There have been a fair few top-down Zelda-inspired games, but not many take the sci-fi approach that Songbringer does. This action-RPG finds you and your skybot on the wrong end of a lightning bolt, crashing into the planet Ekzerra. The story isn’t particularly memorable, but it does allow for some rather imaginative settings.

Songbringer might be the sort of game that grabs you right away… or not at all. I say that because of the game’s employment of procedural generation, which has you entering a six-letter “world seed” at the start. This has its pros and cons, but I know some aren’t a fan of this approach, even more so in a game like this. I find myself somewhere between feeling mixed and indifferent towards it. Unique doesn’t always mean good, but I do enjoy exploring truly different areas. The question is, will long-term replay desire be instilled? I will say that running around in circles at times is more enjoyable when playing cooperatively with another, even if it feels like more of an afterthought addition.

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You can select regular or permadeath (I chose the former) and set out for adventure. With nanosword in hand, you investigate the planet overworld while also looking for dungeons. The latter are mostly good, but I found the bosses a bit uneven. Some encounters I’d fail repeatedly, but others fell the first time I met them. I suppose this comes with the territory when you have a non-linear design. Any grumbles aside, I definitely like the freedom Songbringer offers.

Aesthetically, I’m a bit divided on what is brought to the table by Songbringer. The music is fine, but hearing a shrill rendition of the first few notes of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star every time I collect an item… let’s just say the novelty quickly wears off.  Graphically, the game is at its best when making use of a variety of colors, and utilizing techniques like day/night and weather cycles. However, at times the clunky pixel art is distracting. Jumping insects, for instance, look like artifacts. Some scenes are also a bit dark, although brightness can be adjusted. When the camera zooms the game looks downright unattractive. That said, it does look slightly better when playing away from the television, and the game is well animated.

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Some of my highlights with Songbringer are having Jib, the skybot, along for the adventure. This buddy approach has been proven to work, and he brings some life whether AI handled or controlled by a friend.  Again, the sci-fi settings work here, and encountering alien and robotic threats is more original than fantasy tropes so often see in this style of game. Even having Roq throw a top hat (in lieu of a boomerang) is whimsical.

For a game from a one-man studio on a very modest Kickstarter budget, Songbringer impresses in several ways. It’s true that I don’t find its visuals to be representative of good pixel art. But graphics are hardly the most important area. I do enjoy Songbringer’s sci-fi settings, co-op gameplay, and non-linear nature. With achievements and leaderboards, Zelda fans should check this one out, but maybe wait for a sale if you find the visuals to be distracting.