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Sayonara Wild Brains

I just wrote about how personal variation can result in wildly different experiences of the same game, and now I find I have to force myself to remember this when reading reviews for Sayonara Wild Hearts.

This is a well-received game, with Metascores ranging from 81 on iOS (where the game is part of Apple Arcade) to 82 on Switch and 85 on PS4. I haven’t read every review, but the only substantive complaint in most of the ones I’ve seen is that the game is over too quickly. Whereas I would sum the game up as “beautiful, but only barely playable.”

It has readability problems that make Runner3 look like CliffsNotes. The rules, physics, controls, and camera angles are constantly changing in ways that look great but make it impossible for the player to find a rhythm until they have all the unpredictability memorized. Missing score pickups just costs you points, but hitting obstacles rewinds the song a couple of seconds for you to try again, and if you have to try too many times you can just skip that part of the song - both of which damage the “interactive album” experience.

I feel like if Sayonara Wild Hearts wanted to be a rhythm game, it should have been more readable. And if it wanted to be a playable pop album, it shouldn’t have had failure modes. The compromise we got results in an unfair rhythm game and an album that keeps interrupting itself.

This also feels really obvious to me. Like, when I look at this game, I don’t see how anyone could have come to a different conclusion about it. But while it’s certainly tempting to conclude that all of those reviewers were just wowed by the game’s superficial aspects, I have to admit it’s more likely that my brain is different from theirs, even if I don’t know exactly how.