Hitting All The Right Notes
Some of the greatest artists of our time are great because of what they manage to achieve within the confines set out before them. So what do you get when you take a standard rhythm game formula and blend it with that delightful artistic merit that can only be found within the restrictions of an indie game? You get Sayonara Wild Hearts, of course!
The game starts off relatively simple, with levels that merely ask you to move your character side-to-side on a multi-lane track to collect glowing hearts. New elements are introduced in almost every stage and before long you’re hitting buttons in time with the icons on screen as you’re washed away by a smorgasbord of gorgeous colours and visual effects. It is a pretty sight, and it takes a criminally unexplored genre down new avenues of pink and neon buoyancy.
…Sayonara never really challenges you until the later levels.
It’s reminiscent of Entwined in how loose it feels to control. Moving across the screen as you bask in the music’s splendour feels smooth and almost euphoric. You aren’t bound to three rails; you can move freely from left to right, and it leaves the accuracy up to you. That can also mean you miss the mark more easily, however, especially when rounding corners. This is in part due to the game’s boldness to mess with camera perspectives during levels, which certainly makes the visuals more enticing, but can occasionally throw you off. It regularly shifts from an on-rails course to a slew of other gameplay alterations such as a side-scroller perspective; though it handles the majority of those shifts with thoughtful precision.
With a focus on immersing you in the experience, Sayonara never really challenges you until the later levels. Even if you get that far, you’re presented with the option to skip a level if you’re having too much trouble. It’s a nice addition, befitting of the game’s approach to respite over challenge, and it can be your best friend if you want to play through the game stress-free, just listening to the fantastic music.
…there’s always a reason to come back.
The music itself is the driving force for the experience. It’s a delightful modern pop album, with a marvellously calming tone through its many tracks. While it may be a very modern sound (and at the risk of showing my dated taste in music), if you’re a fan of anything from the smooth sound of Spandau Ballet to the light-hearted beats of Wham!, you’ll likely find a great deal of joy in hitting notes to the tune of Sayonara‘s cheerful bops through its 23 stages.
While the game may be relatively short (coming in at roughly an hour from start to finish), it has a generous amount of replayability. Album Arcade, which unlocks after completing your first playthrough, lets you play through all the levels back-to-back without stopping, allowing you to go for a high score across the whole album. So whether you want to hit that gold rank on every stage, secure a new high score, or just sit back and listen to some calming tunes, there’s always a reason to come back.
Sayonara isn’t a game you play to feel the rush of being a rockstar or to feel accomplishment for overcoming a challenge; it’s a game you play when you’ve just come home after a long day and need to unwind. It excels in stunning you with its visual flair and invigorating music, with blissful gameplay and without the pressure of performing at your best. Sayonara Wild Hearts is a smooth ride for the ages, and a buffet of style and splendour.
Yes, if you:
- Enjoy pop music
- Want a game to relax with
- Are looking for something on the shorter side
No, if you:
- Don’t like rhythm games
- Aren’t a fan of flashy visuals