For many of us, music serves as the ultimate salve for sadness. Songs about heartbreak, like Robyn’s “Missing U” or Lorde’s “Liability,” are deeply sad songs mired by hurt, but motivated by the belief that things will ultimately be okay in time. This is the emotional register of Sayonara Wild Hearts, Simogo’s rhythm game homage to the transcendental power of pop. The game is framed in terms of isolation and love lost, opening with the protagonist in her room, curled up alone in bed. A celestial narrator voiced by Queen Latifah introduces the protagonist as a “heroine from the shards of a broken heart,” and that “her heart broke so violently that her sorrow echoed through space and time.” Like the best of pop music, Sayonara Wild Hearts takes this sorrow and surrounds it with movement, transporting the protagonist out of her bedroom and headspace, propelling her towards radical moments of beauty, and engaging the senses with a genuine sense of visual and sonic wonder. Pop songs composed by artists Daniel Olsén and Jonathan Eng and occasionally animated by the ethereal vocals of Linnea Olsson serenade our journey through astral highways resembling Rainbow Road in neon or an interdimensional Out Run. Players guide the masked protagonist as she avoids obstacles, collects hearts, and fends off enemies, all in sync with the music. At its core, Sayonara Wild Hearts celebrates the art of pop music, structuring its levels around its mesmeric beats and hooks. It understands pop music’s vitality; over the course of twenty-three levels, the game presents pop as liberating and life affirming.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.