App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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The Lion's Song is an episodic game with a subject matter that is not often addressed by games. Throughout the course of its episodes, players take control of artists and thinkers in early-20th century Vienna and experience their struggles with inspiration and creativity through some point-and-click adventure game mechanics. While it may not be the most innovative game from a design perspective, the stories that The Lion's Song tells make it a game worth playing.
Four act adventure
Each episode of The Lion's Song puts you in control of a different character during a harrowing time in their creative development: a violinist contending with writer's block, a painter trying to win over his toughest critic, a woman trying to make it as a mathematician in a patriarchal society. Between each episode, the same story isn't being advanced, but these separated stories do have some amount of overlap, as they are all set in the same place during the same time. and even feature some of the same characters.
Through all of these stories, your main job is to drive these artists and thinkers to success using a fairly standard point-and-click control scheme. Traditional as these mechanics may be, the ways they are used in The Lion's Song aren't exactly typical. Most of the things you'll be clicking on are in service of inspiring or motivating your protagonist rather than allowing them to access some locked door or area. As a result, much of The Lion's Song is way more concerned with decision-making and conversation than it is combining items or puzzle-solving.
The most striking thing about The Lion's Song is definitely its setting and accompanying art style. Early 1900s Austria and sepia-toned pixel art really give The Lion's Song a look and feel that's unlike most other games. There are times when this aesthetic is used to great effect and can be quite moving, but there are others where its low-detail graphical style hampers things.
Because of the low amount of colors and detail in The Lion's Song it can sometimes be hard to differentiate objects and people in the environment. When actively puzzle-solving, this isn't a huge issue, since you can tap and hold on the screen to highlight every interactive object on screen. This does become a problem though when speaking with people or viewing cutscenes, particularly when displaying some characters. There were times when playing The Lion's Song when there some story reveals were lost on me because I was not always sure who or what I was looking at in a given scene.
The Lion Song's art style is not the only thing that performs inconsistently. Certain episodes in the game are told much better than others. The story of Chapter 3 in particular seems not only more interesting, but also ambitious, smart, and creative than the rest of the chapters in the game.
Perhaps this is because I simply made the right choices. In each episode of The Lion's Song there are a lot of choices you can make (in dialogue and otherwise) that can affect certain outcomes of your story. After completing each chapter, you can also see what outcomes you could've had and what percentage of people had the same story you did. You can also go right back to each decision point in a story to change things from the screen that shows you your outcomes. This is a neat idea in some ways, but going back to see these differences isn't as impactful as the way you experience the story the first time.
The bottom line
In a lot of ways, The Lion's Song feels like a much more interesting Telltale adventure game. It's episodic and focuses more on choice and dialogue than actual puzzle-solving, but it does so in a completely unique setting. Across each episode, there might be some dips in narrative quality, but the overall experience is certainly worth having.