HarmoKnight Review

Developer: Game Freak

Publisher: Nintendo

Console: Nintendo 3DS

Players: 1

Rating:

  • ESRB: E
  • PEGI: 7
  • CERO: A
  • ACB: G

Release Date:

  • September 5th, 2012 (Japan)
  • March 28th, 2013 (Europe & North America)

Genre: Rhythm/Platform

-Elliot Zeichner

Auto-running games are nothing new, but they are trending with the added flavor of musical rhythm. Bit.Trip Runner got a sequel, but even that pales in comparison to the emphasis on music that HarmoKnight presents, which offers a musical note planet called Melodia, with all manner of life shaped like instruments. With an invasion on Melodia by aliens called the Noizoids, and no HarmoKnights in commission to protect the land, it is up to Tempo, a young warrior, to build his skills and fight against the threat.

Go at your own pace, but match the game’s Tempo.

Starting off with a few tutorial levels, the player gets a sense of the feedback. Hitting obstacles perfectly requires some delay because Tempo uses the end of his weapon, but this is only by going what’s onscreen. Keeping in tune with the rhythm is really what’s important, as the visuals only determine whether the obstacle should be evaded by jumping or struck with your weapon. While background elements that can be struck to get extra notes from require visual attention, the obstacles will appear with rhythmic sound cues, so it can theoretically be played blindfolded without taking damage.

For each portion of the level, the game will grade how the player is doing based on how many notes were gotten and how much damage was taken. This can be helpful if the player wants to get the best “Great” rank by the level’s end, which is determined solely on the note total, because the player has the option to restart if things aren't going smoothly. However, even then if the player takes too much damage, they will be forced to retry the level from the beginning. While they are given 5 health points to start with, heart eggs can be found to increase their health up to 8 in the levels. This will carry over to other levels, but are not permanent, and if lost, all repeated attempts and next levels will set the health back to the default.

The minecart makes for some cymbal gameplay.

As the story progresses, Tempo finds other characters who become playable. After joining, they have their own segment for certain levels. Their play styles are fundamentally the same, except they are accompanied by a crosshair to help determine when to strike enemies. However, they cannot jump, which means while playing as them, there’s more focus on trickier beats, and less on moving on different paths, which would require more eye-to-ear coordination.

Throughout each world there are a couple of mini-bosses with a proper one at the end. They work like Simon-Says quick-time events: the button combinations are presented in rhythm, and the player repeats them the same. There is nothing extra to do other than perfectly match the commands, so these levels can be played completely eyes closed. While the normal stages offer some leeway, boss levels are more like endurance rounds, and really put your sense of rhythm to the test, especially if the player wants to achieve that “Great” rank, which requires missing no command.

This took many dogged attempts to perfect.

There is no shortage on difficulty, overall, especially if one is to go for the gold ranks. Having a poor sense of rhythm, or not developing one, exacerbates this, if one is only to rely on sight and not on the music. After completing every level, there are the bonus ones, and even then, there’s the option of playing each level over again on fast mode, which has its own rewards in addition to bragging rights.

Pros:

  • Stylish graphics
  • Engaging world
  • Steady difficulty curve
  • Easy-to-learn level design
  • New genre of music for each world
  • Simple but catchy music
  • Nice story told with stylized cutscenes
  • Post-game content

Cons:

  • Tricky beats lend to unresponsiveness
  • Some levels reuse the same music

Verdict: 8/10

Having a good sense of rhythm is key to enjoying this game. There’s a demo out to test yours out before making the final purchase. The content is definitely of the price, as some worlds have less stages than others, but would definitely have more if it were a full priced game, yet still be at the risk of overstaying its welcome.

Value Verdict: New for $14.99 on the Nintendo 3DS.