Riot Forge’s League of Legends spin-offs seek to harness the popularity of the MOBA’s sizable roster, grounding individual heroes in unique genres and allowing fans a chance to engage with their favorite characters in new ways. Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is the latest addition to this emerging catalog; a puzzle platformer developed by Tequila Works, the studio behind RiME and The Sexy Brutale.
In Song of Nunu, we assume the role of the eponymous young hero and his yeti companion, Willump, as they seek out Nunu’s missing mother. At Gamescom 2023, we got to sit down with the developers and go hands-on with this new adventure, playing a small portion of the story and getting to grips with the chilly realm of Freljord.
Giving me chills
Song of Nunu’s demo opens with no music, just the hair-raising sound of the wind rustling through Freljord’s frosted peaks and sparse tufts of grass. This chilling entrance into the world helped to conjure a sense of isolation I wasn’t expecting and pushed me to search for my fluffy companion. At first, I was controlling Nunu alone, though this soon changed as I found the adorable Willump and headed straight down the mountain's edge on their back.
I then found myself quickly thrust into the thick of Nunu’s control scheme, learning how the two characters interact in tandem and move through precarious terrain one leap at a time. The controls felt forgiving and fairly tactile. Even when I did take a spill, there was little punishment, and I was spat back out into the world back to a few seconds before my previous fatal attempt. This lessened the tension during some of the more difficult platforming moments, but it also helped to make it clear what kind of game Song of Nunu is. It’s a story-rich platformer, first and foremost, rather than a hyper-challenging odyssey like Celeste.
Willump’s size and skillset make up for Nunu’s lack of physical prowess, allowing me to jump large gaps, grip rocky walls, defend myself from wolves, and slide down icy slopes. While buddied up with Willump, I was able to fire snowballs as Nunu to melt water and destroy poisonous plants so the route to the next objective was clear.
However, both characters’ unique skills can be used separately or in conjunction to push forward through the world, and in doing so I was pleasantly reminded of the buddy platformers of the 2000s and 2010s. Song of Nunu makes for an easy comparison to games like Ratchet & Clank and Yooka-Laylee, especially due to the balance it maintains between the importance of its dual protagonist’s abilities.
The sound of music
Song of Nunu’s visual design is much prettier than the games of decades past, though, with a chunky cartoon feel that felt like an extension of the main character’s youthful perspective of the world around him.
Despite there only being growls in return from Willump, Nunu’s young voice actor delivered an earnest performance that helped me feel the importance of the bond between the boy and his fuzzy friend. I was often surprised at my nerves flaring as I entered new areas or came up against a challenge I hadn’t seen before. Not due to any kind of fear of failure, but rather, I wasn’t ready to see anything go wrong for the pair - even across a short demo, I was surprised at how quickly Nunu and Willump had worked their way into my heart.
Doubling down on the emotive bond-building, Nunu can choose to hug Willump, and while this can feel like an arbitrary thing in some games, here it feels like a natural part of their growing relationship, further melting away my doubts about Song of Nunu’s storytelling sincerity.
Later in the demo, I encountered one of Nunu’s primary puzzle systems. The game displays a series of musical symbols that, when deciphered and played correctly on Nunu’s flute will move parts of the environment that you can then platform on. Each of the Xbox controller’s bumpers and triggers was associated with a particular sound that I could play singularly or press together to create a new configuration.
Once I’d figured out the notation, I could move on to the next area. It’s a smart way to tie the narrative to your input. As I endeavored to remember how the symbols and sounds were linked, the platforms would lower in tandem, meaning I needed to consider my next steps as I solved the puzzle, bringing some much-needed tension and forward momentum to the platforming.
Song of Nunu is a heartstring-tugging tale that leverages its League of Legends lore against an inventive suite of puzzles and some satisfying action platforming
Progressing further, the world shifted as I came upon an autumnal forest, a warming break from the otherwise desolate cold of Freljord. In a clearing, I found a puzzle that would serve as the demo's climax. Approaching a tree, I found some hanging rods, which Nunu explains were a Notai Windchime used in their culture for teaching songs. Equipping my flute one last time, I played along to the notes in the presented order, lighting up each chime as I progressed. In my success, a short but solemn song began to play.
Nunu recalled the song as being about those who have passed on, delivering an earned emotional gut punch to close out the demo. It became clear that the Notai communicate with sound, using it to weave stories and leave legacies, so I’d expect the flute puzzles to play a major part in the story at large.
Sitting by a fire after my escapades, I was prompted to play one final tune about me and my pal Willump - as if I wasn’t already feeling emotional. After a little dance with his blue buddy, Nunu then delivers some tantalizing exposition, explaining that they’re looking for something called the Heart of the Blue, and their search somehow makes Nunu feel closer to their mother. I’ll be sure to bring some tissues when I dig into the full game.
Song of Nunu is a heartstring-tugging tale that leverages its League of Legends lore against an inventive suite of puzzles and some satisfying action platforming. With endearing vocal performances and thoughtful musical elements, Riot Forge and Tequila Works have come together to craft a compelling story that pulled me in almost immediately, even though I have little experience with the MOBA it’s based on. I’ll be curious to unravel the rest of this adorable and emotional puzzle platformer when Song of Nunu launches later this year.
If you're keen on other new releases coming out, then check out our upcoming games guide.