If you're a bit of a dreamer—someone who, say, stops whatever you're doing for a minute and follows the paths that wind through your head—Simogo's games are easy to fall in love with. Year Walk, The Sailor's Dream, and Device 6 (one of my personal favorites on mobile) all usher you off the road and onto trails filled with sights and experiences unlike any other. The trip is usually short, but unforgettable.
Here we are again, gathered on Simogo's hidden side road. Its latest game, Sayonara Wild Hearts, is another Simogo specialty: Short, but unforgettable. It's a "pop album video game" that challenges your reflexes in the tradition of rhythm games, but it also wants you to let go and immerse yourself in its techno heartbeat. You'll blow through the experience in two hours or so. Then you'll immediately refuel your spiritual motorcycle, hit the throttle, and do it all again in hopes of grabbing coveted gold ranks on Sayonara Wild Hearts' ever-shifting dream roads.
Mind, Sayonara Wild Hearts' bewitching landscapes and techno-pop soundtrack won't do much for you if that's just not your jam. Put it this way: If you watch the game's trailers and say, "Whoa, that looks really cool!", you'll probably enjoy what Simogo is spinning here. If you look at the trailers, raise your eyebrows, and say "Yeah, I'm not sure what's going on, and I don't think I care," it's unlikely this strange title will ensnare you.
Sayonara Wild Hearts follows an unnamed young woman from our world whose heart is broken after an unspecified event. She's recruited by three Arcana from a parallel universe to don the wild Fool Arcana and restore harmony to the alter-world. It turns out solving this mysterious world's problems involves zipping around on motorcycles, riding on white stags, and engaging in deadly high-speed ballets with Arcana-themed motorcycle gangs.
You need to move to Sayonara Wild Hearts' rhythm and react to prompts if you want to survive. If you're going for a silver or gold rank, you also need to collect the hundreds of heart tokens that light your path. There's order in Sayonara Wild Hearts' gameplay, though you wouldn't initially know it from looking at its jumble of colors and pop. There are five "evil" Arcana to battle with. Each encounter is broken into a few segments. It starts off by traveling towards the struggle at breakneck speed until you come face-to-face with the antagonist of the hour. You engage in a merry chase, which isn't so much a "chase" as an excuse to leap and dodge through the surreal music-charged landscapes like a dancer wearing rocket-powered shoes. Then the struggle for dominance begins, as does one of several vocalized pop tracks.
For the most part, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a wild ride that's a treat for people who feel very strongly about immersing themselves in fantastic video game music, e.g. me. There's even a special guest narrator whose strong-yet-soothing voice is the perfect compliment to Jonathan Eng's tunes. There are a few moments of "Hey, what the—" however, and they happen on occasions when the game's style impedes your progress. Occasionally, it becomes hard to see a hot spot you're supposed to hit in order to keep the music flowing. (That is to say, to keep yourself from slamming into a streetcar or getting shot with a bolt of electricity or whatever.) The worst example I can think of happens in the "Wolf Dub" level. The Fool chases after the Howling Moon gang after getting dosed with funny mushroom powder, and while the pulsating grey environment is certainly unique, it renders a subsequent jumping sequence frustrating. You're allowed to skip any sequence that's giving you trouble, but that's no fun. That's like skipping forward in the middle of a song you're grooving to. Do kids still say "grooving?"
Also, much as I detest measuring a game's value against its play time, it needs to be said: Sayonara Wild Hearts is short, and it's $12.99 USD on the Switch. There's definitely replay value if you want to earn a gold rank for every song, but I still came through the experience wishing there was an extra song or two. I love Simogo, I love music games, and I love supporting unusual music games, so Sayonara Wild Hearts' asking price is an easy "Yes," for me. Your mileage—and your budget—may vary.
And, hey—Apple Arcade is here, much to the chagrin of developers who weren't ready. Sayonara Wild Hearts is included in the new subscription service, so there's your budget option. The game's controls are simple enough to work on iPhone touch screens, though I much prefer the tactile sensation of a controller.
The decision is ultimately yours. Either way, if you're interested in music games that are a bit weirder than Guitar Hero or Just Dance, Sayonara Wild Hearts will steal your heart before tearing down the road. Better catch up.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a quick but intense ride through a landscape that's been made dangerous and jagged by broken hearts and pop music. Its unusual style makes the road hard to see from time to time, but people who love Simogo's games will love riding with The Fool.