Game

From the team that brought us the touching, critically acclaimed Valiant Hearts comes an ambitious mash-up of genres and styles

Price: $3.99 / £2.29
Version: 1.1
Size:
403 MB
Developer:
Digixart Entertainment
Platform: 
iPhone & iPad

App Store Download button
Lost in Harmony combines auto-runner and rhythm-action gaming with a helping of emotional warmth to create a very unique experience; think Temple Run meets Guitar Hero and you’re part way to imagining the gameplay.

harmony4

Dodging oncoming traffic is just the beginning…

The game plays out through a series of musical dreams, punctuated by short but touching cutscenes exploring the relationship between skateboarder Kaito and his hospital-bound friend Aya. The story is about coping with illness – a surprisingly serious subject matter for an otherwise lighthearted iOS game – but these snippets of reality emotionally ground the gameplay and keep you invested in reaching the final stages. Each dream is loosely themed around psychological coping mechanisms: levels with names like Submersion, Desolation and Transcendence make for an extremely surreal experience at times. Let’s be clear though, it’s not a complete downer: this game is fun.

Each stage is traversed by skateboard, hurtling towards the screen while dodging traffic, oncoming roadblocks and the odd flying object. Of course, being first and foremost a music game, everything moves to the beat. If you can follow the rhythm and get into the zone, avoiding pitfalls becomes much easier. Interspersed with these evasion sections are segments more familiar to conventional rhythm gamers, in which you tap a sequence of stars as they appear in time with the melody. None of this is anything particularly new, but it’s very satisfying when it all goes right.

harmony1

The bar needs to be filled at least 50% to proceed

The music is fairly varied, each stage an epic medley of classical and contemporary music. Beethoven’s Fifth, The Nutcracker and even La Cucaracha are amongst the well-known tunes reworked and reimagined here. Rhythm games are far more satisfying – not to mention easier – when you know the tune and can use it to anticipate the action. Everything is well produced and matched up to the visuals pretty accurately. One level pays homage to Tetris, while another features an original track from Wyclef Jean. Now there’s a name we didn’t expect to be mentioning in an app review.

Many of the dreams are pretty epic in their presentation – beautiful landscapes changing and unfolding as you roll through them. The style and setting is switched up for each level – in one you’ll be fleeing from a tidal wave and dodging seagulls, while another might see you avoiding a barrage of bombs or escaping a bloodthirsty bear attack. Weaving through a lightning storm to a classical symphony with heavy drum and bass drops is quite an experience, too. You’ll want to play this with a good pair of headphones.

harmony6

Tap these glowing stars in time with the music while avoiding distractions

Our only real issue is with the controls. For the most part they’re pretty straightforward: tap either side of the screen to steer; swipe up (or do a 3D Touch hard press) to jump; tap stars to, well, tap stars. The problem comes when you’re required to do many of these things at the same time – multitasking would be a lot simpler if you could steer the skateboard with just one thumb instead of two. There’s also a few gesture recognition problems, such as unresponsive steering, minor hit detection issues and the fact that swiping a moving star will often send Kaito and Aya careening off the edge of a cliff. Not a deal-breaker, but enough inconsistency to be frustrating when you’re going for a high score.

One last feature worth a mention is Community Playtracks: there’s a whole mode in which users can design their own levels along to songs from iTunes or Bandcamp. The stages can then be shared with other players around the world. It’s a neat feature with a lot of potential, but the level editor doesn’t quite have the polish of the rest of the game and as a result most of the community submissions so far are mediocre at best. Still, it takes nothing away from the core experience and will only improve as more players join the community.

harmony3

Some of the bleaker levels add to the touching story

Part action, part musical and part drama, this is one of the most unique, ambitious games we’ve seen on the App Store in some time. Despite a few control issues, it still manages to be an unforgettable iOS experience. If you like the sound of a well choreographed action runner, give Lost in Harmony a whirl.

Review: Lost in Harmony – frantic musical action runner with heart
A compelling, unique mobile gaming experience with both style and substance
For
  • Great semi-original soundtrack
  • Beautiful, surreal landscapes
  • Touching narrative
Against
  • Iffy controls in places
4.6Overall Score