Title: Lost in Harmony
Platforms: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone (reviewed on).
Developer: Digixart Entertainment
Publisher: Digixart Entertainment
Release Date: Out now
Tagline: One of the most beautiful iPhone games I’ve ever played.
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Buy it. Right now.
This was a completely unexpected pleasure to play, right from the start. I thought this would be some long winded RPG for the iPhone, but when you combine a rhythm game (with fantastic music to boot) with a genuinely touching, elegnantly told story, you’ve got a 10/10 from me.
This is a pretty simple game. You skate through Kaito’s dream, carrying Aya with you, dodging obstacles and collecting stardust along the way. This could be any bog standard game, apart from the fact that gameplay and plot and intertwined pretty damn seamlessly, and all via dreams and text messages. Kaito and Aya are longtime friends, only Aya is suddenly diagnosed with what I’m pretty sure is cancer. From before, when Kaito’s dreams were whimsical fantasies about two friends having fun, it moves into deeper territory. Suddenly these dreams are a way of coping, a way to deny and escape his reality, that is rapidly becoming grimmer. You really wouldn’t expect this much depth out of an iPhone game, and yet this one just blew me away; not only are they tackling a sensitive subject well, they’re genuinely making me care about the characters and have fun playing.
The levels themselves are visually gorgeous. No two are the same, even down to the obstacles you’re dodging, and it makes you want to really focus on what you’re doing, to take in your surroundings as you zoom by. They’re not just visually appealing, they’re engaging. Each scene and all its inhabitants are linked to Kaito’s state of mind. The one just after he and Aya talk about a road trip, wanting to get away and have fun, despite her condition, is full of open country roads and bikers zooming past. The one called “Oppression,” where he feels alone and trapped, is full of marching soldiers, a nuclear blast, and a refugee camp. The final one, where you skate alone, is called “Transcendence.” They’re all heartbreakingly relevant and heartbreakingly beautiful, and as it drip feeds the plot between thirteen levels, it’s genuine motivation to keep playing.
Gameplay, again, is very simple. Speed through the levels, collect the stardust and the score boosters, dodge and jump the obstacles, then tap or slide to the music. Speaking of which, there’s a really nice range, too. Japanese and English songs, classical and just instrumental, no two are identical, which really keeps the game fresh, and you can make your own stages set to whatever tracks you like in the Level Editor. The gameplay mechanics employ this, too; the obstacles and music will speed up in the later levels, and the difficulty is offset by the chance to hit more rhythm notes. You have to get 50% to pass to the next level and unlock the story, and score boosters are placed strategically along the way, plus the chance to make up for your lost score with the rhythm parts, which was greatly appreciated, and meant I didn’t have to keep replaying the levels. Plus, you could unlock a bunch of skateboards, hairstyles etc after beating levels, not just paying for them, which is great in a world rife with microtransactions. Aya’s hair changes throughout, which is a nice way to show what’s going on; when she starts wearing a bandanna, you know it’s looking bad. Considering showing and not telling is really rare in terms of videogame storytelling, this was a great touch.
I only had a couple of issues with the gameplay; there were a few frame rate drops here and there, but nothing too drastic, and the jumping mechanic. Often, I’d jump over an obstacle, only for the game to warn me that there was another one up ahead, but I wouldn’t be able to avoid that one after landing the first jump. They were a little too close together, and perhaps I just need to be better at jumping, since I’m nitpicking, at this point. The other thing I had a problem was was the dodgy translation at some points. My favourite example was during the final cutscene, where Aya’s mother has taken her phone and is replying to Kaito’s frantic messages: “Hi Kaito, this is Aya’s mother. She didn’t wake up this morning. Thanks for everything.” Kinda harsh, don’t you think?
So, in summary:
- Fantastic storytelling
- Brilliant level design
- Varied range of music, and all of this for £3.
- Framerate issues at some points
- Jumping mechanic is a bit of an issue when doing so twice in a row
- Dodgy translations that don’t convey emotion very well
It’s rated 9+, and I feel that’s pretty fair. It’s a game dealing with cancer, so some topics may be upsetting for younger children.
This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the App Store and Digixart Entertainment