Editorials

Review: Sayonara Wild Hearts

Simogo’s Sayonara Wild Hearts, published by Annapurna, is by far one of the premiere titles to have launched on Apple Arcade so far. It’s a wonderfully energetic game packed with catchy tunes, all wrapped in a stylish package.

In Sayonara Wild Hearts, you play as a young woman transformed into a superhero-esque alter-ego dubbed “The Fool”. Told through a series of narrations, done by Queen Latifa herself, you are chosen by a higher power to track down a set of Tarot cards gone rogue. The story is a bit silly at first blush, but as you continue, the metaphors laid out in the narrative do a wonderful job of tying back to themes of overcoming heartbreak all while restoring the universe––quite the task for the unsuspecting character.

You’re flung into a series of fast-paced, on-rails levels, tracking down the cards and collecting hearts throughout the level in order to build a high score. Each level is laid out in a series of three to four parallel tracks, and you’ll have to swipe left or right and keep up with the game’s frenetic pace in order to obtain every heart. In the beginning, you’ll travel through a level on a simple skateboard, but as the game progresses, you’ll find yourself atop a deer, motorcycle and even flying through the air. The game manages to continue bringing new elements to the table that surprised me, even by the end. No two levels are exactly the same. Even the changes in backdrop and scenery are vivid and varied.

During your progression, you’ll have to take part in a number of QTE that boil down to tapping the phone along with the beat while pursuing and fighting the tarot cards, personified as females. One, in particular, is set as a group of women in stylish masks and lettermen jackets, racing around on motorcycles, shooting at your with blasters. You’ll also participate in a few fight sequences, again laid out in QTEs. Instead of your traditional fights, these play out as well-choreographed dances, synced up to the music being played. The game handles spectacularly when perspectives change in the 3D landscape. You’ll find yourself barrelling through the air or flying through a loop. The shift is never disorientating, and the tracks flow rather nicely, offering a refreshing change to the gameplay. Although, one perspective change that Sigmogo implements have VR influences. that end up halting the momentum and was a bit jarring.

The mechanics and controls are fairly basic, and admittedly a bit hard to master using the touch controls. The game moves at such a rapid pace that it’s often hard to see where a few of the hearts are––even when playing on the iPhone XS Max. The game implores additional playthroughs, to memorize the locations of hearts that may be off the beaten path in order to gain the gold ranking. I’ve found that using traditional controls via a controller was much more satisfying and enabled me to feel more in control when maneuvering through the levels. This was especially helpful when racing through tight corners or narrow pathways. If I found myself even a sliver off coarse, the game would reset to the nearest checkpoint. To Simogo’s credit, the checkpoints come at a reasonable pace so you won’t be too far away from your last blunder.

The controls are only a slight blemish. Sayonara Wild Hearts makes up for any discrepancies with it’s aesthetic, which oozes style. The game falls nothing short of neon-bliss. The game does an incredible job putting Apple’s Super Retina OLED display while playing on mobile. Every level, every score screen, they’re all soaked in an incredible pallet of pinks, blues, and other neon colours. Although Sayonara Wild Hearts looks incredible on mobile, this game screams to be played on Apple TV.

Besides the visuals, the audio experience in Sayonara Wild Hearts can’t be understated. The game plays out like a series of music videos. Each level features a catchy pop-song, most of which will not found on your Top 10 Spotify playlist. The music has a deep impact on the game and goes hand-in-hand with the gameplay. The songs are accompanied by wooshes and sounds as you skim through the air, adding to the rush of the tracks picking up steam. Sayonara Wild Hearts is not so much a rhythm game as it is a musically-driven game. Your success isn’t based on whether or not your movements sync exactly to the beat. In fact, I often found myself fixating on the music, taking in all the visuals while the collection of hearts fell to the backburner. For me, Sayonara Wild Hearts wasn’t about hitting gold status, but casually grabbing hearts just to see what the next level looked like, and more importantly, hear the next song.

A game like Sayonara Wild Hearts is exactly what an Apple Arcade experience should be. It’s a game that’s digestible in small, 2-minute bite-sized chunks but can also be marathoned in 30-40 minutes. The beauty is that after you’ve completed the game, Album Arcade unlocks. The new mode cuts out all the interstitials like scoreboards to keep the game flowing from start to finish. It’s like popping on a record, dropping the needle, and sitting back for the full ride. While I thoroughly enjoyed the base game, I think Album Arcade is when Sayonara Wild Hearts truly fulfils its promise of being an interactive album. This time around, you’re not worrying about high scores and while putting the breaks on the flow in between songs. Each level transitions smoothly and the game that already goes at breakneck speeds, ups the ante in a delightful way.

Sayonara Wild Hearts has spread like wildfire. Folks all over the internet have been raving about this game, and while I believe that Sigmogo would eventually have found the same audience through the Switch and PlayStation 4 release, their game struck at the perfect moment, held up by the launch of Apple Arcade.

Sigmogo’s latest game bleeds with excellence. While the controls were a bit finicky and lacked the depth and reasoning to perfect, it’s a game I find myself wanting to go back to. I find myself itching to pop in not only for the music but to experience the visuals again, and again. It’s a perfectly well-paced, immersive title that I can’t wait to play on the big screen, with my soundbar cranked up––apologies to my neighbours.

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Steve is based in Toronto, Ontario. His enthusiasm and adoration of the video game industry go back to the days of SNES. Find him on Twitter and join in on the escapades.

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