Enlightened Games has entered the world of indie gaming with The Song of Seven: Chapter 1 – Overture, the Kickstarter-funded first instalment in what’s intended to be a five-part fantasy story. Their stated goal with the game was to retain the aspects many associate with classic point-and-click adventures, and having now spent a considerable amount of time with it, I can say that parts of it definitely do incorporate some of the genre’s most iconic elements. It’s not a complete home run, as there are various issues when it comes to presentation and pacing, but there’s still enough reason for longtime fans of these types of games to give it a chance.
The game takes place in the fantasy land of Pria, and has players control a kind but timid village boy named Kiba, who has spent his whole life confined within his town’s fences thanks to the traditions of its overly paranoid inhabitants. When assigned to fix a hole in those very fences, he encounters Emma, an ambitious girl from the land outside who urges him to explore and live a little. Naturally, this has Kiba and Emma both meeting new faces and discovering more of their world, leading to a mystical encounter that will affect everyone they know and then some.
I’ll say right now that, for the first 30 or 40 minutes, I didn’t get much out of The Song of Seven. The cliche of a lead character escaping their confined home for the first time feels very played out to me, and other than Kiba’s artistically-inclined little sister, the other villagers didn’t seem very interesting. The game’s small budget (around $8K if the Kickstarter was their main source of funding) also results in text-only dialog and almost no unique animations or facial expressions. There’s also some pretty sloppy spelling and grammar at certain points, like when Kiba first approaches the broken fence and says, “This must be hole Dad mentioned!”
Thankfully, once he finishes up his first day of adventuring with Emma, the game starts feeling more inspired. Varied situations and mostly solid puzzles ramp up in frequency, and while the game’s first chapter doesn’t deliver truly memorable characters, the remainder of its plot, and its overall atmosphere, have a sense of fun and wonder to them that makes the package pretty charming. In an interesting move straight out of Final Fantasy IX, certain sections will offer optional scenes that can be viewed showcasing conversations between characters when Kiba’s not around, though there aren’t many of them.
The low-budget feel I mentioned with other graphical elements thankfully doesn’t apply to the environmental design. There’s frequent eye candy for fans of this type of setting, with preset camera angles and nice lighting backing up the pretty backgrounds. Nothing has the insane detail of texture that many are used to from AAA games, but I’ll take good art direction over detailed but routine worlds any day. Sadly, however, there is no anti-aliasing options provided in the title’s limited pre-launch configuration menus. The soundtrack also has some moments that accentuate the mood nicely, but nothing that I truly remembered.
The Song of Seven‘s gameplay generally sticks to the conventions held by adventure games since companies like LucasArts and Sierra set the mould for the genre decades ago. Clicking objects with the right mouse button will let Kiba comment on them or pick them up for later use, while doing the same with characters starts conversations, some of which have multiple choices for players to gain information. You’ll encounter a variety of situations throughout the game as well, requiring a mixture of interaction and the use of stored items to progress through the story.
Most of the puzzles are solid and shouldn’t be much of a challenge for adventure game veterans, though a series of rather odd ones midway through that involve musical scales were quite confusing for me. The game also shakes things up mechanically for a Simon Says-like dance challenge, and a clever use of dialog trees during a later sequence that I won’t spoil.
I played with a mouse and keyboard, due to the Steam page having no indication of controller support, and only discovered after completing the chapter that it actually does utilize Xbox controllers. I’d say that the use of those analog sticks would likely make gameplay a lot easier, because while the game does utilize a traditional mouse-controlled cursor for clicking on objects and characters to interact with them, actually moving Kiba is fully reliant on the arrow or WASD keys due to things being fully 3D, and it just feels kind of cumbersome.
One welcome addition here is the option to press the E key and temporarily highlight all interactive elements in each environment. I very much appreciated this feature in other titles like The Book of Unwritten Tales, as it saves a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted on mousing over everything. The downside here is that, with keyboard controls, if your cursor is over one of those elements when you press E, Kiba will automatically interact with it.
Using items in your inventory is also cumbersome, as it oddly requires you to keep the mouse button held down while dragging each item to its designated target. Considering that Enlightened is aiming to release The Song of Seven on PS4 and Wii U down the line, it’s a safe bet that playing with a controller will eliminate a lot of this frustration.
It’s also worth noting that the episode can be beaten in about two hours, and there’s little in the way of replay value outside of some bonus Steam achievements. The story also ends on a teasing note, while leaving several mysteries regarding its future cast open. So if you’re expecting a fully wrapped up story, you’ll need to wait.
Though I’ve spent a lot of this review discussing the more problematic elements of The Song of Seven: Chapter 1 – Overture, I did have a good time with the game. Despite its early storytelling shortcomings and limited presentation, there’s an overall charm to it that’s rare in most AAA titles, and it has some beautiful environments and fun ideas for adventure fans. It’s hard to say at this point if, whenever the second chapter hits, Enlightened will be able to afford a little more expression for the characters or a longer play time, but when it comes to the more important factors, they’re certainly off to a good start.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us.
Despite suffering from a slow start and a cumbersome control scheme for mouse and keyboard fans, The Song of Seven: Chapter 1 is still an ultimately charming game for point-and-click adventure enthusiasts.