Playing through a brief demo of Sayonara Wild Hearts is like riding a motorcycle through a Carly Rae Jepsen album.
At E3 2019, I had a chance to check out around 10 minutes of the game, which is being developed by Swedish studio Simogo, the same team behind titles like Device 6 and Year Walk, and published by Annapurna Interactive. It’s like nothing the studio has done before: bright, vibrant, and absolutely bursting with energy.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is essentially a rhythm game. In the opening sequence I played, an unnamed character wakes up in some sort of dream state, and then skateboards along a twisting track to catch a floating butterfly. As colorful pop music blares in the background, you have to switch lanes to both grab collectibles and keep up with the butterfly. Later, the scene shifts, and you’re surfing through the air on a tarot card while controlling a new character. Both sequences had the pace and simplicity of a classic arcade game.
Things got a little more complex later on, when I went up against a motorcycle gang called the Dancing Devils. First, there was combat — in which you attack and defend by hitting a button in time to a beat — which takes the form of a beautifully choreographed dance. That was followed by a chase sequence. I had to catch up to each of the three bikers, avoiding their attacks while navigating a twisting, obstacle-filled road, and eventually use an attack to defeat them and... punch their disembodied heart.
It’s definitely strange, but, at least early on, the game has an incredible sense of flow. Even when it looks like things are exceedingly complex, with fireballs flying through the air and roads with multiple paths and obstacles, it’s relatively easy to stay on the right path. It’s like being on a rollercoaster, just one that’s absolutely dripping with style. The area I played through is drenched in bright pink, and the soundtrack is incredible. Odd as the experience can be, at points the game might feel familiar, and that’s kind of the point: the team hasn’t exactly been shy about their influences. In a blog post from Simogo co-founder Simon Flesser earlier this year, he outlined the myriad inspirations:
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a soup made of pop-culture. It’s OutRun, the teddygirls sub-culture, Carly Rae Jepsen, Rez, cafe racers, WarioWare, Blümchen, the 1950s, modern dance, Akira, F-zero, Space Harrier, Sia, Gradius, the 1980s, Charli XCX, Sailor Moon, Ouendan, Tron, Rhythm Tengoku, Punch-Out, and a good portion of ourselves, strangeness and mysticism stuffed into a blender.
It can be hard to imagine how all of those things fit together, but it all makes sense when the game is in your hands. Sayonara Wild Hearts is almost like playing through an especially cool music video. You’ll be able to check it out for yourself later this year when it launches on the Switch and “other platforms.”