A screenshot of the fool riding a tarot card in the Apple Arcade title Sayonara WIld Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a pop album video game developed by Simogo, known for their previous titles Year Walk and Device 6. Featuring a half synth-pop, half EDM soundtrack from Daniel Olsen and Jonathan Eng, Sayonara Wild Hearts is like no rhythm game you’ve ever played. It’s probably fairer to say that this is a playable animated music video.

A screenshot of the first level of Sayonara Wild Hearts, Clair De Lune

Let’s Pop

The musical immersion of this game is outstanding. Each track is a different level of the game, revealing a bit more of the story of our heroine, a masked biker we know as The Fool. There’s driving and flying bits of the game, where you steer to pick up hearts and collect points. There are also quick time events—like striking at enemies with a sword. There’s also teases of shooting and bullet hell mechanics in some levels.

Tapping to and playing along with beat feels good—especially when it gets tricky, like tapping offbeat to emphasize bits of the melody. It’s the best version of tapping your foot to the beat, except you get a score for it.

The album itself is incredibly catchy and stands alone as an excellent album outside of the game. It’s got a dreamy, atmospheric vibe to it that calms you down despite the high-BPM of some tracks. It became the soundtrack I put on while preparing dinner last night, and I’m listening to it while writing this.

A screenshot of Sayonara Wild Hearts, showing the the Dancing Devils

Hearts & Swords

This game is astonishingly clever, and each level brings something new to the table. My jaw dropped more than once, completely inverting my expectations for what this game is.

Parallel Universes is a level where you play against the twin-like allies, Stereo Lovers. As the Stereo Lovers snap and clap along to the beat, you’re flipped between two parallel game universes, each one with bits to pick up and obstacles to avoid. The goal is to foresee what’s coming up in your path in both worlds and avoid it. I’ll be honest, I struggled a bit in one segment this track, but there’s no severe penalty for actual failure: the game never sets you back far, and will let you skip a small chunk if a segment is too hard. I stuck through it, and I am glad I did. (And, if you can’t swipe fast enough, turn up the sensitivity in settings.)

You’re chasing scores in each level, with different benchmarks for bronze, silver, and gold. You’re likely not going to get gold in many levels on your first playthrough, and that’s okay. I doubt anyone playing will feel that the music or visuals are repetitive. After you complete the game for the first time, there’s even an Album Arcade game mode that unlocks—you play the entire game/album front to back, and earn a score from that. (Probably a perfect game mode for a long flight.)

The Stereo Lovers swinging their swords in Sayonara Wild Hearts

The World We Knew

The aesthetic is something else too. It’s punchy and purple in the best way. It leans on bright and minimal thin lines for key artwork, which provides a sharp contrast from the quiet, dark blues and purples of the backgrounds. If you’ve read my previous posts, I might have mentioned “vibrancy” of color a time or two on this website, but holy hell, this game is in your face with its über-colorful aesthetic, and boy, it’s on point at all times.

The game uses tarot lore to tell parts of the story. The heroine is the fool, which is one of the cards in a tarot deck. At times, you’re riding along a level on a tarot card. The tarot base becomes the driving backbone of this dreamy spiritual and really glam vibe of the game.

Oh yeah, Queen Latifah is the narrator for the game too. (Who would have thought?) I didn’t realize it was her voice until I hit the credits the first time, but it’s excellent casting. Her voice brings such poise and confidence to the narration and is the right choice to deliver the narrative through-line of the story.

Riding a motorcycle in Sayonara Wild Hearts, in the level Begin Again.

Wild Hearts Never Die

Sayonara Wild Hearts is published by Annapurna Interactive, which seems to be winning my heart “best publisher” feelings, for the sheer number of indie titles that I love they’ve published in any capacity this year. (Telling Lies, Journey, and Donut County come to mind.)

Sayonara Wild Hearts is available for free with an Apple Arcade subscription. It’s also available for PS4 and Nintendo Switch for $12.99. Each stage only takes a few minutes so that you can play in discrete chunks, but a typical front-to-back playthrough will take just over an hour of your time.

This game is so chill, and I probably would have had this post up a few hours earlier if I didn’t get completely immersed playing it again while taking notes for this post. Let Sayonara Wild Hearts steal your time (and heart) too.

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An exemplary level of Golf: Become Human

Golf: Become Human isn’t your average golf game. It’s not even a golf game, really.

The game description on itch.io keeps it simple: you play as a human turned golf ball, trying to complete trials to earn your humanity. A few minutes into playing this, I was exclaiming to friends that this game is “vaporwave, the game,” and oh boy, is that true—but I didn’t even know what I was really in for.

