|Dev: Game Freak|
|Release: March 28, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Comic Mischief, Mild Comic Violence|
by Becky Cunningham
It's nice to see Game Freak get the chance to develop something besides a Pokémon game, and a charming little rhythm platformer like HarmoKnight seems just up that company's alley. Between games like Bit Trip Runner and the upcoming Rayman Legends, an added rhythmic element is the hot thing in platforming right now. How well does this 3DS eShop title pull off that combination of rhythm gaming and traversing treacherous terrain?
The most important element of all rhythm gaming is the music, which HarmoKnight pulls off pretty well. Each of the game's worlds has a different musical theme, giving the game a nice, diverse soundscape. Pokémon fans will be pleased to know that the game's bonus levels all feature music from that series, and in fact, playing Pokémon games will give you a good idea of the general quality of HarmoKnight's tracks. They're cute and generally have a strong beat, but they can't quite compete with the licensed hit tunes in mainstream rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
The basics of HarmoKnight's gameplay are quite simple. HarmoKnight's main character, Tempo, runs automatically through the levels with his trusty note-shaped staff at his side. The player's job is to press B to jump and A to hit enemies, but doing this to the beat of the music that's playing is the game's main challenge. The basic button presses work well, and players will have a great time when they've gotten into the groove of a level. Advanced moves like charged attacks and jump-attacking are somewhat awkward to pull off, however, which can make the game's later levels frustrating until the player has mastered them. The game could particularly have used a tutorial level dedicated to jump-attacking.
HarmoKnight changes up the basic gameplay nicely by including a few different kinds of levels and two companions for Tempo. Level types include basic platforming levels, boss fights that involve a rhythmic Simon Says minigame, and train levels in which Tempo controls a strange vehicle armed with cymbols. Tempo's two companions include the archer Lyra and the percussionist pair of Tyko and Cymbi. Every few levels include a segment in which Tempo swaps with one of his friends for a different kind of gameplay segment. Lyra shoots her bow at distant enemies, while Cymbi (a monkey who rides on Tyko's back) and Tyko take turns hitting high-up and low-down enemies. All these gameplay variations keep things fresh throughout, though the train levels aren't as engaging to play as the other kinds of levels.
HarmoKnight's graphics are quite well-done, especially for a downloadable game. The artists have done a great job adding musical motifs to the various lands that Tempo crosses through on his quest. Everything is nice and crisp, whether the 3D is turned on or off. The boss monsters that the player fights are quite imaginatively designed, and the animations that play in these levels are quite fun to watch. Similarly, the game's occasional animated cutscenes are made well, although their artistic style may not appeal to all players. That style is toned down during the gameplay segments, which simply portray a highly musical world populated with charming characters and monsters.