Last time Pokémon creator Game Freak deviated from its monster-battling formula we got Drill Dozer, an inventive platformer that buzzed with a fizzy energy. This time it’s given us a rhythm-powered auto-runner along the lines of Tomena Sanner and Bit.Trip Runner and it’s a similarly effervescent little number.
The A and B buttons are all you need to guide nimble hero Tempo. The latter sees him leap gaps and spiked hazards, while the former, when timed correctly to the music, gives a healthy whack with a musical staff. Each successful interaction prompts a musical note to appear – a well-timed swing sends foes careening into hovering quavers with a chiming arpeggio – with optional tambourine, triangle and cymbal cues to bolster your tally.
Boss stages adopt a more conventional Simon Says approach, requiring you to memorise a string of cues including directional dodges, fondly recalling Space Channel 5. What these interludes lack in mechanical invention they compensate for in visual flair, the camera breaking free of its 2D fixings and showing Tempo and his foe from a number of different angles.
It’s refreshingly exacting about timing, though too forgiving when it comes to grading – you can miss several prompts, take plenty of damage and still earn gold. As such, there’s little incentive to repeat levels beyond the simple pleasure of playing them (and an option to do so at faster speeds), even if there’s enough zip and bounce in both its tunes and presentation to make that an attractive prospect. A series of familiar bonus tunes suggests Game Freak can’t quit Pokémon entirely, but HarmoKnight is further evidence it should take a break more often.