The first level, where the god teases you that you can get your body back.

An inversion of expectations

The game starts as a pretty average 3D platform golf game. You get how this game works instinctively—aim, click, and release to hit the golf ball toward the hole. You’ve seen golf games before, this isn’t much different.

The first three levels serve as a tutorial. A god-like character drops in, introduces each level, gives you some aesthetic quips and then leaves you on your way.

Everything changes and all sense of normalcy is disposed of when you hit level four. At the end of level four, the game transforms into a rubber band physics-based rock climbing game. “Figured a pair of arms would be useful,” the god quips when you start slingshotting around.

You, now walking around as a golf ball with toddler legs, in Golf: Become Human.

Skillfully applied wackiness

So once you get into the meat of the game—past level four, that is—Golf: Become Human hits its real stride. The game throws new mechanics at you, then augments them to increase complexity and to keep you guessing.

For instance, the rock climbing mechanic keeps evolving each time you encounter it, level by level. It starts off as a “climb to the top,” in the next level it adds corners, then animated bumpers, and then jumping springs and barriers. It skillfully builds from the underlying rock climbing game you found earlier into something devilishly complex and unexpected—but something I really wanted to bite into just so I could see what the game is going to do next with it.

It’s not just golf and rock climbing. There’s some platforming and flappy bird style gameplay too. You can also find the yellow flag hidden levels—which offer side-courses of gameplay varietals, like bowling and plinko.

Screenshot of Golf: Become Human, featuring bowling as a golf ball.

The ultimate mashup game of all time?

Yeah, this game is really vaporwave meets frog fractions meets the PGA tour series…with a jumble of other games you’d find in a discount bin heaped in too. That's a strength, not a crutch—everything feels at place here.

To accompany the vaporwave art aesthetic, Golf: Become Human includes its own lo-fi soundtrack from YouTube creators Lee and Zeeky Beats. The soundtrack is short and loops a few times. Once you’ve heard enough, feel free to sub in your own vaporwave soundtrack, from artists like Macintosh Plus or 2814.

Honestly, the origin of this game is mysterious to me. If you play through the credits—yes, the game gameifies the credits—you find that the game is made by a collective named “rootlads,” and lists some names in the credits, but I was unsuccessful in tracking any of them down. I weirdly suspect that there’s a deeper metagame to this, but I’m unable to find evidence of it. No social accounts, nothing. But the game is content-heavy and is polished deeply enough that it’s a surprise to see that the creators are nowhere to be found, short of posting the game.

Gameplay Tip:

There’s honestly a few bugs. The game can crash from time to time, mainly while aiming golf balls—wait for the green flash before clicking. If the game does crash, you can press R after relaunching to pick up at the checkpoint you left off at.
Oh, and strokes don’t really seem matter—or at least, I didn’t bother to three-star every course. The game always lets you continue to the next level.

A landscape shot of one of the last levels of Golf: Become Human, featuring the rock climbing in the distance.

Depending on how you feel about this sort of irreverent jokey complexity, Golf: Become Human may sound either fantastic or terrible to you, but you should really play it. It changes in ways that keep you guessing, in an irresistible sort of way that just made me searching for another hidden level, or to keep seeing how the game will evolve next.

My playthrough of Golf: Become Human took about an hour and a half. It made for a very delightful Sunday evening game. Golf: Become Human is available on itch.io for Windows.

One of the main characters of Jamsterdam, crossing a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam.

Jamsterdam is an adorable mini-game about trying to be a jazz musician in Amsterdam.

As a struggling musician in Amsterdam trying to make ends meet, you pick up a singing gig alongside a canal, as passersby throw coins for you to collect. Your cap, full of coins, slowly depletes as bills come in. Dwindling on your last coins, your world slowly turns to gray, and your music moves from freeform jazz to something more of a funeral dirge. All until you can’t pay your last bills—ending your gameplay.

The game brings whimsy and spirit to the act of feeding the capitalist machine. The vibrancy of colors is tied to how much cash you have on hand. It also seems that, in Amsterdam, no one has a sense of aim, so the denizens throw their coins everywhere, including nonsensical places, like the canal. When you’re short on cash, your dash for coins becomes even more hectic.

Was I a good singer in Jamsterdam? Well, let’s say I really embraced freeform jazz.

Jamsterdam is short, adorable, and gets its point across quickly. You’ll enjoy the few minutes you spend in it. Jamsterdam was made by nothke and Ferran, with procedural music from YenTing Lo. It is available on itch for Windows, macOS, and web.