Lost in Harmony (Switch) Review
Release Date: June 21, 2018
Developer/Publisher: Digixart/Midgar Studio/Plug In Digital
Platform: Switch (reviewed), Steam, version available on mobile
Lost in Harmony is originally a smartphone game from two years ago. Two separate tales are told: Kaito's tale of dreams and dealing with tragedy and his friend Aya, and the tale of the robot M.I.R.A.I. and his attempt to escape his creator, who has plans to decommission him. Lost in Harmony is a combination endless runner/music rhythm game. As your main character runs toward the screen, much like an old Crash Bandicoot level, obstacles come from front, behind, and side. Meanwhile, stars appear that you have to hit in rhythm with the music. The obstacles match the music as well, so your escape becomes a trance of dodging, jumping, and tapping to the beat.
Now that the game has come to Switch and Steam, it comes with a few upgrades, and unfortunately a couple surprising changes as well. The original mobile purchase had "rails" similar to Temple Run, while the newer port allows analog coasting along the entire width of the track. The game does a great job of allowing all input methods at once, meaning you can use the touchscreen or the left analog stick, which is of course the only way to play when on the TV.
When the game came out on phones first, it was a premium model, with a basic version and a purchasable edition. It had a major change of style mid-life and went to a freemium model, complete with three purchasable currencies. Now that we're on a home console, it returns to a traditional model. $6.99 nets you the game on Steam or Switch without the worry of running out of chances, and collecting stardust helps you unlock new costumes and such, very straightforward. The game has a few remnants of it's freemium model with it's straight port over, as my Switch review copy had a section in the level select for later levels said I needed to "collect X icons in earlier levels OR." I was confused at that sentence until I booted up the iPhone version and saw there was an in-game currency way to get it on mobile.
One of the biggest changes in the game is kind of frustrating, though I see reasoning behind it. When playing on the phone, the "rhythm stars" appeared all around the screen with circles that shrank down to designate when to hit. This reminded me of one of my favorite games of all time, Elite Beat Agents. Given that there's no direct touch always available, the developers have opted to mod it to where there is a line of four buttons on the side of the screen, and matching icons fly in from the other side, and you click them when they intersect. I know it's to maximize simplicity for non touch, but it makes it more confusing to me since the icons are in a single file line instead of the cross pattern of the controller. I feel they could have just as easily left the icons where they were and labeled them with buttons, which would allow you to then play traditionally in off screen play. When the buttons danced around the screen, they often fit patterns and made initriguing motions that added to the fun, which is lost on this version.
I find the most fun way to play the game is off screen, using the analog stick for motion, and using a four-finger claw for the rest (you often have to hit two buttons on the right side of the screen at the same time). One of the original release's biggest problems was wrapping your brain and swipes between the two gameplay styles, but the stick allows you to segregate motion from rhythm. I just wish you could map the jump button elsewhere. If you are looking to simply enjoy the storylines, the game is forgiving enough for you to get through in any game mode, but perfectionists are likely going to have difficulty unless they are really good at the button placements, especially on the harder difficulty.
The biggest thing of note is that the phone releases have link to user-created levels, powered by Spotify. One could link a song to a customized track of obstacles and rhythm notes, which would then go to a leaderboard for popularity and score battles. The option was wide open the first time you booted up the game, and you had to use one of the in-game currencies to play a round. It's a neat way to keep the community alive, and it was able to skirt issues of licensure by streaming the song off of Spotify instead of downloading it. The icon is absent on the main menu of the Switch edition, and I see no instances of this capability on the Steam version either (please correct me in the comments if this is wrong). While the soundtrack is amazing as-is, the Spotify link allowed users to have basically infinite content with timed, life based gameplay. While you have infinite tries on this edition, you are limited to the tracks available in the original release. This keeps the game from being a "definitive edition." You should really weigh the pros and cons before deciding to pick this edition up or just grabbing the mobile edition and dropping $3.99 on the infinite lives option if you find you need it.
Lost in Harmony tells a couple of wonderful and heart-touching stories, with Kaito's dreams being an emotional rollercoaster worth seeing through to the end. The graphics do a great job of creating an artistic world and seamlessley swerve between dreamscapes just like in your real dreams. Basically, download the freemium edition on iOS or the Play store and decide if the changes mentioned above change your opinion on the game. At $6.99 though, even eliminating the other play options, Lost in Harmony is a beautiful tale easily worth the price.
-Analog motion and physical stick make the game much easier to play
-Removal of "freemium" model from the mobile game
-Switch allows a beautiful game to be on the biggest screen yet
-The loss of "dancing" rhythm stars hurts some of the artistic styling and general fun
-The lack of Spotify-linked user-generated content takes a large chunk out of the game
-Could benefit from some button mapping options
Special thanks to Digixart/Midgar Studio/Plug In Digital for providing a Switch code for review!