It’s really hard for me to sit back and cast judgment on a game like Lost in Harmony. There’s things I really like about it and ideas I really appreciate within, but other pieces just don’t stick the landing. It’s a flawed game for sure, but one I would wholeheartedly recommend. Let’s just get that out of the way. But I really don’t want to talk about this game and then end with a score because that score really won’t properly reflect how I feel. So I won’t. There will be no letter at the end signifying my final verdict on the quality of Lost in Harmony, just a few paragraphs from a guy hoping to get his thoughts across to you.
Lost in Harmony is a rhythm game for iOS that revolves around the relationship of a boy and a girl. The two seem to have a history with each other but all you can really confirm is that they are friends. Who knows if there is any romantic connection between them because the game isn’t about romance, but about dealing with a friend who’s sick and battling for her life. The girl, Aya, suffers from an unknown illness (cancer seems to be the believable culprit) and her friend Kaito is trying his best to deal with the situation.
After texting back and forth each night with Aya, Kaito falls asleep, headphones still on, and he drifts into musical dreamscapes that reflect his emotions. These backdrops make up each of the game’s 12 levels as Kaito dreams of taking Aya for a ride on his skateboard. The animations are absolutely gorgeous, ranging from colorful, crystal clear beaches to chilling scenes of war. These levels play out across remixes of classical songs (mostly) that perfectly matches what’s going on in Kaito’s head. The mix of how audio and visuals convey one’s emotions is the piece of Lost in Harmony that the game really nails.
In true rhythm game fashion, throughout each level you’re tasked with hitting at least 50% of the notes. This is usually pretty simple to do thanks to three shiny orbs that can be collected in each level. Not only do they give a huge boost to your percentage, but collecting all three unlocks a new piece of Kaito’s wardrobe if you feel like the character model is getting stale. Despite some annoyances within the hit detection, since it stays pretty easy to progress and continue Kaito and Aya’s story – as well as listen to the next fantastic remix – I never felt frustrated.
The thing Lost in Harmony doesn’t quite nail is it’s unique approach to a rhythm game. You aren’t just tapping dots on a screen to the beat. There are certainly sections like that, yes, but a majority of the game relies on you controlling Kaito on his skateboard in real time. He’s always racing towards the screen and you are free to move him left and right as often as you wish, on beat or off. Where the music comes into play is in his surroundings. Throughout each song, obstacles will appear after a warning arrow briefly gives you a heads up and you’ll need to avoid these obstacles as they appear following the rhythm of the music. Some obstacles you’ll even have to jump over if you can’t go around them.
This is the part of the game that really throws my mind into a tizzy. I absolutely love the idea of evolving the typical rhythm gameplay into something less strict. Letting me control Kaito how I wanted felt so freeing compared to hitting specific button prompts on command. And that freedom reflects the idea of the game because Kaito’s dreams are his escape from reality, his way to deal with his problems. And it works. It just doesn’t work perfectly. There are times where you will have to tap nodes on the screen and you’ll accidentally steer Kaito off the side of a cliff, losing a small percentage of completion. There’s times where the touchscreen just doesn’t work for the precise movements the later levels demand. And though it’s nice seeing the faces of the characters, I think placing the camera in front of the characters hurts the gameplay. It’s never okay to avoid obstacles you can’t see coming.
Lost in Harmony does a lot of interesting things that I really love to see but ultimately feels like these ideas need a little more time to cook. The story between Kaito and Aya is emotional, but we only see it played out through text messages before falling into his dreams and the rest of the game. These texts do enough to give you an understanding of what’s going on, but they lack the depth and personality that’s really needed to bring these characters to life. And I already went over my problems with the mechanics earlier.
Still, regardless of my critiques, I absolutely loved playing this game. Despite having my phone at my side everyday it’s rare that I actually finish a game on it but I couldn’t put down Lost in Harmony. The presentation is beautiful, the music is great, and most of all, it’s heart is in the right place. It won me over and I have no problem saying that I think you should try it out. If you really like it you can even prolong your play with a huge variety of community uploaded levels!