Saturday, June 23

Review: Lanota [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While people could get an impression from a distance that the music and rhythm genre tends to always follow the beat of the same drummer anyone who has dabbled in more than a few games tends to know better. There are certainly quite a number of more traditional titles in the genre that serve up the standard array of lines with beats you need to match through tapping or holding, but what I love are the games that dare to be a bit different. Fitting into this alternative mold, though perhaps too much so in places, is the wildly different Lanota, whose appearance is unassuming but packs a surprising punch of creativity in its play.


There are two aspects to the game and we’ll begin with the part that’s nice but wasn’t terribly interesting, the narrative. You’ll be very lightly following the journey of two heroes, Fisica and Ritmo, who are seeking to bring music back to the world. While at first you’ll go through some story beats between each track once the full playlist opens up several songs in for the most part the story takes a back seat, and honestly that’s a good thing since this doesn’t tend to be a genre people are seeking a meaningful story from.


That leaves us with the more unexpected and surprising aspect of the game and that’s the rhythm gaming itself. While this title lacks the outright outrageous nature of Elite Beat Agents, one of my favorite games in the genre, there’s a familiar sort of craziness in how the game plays. There are white tiles you’ll need to tap on the beat for, blue that you just need to be in position for, and then directional tiles you’ll need to perform a minor swipe up or down to clear. Where it gets crazy is that instead of having static tracks for the notes to come at you they instead can go in any direction on a circular field. Early on at the default skill level I was actually a bit bored but once things got rolling and I moved up the difficulty the fun really began to kick in… and hard. Whoever set up the gameplay really has a wicked streak to them as they have some outright brilliant moves you’ll need to execute to match the music in places. Expect to have to “hand off” a hold between fingers while the track moves from one side of the screen to the other and beat tiles begin falling, try to figure out how to try to make two tracks cross over each other, and be ready for swiping around the circle in quick arcs to match musical riffs. Even when the game at times was kicking my butt I’d continue to have a smile on my face just for how unique the gameplay is in places.


Aside from the story being somewhat of a weak link (though that doesn’t harm the title much) probably my biggest concern is the relative lack of diversity in the game’s 70+ tracks. That isn’t to say there aren’t flourishes of variety in places but for the most part the soundtrack tends to the more subdued, and the shame is that the crazier tunes tend to be the ones that are the most challenging and fun. Credit to the developers, even for softer classical music they manage to make the most of things, but it’s not as varied in styles as other titles. With the use of the touchscreen being vital also be warned that the game won’t even let you play in docked mode, though with the style of play this is absolutely understood. The default difficulty may trend a bit too easy but if you find it tough there’s actually 4 total difficulty levels and you begin at 2. Crank it up to the highest and you can be ready to lose, it’s quite an onslaught, but on top of that you’re also able to speed up and slow down the tempo as well.


Without a doubt Lanota was a massive surprise for me, as its unassuming presentation and opening levels completely gave me a different impression of what to expect than what was delivered. Keep in mind, I’m considering that a very good thing though as the gameplay is refreshingly different and sometimes hectic, with the playfield exhibiting a somewhat crazy mind of its own at times moving around the screen and making your life even more challenging keeping up with what it’s throwing at you. If you’ve been feeling like the genre’s in a bit of a rut and are willing to overlook its weaknesses Lanota is a fabulous rhythm game worth checking out.

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Absolutely terrific and engaging gameplay that continues to challenge you in unexpected ways
  • 4 skill levels and an ability to speed up or slow down the music make it very accessible to players of all skill levels
  • For the quality of play and 70+ tracks the price seems more than fair

Cons:
  • The story elements are completely forgettable and unnecessary, though I appreciate the effort
  • Getting started is a bit of a slog and doesn’t fully do the game justice
  • The tracks aren’t quite as varied as I’d prefer