Adventure games are weird. They typically sell themselves by the strength their writing while challenging players to contort their minds to fit within the game's absurd logic. Infamously, Gabriel Knight taught fans how to craft a foolproof disguise with only some tape and a curious cat. The Song of Seven avoids this confounding issue, making the genre far more approachable to prospective fans.
The Song of Seven: Chapter 1 is the first part of Enlightened Games' new episodic game, available on PC, Mac, and Linux. The series is projected to run for a total of five episodes, as is becoming the standard for games of this nature. The Song of Seven is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, launched on Feb 15, 2016 netting the developer the small sum of $8,543. While that's pretty diminutive when compared to the Bloodstaineds of the world, Enlightened Games shows that inexpensive can still mean quality.
The Song of Seven follows the adventures of Kiba, a young tailed musician hailing from a village of equally tailed residents all living in fear of the outside world. Kiba quickly meets Emma through a hole in the village fence, and abandons his quiet life of boredom in favor adventure out in the greater world.
This is where my first real gripe comes in. Character motivations are mercurial at best, and the game lacks enough exposition to really set things up. Instead, The Song of Seven adopts a “tell not show style” of narrative. I understand that the villagers are afraid of the outside world, because I understand the trope. I haven't seen anyone display any actual fear of the outside, nor do they seem particularly motivated to get their fence fixed. Sure, they told me that the world is bad, but their nonchalance and cutesy character models don't really make me feel like they're really all that scared. Similarly, Kiba never really expresses much disdain for his quiet life before being presented with the option to go out adventuring. Incidentally, this is the only place in the game that can lead to a hard fail-state.
The game world is gorgeous. Between the fluid animation and the diverse colour pallet, the visuals in this game can be jaw dropping. I came out of the experience with more screenshots kicking around my laptop than I'd need for a dozen articles. It's pretty easy to share Kiba and Emma's wonder at the world around them, and seeing the varied locales is certainly something to look forward to.
The puzzles themselves, the heart of any adventure game, run the gamut. While most of them boil down to straight-forward fetch quests with clear objectives. Two, however, stick out as particularly memorable for very different reasons. One of which utilizes subtle music clues to guide the players to uncover a password. It sounds great in theory, but for the tone-deaf or those playing the game silently, a lack of any sort of feedback renders the puzzle into a frustrating mess. The other provides players with a schematic and tasks the player to invent something. If more puzzles like that appear in future chapters, I will be a happy little engineer.
The story itself is pretty simple, and you shouldn't expect many surprises from the first chapter. Hints of a deeper narrative are peppered throughout, delivered by disturbing visions and a cryptic bird person. Despite the endearing character designs, these dark dealings only add much needed stakes to what was previously a wandering adventure. If anything, they make me more excited to experience the greater narrative that will be expressed in future chapters.
I know it sounds like I'm down on this game, but I'm not. Overall, I enjoyed the experience. I'm harsh because I love a good adventure game, and The Song of Seven has the bones of a much greater beast. If Enlightened Games can improve on the flaws from the first chapter, I can easily see The Song of Seven remembered alongside its illustrious predecessors like Broken Sword or Myst.