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Song of Nunu is a wholesome adventure between a boy and his yeti

Can friendship save the Freljord?

Nunu plays his flute while Willump watches on in a screenshot from Song of Nunu Image: Tequila Works/Riot Forge
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

League of Legends has tons of amazing lore tucked in the margins of the game, found in character biographies, short stories, and the occasional cinematic. Then there are the games made by Riot Forge, an initiative at Riot Games that has, by and large successfully, attempted to explore and flesh out narrow vertical slices of this world through different genre frameworks, all sold with the subtitle “A League of Legends Story.” Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is one of these games, and it’s one of the best showcases of how Riot Forge games can make parts of League come alive in ways that would otherwise be impossible.

Nunu’s life in League

In order to dive into the successes of Song of Nunu, we need to go back to the protagonists’ existence in League of Legends. Nunu and Willump were one of the first additions to League of Legends. The character duo is a simple concept — a snowball-flinging child bundled up in a parka, riding on the back of a ferocious yeti — but an art and lore update in 2018 turned them into an adorable storybook pair. Just looking at their in-game splash art is enough to inspire thoughts of going on an adventure.

Nunu and Willump splash art from League of Legends, depicting the little boy in winter gear cuddling with an adorable four-armed yeti Image: Riot Games

The two hail from the frozen region of the Freljord, a land of freezing winters and ancient magics. The Freljord is a hard place, with matriarchal warbands and raiding parties constantly quarreling over the few supplies the land yields. The ancient Ice Witch Lissandra manipulates events in the Freljord toward her own mysterious ends. There is something stirring beneath the ice, and Lissandra is desperately trying to stop it. For that, it seems she needs Nunu and Willump, although they do not know for what purpose.

This backstory has been set up for the better part of a decade, and Song of Nunu finally knocks those dominoes over. It’s a treat for anyone who has been watching these plotlines brewing. But how does it stand up for new players who are stumbling into Song of Nunu for the first time?

A delightful romp

In Song of Nunu, I control Nunu, Willump, and the combined forces of Nunu and Willump. Willump is a force of nature who can freeze ice floes to cross rivers or fight off feral animals and other threats with his four arms. Nunu, on the other hand, is just a little guy. He can shimmy into spaces too small for Willump, toss snowballs to clear obstacles, or play his magical flute.

Nunu and Willump are the stars of the show, and developer Tequila Works put a lot of work into making their bond easily apparent, comfortable to witness, and incredibly endearing. Sometimes Nunu likes to move on his own, running alongside his yeti buddy as Willump scampers, chuckles, dances, and scarfs down fish and berries. Willump is an absolute delight to watch; I’d regularly stop trying to progress through the game so I could stop and giggle at the yeti’s antics. Willump swiping at butterflies and flailing when one lands on his nose, or scrambling up a sheet of ice like a fat house cat climbing up their scratching post, always puts a smile on my face.

Nunu and Willump travel through an icy, ominous cave in Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story Image: Tequila Works/Riot Forge

There are occasional battles and obstacles to overcome, but most of my time in Song of Nunu was spent platforming. I ran into some frustrations here that are typical of the genre — sometimes, the camera clings a little too close behind Nunu, and I lose sight of my objective. Sometimes, I fail at a jump, and the game resets back to a checkpoint with a big dramatic camera pan and character dialogue moment. Then, I fail at the jump again — rinse and repeat. Ultimately, these are minor complaints; the platforming can sometimes feel mildly annoying, but I enjoyed the game’s environmental puzzles.

Nunu’s magical flute can play notes that correspond with runes in the environment. This allows Nunu and Willump to open stone doors, raise ancient platforms, or reveal new paths. Nunu has a handful of single notes he can play, or he can combine notes to create new runes. It’s a nice system that allows the boy to feel as valuable as the yeti, and it means that I always know how to find the answer to any puzzle, because I’m familiar with the problem-solving tools I have at my disposal. It might take me a bit to figure out the execution, but I never felt like I was reduced to aimlessly wandering.

The Freljord is also full of gorgeous environments to explore. It would have been easy to reduce the region to just a frozen tundra, all snow and mountain crags, but Nunu and Willump stumble across tons of interesting locales. They have to pass through hordes of invader ships, caught in a flash freeze and long since abandoned; they later explore an icy cave up the side of a mountain, with occasional breaks in the rock to allow the sun to filter in and cast rainbow beams. It’s more than just fields of endless snow.

Ultimately, I found myself charmed by Song of Nunu. I fell in love with the characters in a way that simply wasn’t possible when they were confined to the competitive chambers of League of Legends. Riot Forge has proven to be an excellent way to explore small slices of this growing universe, giving individual champions the attention and love they deserve. Nunu and Willump deserved better than to be just champions in League, the stressful competitive game where people yell at them (well, me). Song of Nunu frees them, and it’s a joy to watch the duo caper across their very own stage.

Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story will be released Nov. 1 on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Riot Forge. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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