One of my favourite games to play on my PlayStation Portable back in the day was Lumines. Something about the combination of pop hits with an easy to understand but hard to master block dropping mechanic made it the perfect little time waster game. I haven’t gone back to the series in a long time however and until I opened up Sayonara Wild Hearts I didn’t know how much I missed these kinds of games. You see, whilst there is very much a challenging game to master under the hood, the overall experience itself is enough to carry the game along. Indeed much like Lumines, which took me forever to get through all of its songs, I doubt I’ll ever master what Sayonara Wild Hearts has to offer but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great time playing through it.
As the heart of a young woman breaks, the balance of the universe is disturbed. A diamond butterfly appears in her dreams and leads her through a highway in the sky, where she finds her other self: the masked biker called The Fool. To restore balance you’ll have to do battle with the elements of the universe that seek to disrupt order and bring chaos. You’ll do this through riding motorcycles, skateboarding, dance battling, shooting lasers, wielding swords, and breaking hearts at 200 mph.
Sayonara Wild Hearts’ visuals are a striking combination of low-fi textureless models and a colour palette* that shifts and morphs as you play through each of the levels. It almost feels inspired by the early days of 3D graphics in games with some of the models feeling like they were ripped out of Star Fox 64. These low poly visuals ensure that the game will run lightening fast on pretty much any platform which is likely going to be a necessity if you’re playing it on an iOS device. You’re not going to have much time to gawk at the visuals though as they’re going to fly by you at a rapid clip.
At its core Sayonara Wild Hearts is a rhythm game, its pace directly tied to the game’s pumping soundtrack. Now it’s been some time since I’ve played a game in this genre as I’m not usually a fan of them but it feels like Wild Hearts has taken a grab bag of basically every single mechanic in the genre and smashed them together. I don’t think this is a bad thing as it keeps you engaged and challenged throughout the game’s short play time. Of course just completing all the levels once is probably doing the game a disservice as it’s very much designed to be mastered over the course of multiple playthroughs.
The developers went to great lengths to ensure that the game’s pace didn’t slow down, even if you failed a certain challenge. I was really impressed with how rapidly it put you right back in the action and how little progress you lost when you failed. There’s even a built-in skip mechanic that’ll trigger after a certain number of failed attempts, ensuring that pretty much anyone will be able to make it through to the end. Couple that with the concise level segments it makes it very easy to pick the game up for 10 minutes or so and come back to it later, something I’m coming to appreciate a lot more of late.
Sayonara Wild Hearts reminded me of the joy I had playing games that based themselves around a solid pop sound track. It’s a short, well crafted experience that anyone should be able to get through in an hour or two. Indeed if I had an iOS device I’d likely have it installed there as my go-to time waster game for a while to come. Really there’s not much more that needs to be sad about it as if you’re not sold already you’ll know either way 5 minutes into your first playthrough.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is available on PC, Nintendo Switch and iOS right now for $18.50. Total play time was 68 minutes with 4% of the achievements unlocked.
* Reading into the game’s development it appears that the colouring comes from the Bisexual Lighting palette, something I was not aware of before writing this review!
Ever since my rather devastating experience with Super Meat Boy I’ve been pretty adverse to twitch based platformers, mostly because I don’t want to give myself RSI or an aneurysm. Whilst I may have made a brief foray back into the genre with They Bleed Pixels there have been numerous others I’ve left by the wayside because of the sense of dread I get when I play them. However I am a sucker for minimalistic takes on game ideas and 140, spawned by the man who was the gameplay director for Limbo, strips away much of the typical platforming experience and then amplifies it with its own brand of unique mechanics.
You’re a square, but only when you stand still. You’re a circle, but only when you’re moving. You’re a triangle, but only when you’re flying. The only instinct you have is to move from the left side of the screen to the right, backed by an eerie and haunting sound. Things start to change as you pick up these strange little baubles that dot the landscape, reshaping that sound into a pulsating beat which the entire world reacts to in time. This world isn’t completely safe though as there are many things that would seek to stop your journey forward, but even they are slaves to the rhythm that weaves through everything around you.
The art style of 140 is probably the most ferocious example of minimalism that I’ve seen to date. Things that you’d usually expect to see in even minimalistically styled games like gradients, shadows or shading simply don’t exist here with everything being solid colours. This is not to say that it’s a visually dull game however, far from it, more that when something is done to this level of simplicity it’s anything but random, it’s a carefully calculated experience that’s designed to get you focused on the game play. In that respect it does well as you’ll do little more in the short time this game will keep you.
The main game mechanic of 140 is 2D platforming, seeing you leap from section to section and often failing, seeing you transported back to your last checkpoint. However the twist with 140 is that the entire world reacts to the background music which you build up by collecting the little orbs and then bringing them back to a platform. Every time you do this the world around you will change, either wholesale by transporting you to another place or by bringing another part of the environment to life. This opens up new opportunities for you to progress but also ramps up the difficultly level, forcing you to reconsider how you’ve been playing up until that point in order to incorporate this new mechanic.
The enemies and boss fights are also pretty intriguing, taking the same music driven idea and incorporating it into battles that have the signature trademarks of other genres (like bullet hell, for example). They’re a fun distraction from the rudimentary platforming, often forcing you to think radically differently in order to complete them. The final challenge felt like something of a cock block though and whilst I got close to completing the game the somewhat random nature of it (yes I know there’s a pattern but since it doesn’t repeat from the start on death it’s a real pain to figure out) seem to catch me out every time I got close to the final puzzle.
Unfortunately there’s not much more I can say about 140 as it’s an experience that you have to play for yourself to really appreciate. At the beginning it feels a little too simple, lacking pretty much anything to keep you interested, however that quickly changes as the music ramps up and the world starts reacting to it. It’s also a very short experience too, clocking in at just over an hour, which makes it well worth a look in if you’re seeking something radically different from the gaming norm.
140 is available on PC right now for $4.99. Total game time was approximately 1 hour.