The release radar for rhythm games on Nintendo Switch - or any platform for that matter – is somewhat of an oddity. Every once in a while, a game slides into view and attempts to grab the genre and shake things up; to provide fans with something fresh to sink our rhythmic teeth into. Lanota does just that, and for the most part, does it well.
Flyhigh Works and Noxy Games Incorporation, developers who are certainly no strangers when it comes to creating rhythm games, grace the eShop with a title that joins a small, but noticeable roster of rhythmic titles. Currently available are the likes of the well-received VOEZ (we scored it an impressive 8/10), Thumper that touts itself as a violent entry and the esteemed Deemo (9/10) – all of which have marked their place on the virtual shopping space as titles worth your hard-earned dollar.
How Lanota stands out from this crowd, though, is primarily down to the unique gameplay. Solely restricted to the touchscreen, it’s your task to tap incoming ‘notes’ that emit from the centre of the rotating circular playing field. Tapping them at the incorrect time too often and you’ll have to start the track over again. However, instead of these coloured notes flying towards you in the ‘conventional’ Guitar Hero way, they come at you from inside a circle (or plate). It’s a great addition against what can notoriously be seen as static mechanics in other games in the genre.
This intriguing feature is what makes this title distinctive and ultimately a lot of fun to play. Resting our Switch on our lap or on a table, using two hands and we find ourselves flicking from one side of the screen to the top, to the bottom – the later stages increasingly making use of this circle in entertaining and intuitive ways. Not only does the playing field shift, it zooms in and out, which can be simultaneously stressful and amusing but the latter for the majority of our playthroughs.
Holding down a note and keeping track of it as it shifts around the plate to score points while using your other finger to tap along the other side of the circle takes time to master, but once it clicks it feels great to be bopping along with the tunes scoring perfect timing. Nailing the notes and there's a genuine feeling of being directly responsible for the tempo and flow of the tune. Lanota succeeds at this aspect of satisfying accomplishment and lends a hand in providing replay value, too. There are varying modes of difficulty to tackle, with all them being unlocked from the start giving you the option to choose your own learning curve. This may strike some die-hard fans of the genre as being a casual approach, but it’s a friendly feature for folk that may be choosing Lanota as their first rhythmic title.
The picture book-style mode of portraying the games’ story is cute, but often confusing in the order of which things are told and probably won’t keep you gripped, however, it’s there at least. You see, the more songs you complete and the more storybook pages are unlocked and available to read. There’s no real necessity to the story as you have the majority of the tracks unlocked from the get-go with the developer confirming to us that there are over 70 to choose from with the DLC from the mobile game bundled in at the point of purchase.
An area of excellence that Lanota absolutely nails is the track list. Yes, none of the tracks are likely to be familiar – don’t expect to sing along like you did with Donkey Konga or the exquisite Elite Beat Agents – but the different types of songs have to be credited. Sure, the hefty amount of J-Pop can’t be ignored (you know you love it really), but rock, metal, trance and even the hard-to-escape sounds of chunky, Skrillex-style dubstep all make an appearance. This isn’t to say that all of the tunes on offer are memorable by any feat. There’s a fair share of slow and quirky songs to be experienced. Of course, personal taste prevails, but a collection of bizarre and jarring music is hard to go unnoticed. Thankfully though, you’re able to choose whichever track to beat in whatever order you choose.
The omission of HD Rumble is noticeable; having another hint to when you’re hitting the sweet spots of note-tapping would have been a welcome addition as, in some of the more hectic tracks, guesswork comes into play. Lanota is a little more forgiving in these sections and rarely penalises you for mistakes.
Lanota’s particular attention to bringing a new way to play a dynamic rhythm game by offering a circular playing field pays off and with a tracklist longer than your arm, you’ll be hard pushed to get through this one quickly. By having three modes of difficulty, interactive maps, a picture book style story to read and a varied collection of different genres to pick from, there’s more than enough substance to keep coming back for more. Fans of rhythm games should give this one a spin but for those out there that are looking for the next Final Fantasy Theatrhythm could walk away wanting just that little bit more in terms of story and familiarity.