Lost in Harmony

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Digixart Entertainment
Release Date: June 21, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Lost in Harmony'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 8, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Lost in Harmony is a fantastic musical runner that flawlessly blends a deep and emotional story into a rhythm game.

Buy Lost in Harmony

The Switch has seen a number of good rhythm games, from Voez to Superbeat: Xonic. It has also seen a few good endless runners, such as Knight Terrors and Runner 3. The prospect of combining an endless runner with a rhythm game sounds promising, and with the involvement of the Valiant Hearts co-creator, the notion that there would be a good story to go along with the gameplay seems too good to pass up. Sadly, Lost in Harmony isn't executed properly.

The game actually has two stories that have no real connection. The first is Kaito's Adventure, which has you taking on the titular role and living your life while watching your friend Aya slowly succumb to cancer. Powerless to do anything, you spend your nights dreaming of ways to take her to far-off places, relishing the time you have left with her while also trying to help her forget about her predicament, even for a little while.

The subject matter is still pretty heart-wrenching, even if it has been done several times before in recent memory. Some of the environments can be perplexing at times, but a few provide a good allegory to the story situation. It's difficult to get invested in the tale because the plot does the bare minimum. All of your interactions outside of the dream world are done via text messages, and you don't get a good sense of the characters and personalities, let alone how they gel with one another. Whenever the story takes a turn for the worse, the impact is lessened because of the lack of emotional attachment.

The second story is M.I.R.A.I.'s Escape, and that falls more in line with the tales that most players expect from games. Stuck on a space installation, you find yourself on an operating table ready for disassembly. Suddenly, you wake up and try to escape, and your ultimate goal is to reach Earth despite its polluted state. There's no sense of drama attached to this tale, but its straightforward focus means that there's less time spent waxing poetic about the story and more time spent on plowing through the levels.

No matter which story you choose, the gameplay remains the same. The perspective is that of the player running toward the camera, similar to the boulder chase levels in the original Crash Bandicoot. Most of the time, you'll see objects coming toward the camera, but sometimes, arrows warn that an object is coming in from the sides or the front, so you can avoid or jump over it. Along the way, you'll collect stardust to increase your point count and larger orbs of dust that are necessary for big point boosts and unlocking things, like new headphone styles and clothes. While a good chunk of your time is spent in this 3D endless runner mode, Lost in Harmony splits off into a standard rhythm game mode, where button icons come in from the left and the hit area is on the right. The hit area is very wide, so you can hit the icon far from the indicated area and still have it count; this will throw off people who are experienced with rhythm games.

The music you play through is amazing. Most of the material is split between original compositions and classic songs remixed with electronica in mind. You'll find more of the original material appearing in M.I.R.A.I.'s Escape, with the remixes dominating Kaito's Adventure, but both are good enough to listen to on their own away from the game. One surprise is the appearance of a new song by Wyclef Jean, which is a sweet melody that would be a shame to miss.

The bad news is that the game is pretty bad about working with those basic mechanics. The camera perspective is less of a problem than one would imagine, but the lack of well-defined travel lanes can lead to some bad accidents. It sometimes isn't clear which lane an object is travelling on, and the perspective often hides how wide an object is, resulting in plenty of near-misses and grazing hits. It doesn't help that most objects tend to pop in at close distances, so the game can feel very unfair at times.

The melding of rhythm and endless running makes for some abrupt transitions between modes, as it can feel like the rhythm sections appear without warning. Likewise, the transition into endless running isn't given much time, so you can hit objects without having ample time to react. There's also the matter of actually matching up the music to the button presses and action on-screen. Most of the time, this is fine but there are enough moments when button presses can feel off-beat, and the appearance of obstacles doesn't go with the rhythm of the song, making it feel like an afterthought rather than the game's focus.

Perhaps the biggest failing in Lost in Harmony is that all of the available control schemes have at least one different but equally fatal flaw. If you go with the traditional Joy-Con or Pro Controller, your movements will be precise, and the button layouts are actually responsive. However, the rhythm buttons are arranged in a way that doesn't make sense for the controller layout, so you'll often hit the wrong button. If you're using the touch controls, a viable option since the original game was released a few years ago on iOS and Android, you'll have a better time hitting those cues. The game remains finicky about those presses, so even though your success rate is higher, there will still be instances when a tap is registered as a failure since the game thinks you pressed one lane above or below your intended target. Regular movement and jumps are abysmal, since there's some lag from your finger drags and swipes to you performing the action, making the game almost unplayable at times. As such, your only real option is to play the game in handheld mode, with your left hand in charge of character movement and the right hand in charge of tapping the screen in rhythm portions and switching back to the right Joy-Con for jumping.

The one piece of good news is that the game is rather generous when it comes to the requirements needed to beat the game. For Kaito's Adventure, you only need to fill up your score meter by 50% to pass each stage, and while the game takes away points for getting hit or missing rhythm cues, the songs are long enough for you to make up for any mistakes, so you can easily get to the minimum requirement. M.I.R.A.I.'s Escape, on the other hand, has shorter songs, so there's more of a chance for failure. Considering the poor controls, this is most likely where people will give up on the title.

Initially, the presentation seems fine. The game has something of an anime aesthetic for the main characters in each tale, and the backgrounds provide a color scheme that is bright, if a little muted. That praise goes away when you notice that, beyond your characters, the animations for everything else in the world are very stilted. Just about everything that comes toward the screen has few frames of animation, so they may as well be still objects being hurtled at you. Additionally, all of the unlockable hats look pasted on your characters instead of worn, and you have the makings of a Flash game rather than something with a bigger budget and with better tools used.

In the end, Lost in Harmony just doesn't deliver. The dual stories can be hit-and-miss for some players, but the music is good in both tales. However, the poor gameplay implementation sinks the experience, and the lackluster presentation doesn't help, either. The game is inexpensive at $6.99, but it can only be recommended if you've exhausted all other options and still want something to play that isn't terrible.

Score: 5.5/10

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