Published on April 2nd, 2013 | by Cliff Bakehorn III, Contributor
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: March 28, 2013
Review Notes: A code for the game was received for review purposes.
HarmoKnight is a rhythm/platforming game designed by Game Freak, best known for its global success with the Pokémon series. Though the eShop download features none of the catching, training and battling that the Pokémon games are known for, it is nonetheless charming and thoroughly entertaining.
From its colorful visuals and cast of characters, to its addictively entertaining hop-and-bop gameplay, HarmoKnight strikes a chord that is light and refreshing. Players assume the role of a boy named Tempo, who sets out to save the land of Melodia from the dreadful Noizoids that have been appearing. Along the way, Tempo joins up with others such as Lyra, Tyko, and Cymbi the monkey; each of these characters plays with slightly different attributes. However, the point remains the same to collect floating notes, avoid obstacles, and strike down any of the Noizoid foes that stand in your way, all for the purpose of making music.
As that slightly annoying person who tends to whistle, air guitar and pencil-drum along to any music in the background, the game design of HarmoKnight really drew me in. Basically, each action – jumping over spikes, striking an enemy with your musical staff, etc. – results in the sound of a different note, and is synced to the background music. It isn’t complicated by any means; the on-screen platforming corresponds with the score, and the better you play along, the better it all sounds.
Each stage in HarmoKnight is another music track to perform, and the worlds of the game are stylized with different genres in mind.
For example, the game opens up with the standard, simplistic ‘springtime’ tracks before taking you through metal-themed mountains, show tune cities, and even a baroque volcanic setting. The thematic approach is nice, differentiating the visuals as much as the sound. As I said before, you play as more characters than just Tempo, and some of the stages are designed around the support cast – but there are even levels based on riding a mine cart, equipped to look like Cymbi the monkey (complete with giant cymbals to smash enemies).
By successfully completing each stage, Tempo can earn ‘Royal Notes’ and progress through the world map. Although the game is quite linear, additional replay value is there: earning gold ratings is a tricky challenge, and collecting a high number of notes allows you to re-play faster versions of each track. You can also unlock a handful of bonus tracks, all of which were taken from the Pokémon series. Poke-Maniacs should really get a kick out of the Bicycle, Champion and Gym themes, among others.
If there is anything about HarmoKnight that strikes me as problematic, it is that most of the stages throughout the game are based on unique songs, none of which are immediately familiar to the player. The only fault I find here is that it makes the platforming and the rhythmic timing more difficult to pull off; not knowing all of the little sections of the stage/song means it is tough to anticipate the music and sometimes even tougher to find success with the timing of your moves.
Many of the mini-boss/boss stages proved to be very frustrating, as the simple button commands begin including directional movements to mix things up. Missing some of these notes felt less like my mistake, and more like a timing issue. When trying to clear stages with gold ratings, I found this to be obnoxious, as I would often miss the one or two notes allowed without really ‘missing’ at all.
Considering the amazing depth of the Pokémon series, I was a little disappointed by the simplicity of HarmoKnight – but to be honest, it still does everything that a rhythm game should do, and integrates the platforming mechanics pretty well. If only the score featured more of the music or even medleys of Pokémon songs, HarmoKnight’s ideas would resonate a bit more. Again, its only major flaw is that its music isn’t immediately recognizable, so the process of hitting all the notes in perfect rhythm as you run and jump along gets a little tricky.
HarmoKnight is still very entertaining, a colorful blend of platforming and rhythm-based gameplay. If you liked Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy or similar music games, you should also enjoy what Game Freak’s eShop game has to offer.
+ Love the art style, character design, and graphics in general
+ Very clever take on platforming/rhythm genres
+ Bonus Pokemon tracks are fantastic
– Timing issues are frustrating
– The music is good, just not immediately recognizable