknown destination. On the train, he meets three individuals each tied to the previous three episodes protagonists. Compared to the other three, this episode is definitely the weakest although it does manage to intricately weave everything together into a satisfactory end.
Initially you will be forgiven for thinking this is a visual novel but the game does slowly become more point and click as time goes on, utilising choice in key areas to impact outcomes further down the line. As Wilma, for instance, you are sent to the cabin to try and get inspiration for your work, drawing from your surrounding as you select pieces of the environment to reveal various commentaries. If you are inquisitive enough, you will strike gold and something will ring true in Wilma’s brain, adding to her masterpiece that will be hard later throughout the entirety of the game.
In subsequent episodes, you are actually given choice of places to visit, further expanding the experience and moving slowly away from the visual novel The Lions Song starts out as. From the main menu, there is a connections gallery where you can see all the various choices you’ve made thus far and how they effected the outcome. They are all represented by various objects in each room and even characters who if you talk to them, reveal additional dialogue not found in the main game.
It goes to show you don’t need to have fancy graphics and a massive budget to make a game look beautiful. The Lions Song is represented in finely crafted pixel art with sepia tones, and very clever visual representation when its comes to show character struggles. Whenever Franz attempts to paint a subject, he talks to them, revealing extra layers of their persona, visualised on screen by a shadow or outline, filled in if the player digs deep enough. Emma the mathematician, sees patterns in the world using them to add to her theory of change, often visualised through falling leaves. It’s all very beautiful.
While there is no voice acting in the game, the audio is marvellous with everything being told though the context of excellent sound effects and glorious orchestral pieces that flow throughout. The themes of struggle, loneliness and hope are represented expertly in each scene by the wonderful score, drawing you even closer to how each individual is feeling as they strive for greatness.
As I played through this, there were a few occasions where I got emotional. Mainly because (and I think this rings true for many), we have all been in that dark place where we want to create and when we are held back, we struggling internally with self belief and many other dark thoughts. It’s a real story and it’s told well. Any game that can provide inspiration to a player is always a winner in my books. Especially one that can hit those emotional chords. You will find it difficult not to feel empathy for each of the characters as they tell their tale. A short but impactful adventure, The Lions Song will do well to find a place in your collection and fits perfectly as a Switch title.
Reflective, passionate and inspirational. The Lions Song deserves your attention.
The Lion’s Song was reviewed on Nintendo Switch and is out today!