Rhythm games have caught my eye from time to time. I will never forget my first jump into this genre with 2010’s Bit Trip Runner, a phenomenal game developed by Choice Divisions. It seamlessly blended rhythm-based gameplay with great chiptune music and a minimalist art style, meaning my eyes were never too distracted from the task at hand. Queue the release of Simogo’s Sayonara Wild Hearts, a trippy music-based adventure. I was expecting a rhythm game when I launched this game for the first time, but what I got was quite surprising.
Story – Fix the brokenhearted
There is a prophecy about a certain individual who was created by pieces of broken hearts, and she was created to save the world someday. There’s a running theme of hearts, and from my interpretation, you save the world by fixing the hearts of others. I wish I could tell you this game has an amazing story that had me invested from one end to the next. I can see it is going for a story that is equal parts flashy and emotionally resonant, but it overachieves in the former but falls flat in the latter. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the game, however.
Gameplay – Chasing Hearts like Sora
Sayonara Wild Hearts was released on mobile as well as home consoles. As a result, it has extremely basic gameplay mechanics. Everything had to be done with one finger on a touchscreen so you can move your character, and now and again, you need to press X for a rhythm-based action. Each level has a bronze, silver, and gold rank, and here is where the challenge and replayability lies. Going for gold can be challenging, but at least you have the amazing soundtrack to listen to. The simplicity works in the game’s favour here; it’s described as a ‘pop album video game’, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m torn on calling Sayonara Wild Hearts a rhythm game, it has oddly timed button presses in its levels, but the majority of your very short time with it is taken up by endless running. Think a trippy Temple Run with a phenomenal soundtrack.
When it’s at its best, the gameplay is an amazing experience. The levels seamlessly flow from gameplay to cutscene, then back to gameplay. At the peak, it evokes the same feeling as Tetris Effect did on PSVR, and there is no bigger compliment in my eye; however, this isn’t all sunshine and roses. I have two gripes with the gameplay. Firstly, I struggled with perception on the levels with omnidirectional movement. With speed, you move, and the amount that’s happening on the screen, I found myself missing a whole line of hearts because it is not clear where I have to play the character. This isn’t an issue in the levels with distinct lanes as I could clearly see where I had to place myself. The second issue is one I have touched upon before; at some points, the game is overly busy, and after playing for an hour straight, it started to irritate my eyes. I think I can understand why it’s so short, any longer, and I would’ve turned it off from eye strain.
Graphics and Audio – A powerful trip through an album
Before we talk about the presentation, if you suffer in any way from photosensitive epilepsy or any similar condition, then do not play this game. In some instances, the game was hard to look at because of the warping landscape and bright, flashy backgrounds. Now, if you can get past this, then you’re in for an absolute visual treat. The use of really clean art and vibrant makes Sayonara Wild Hearts something I won’t forget anytime soon. Character and boss models fit so well in the surreal world, my favourite being this wolf boss.
Plain and simple, the music in this game is astounding; in fact, I’m listening to it as I write this review. It’s not typically music I would listen to, but when you have both the music and the simple yet fun gameplay combined into one, it works. There are some softer tracks, but I prefer the heavier pop tracks, Transonic Gravity being my favourite. If you’re looking for an interesting way to experience an album, then Sayonara Wild Hearts is perfect for you. As a player, I was taken on a journey across an album, which is an experience I can’t say I have ever had with a game.
Sayonara Wild Hearts was reviewed on a PS5 through PS4 backward compatibility; a key was provided by Hype.