Shoot the groove.
If you ever require any firm affirmation as to the importance of audio and music within video games, look no further than L.F.O -Lost Future Omega– from developer Daifuku Future Lab.
Billed as a musical rail shooter (much like the beloved classic Rez), L.F.O takes place within a confined space with your craft hurtling down a retro-inspired tunnel as you fight off waves of enemies – if it helps, imagine the Death Star run at the end of A New Hope and you’ll have a general idea of L.F.O’s premise.
There’s absolutely no plot to speak of within this title, so the entirely of L.F.O’s potential appeal lies solely within its gameplay. Sadly, it’s… not great. It’s okay, but not great. As mentioned, your ship automatically manoeuvres through a wireframe tunnel – you can directly control its lateral motion, moving up, down and side to side in order to both aim at your enemies and also avoid incoming projectiles. You have two weapons at your disposal: a basic automatic gun, and missiles that home in on your enemies.
L.F.O is bizarrely both one of the easiest games you’ll ever play and also one of the most frustrating. The enemies you’ll encounter are almost insultingly easy to dispatch – they’ll simply float in your path just waiting for the swift embrace of death. On the other hand, the basic ability to aim at these enemies is so infuriatingly obtuse, many of your foes will pass you by as your efforts to shoot them all remain futile.
Eventually, you’ll come across boss battles. These consist of huge green bullet sponges that genuinely pose little to no threat. 10 seconds or so of constant fire will easily dispatch the boss, and you’re onto the next phase of the game. It does get progressively more difficult as you go on, but sadly I suspect most players will breeze through this game without too much stress.
To alleviate the general ease of the game, the main mode you’ll be playing grants you with just one life. Should you actually get hit within the game, that’s it, you’ll need to start over from scratch. Otherwise, the other mode – Okiraku Mode – grants you with unlimited lives and is basically an exercise in how long you can withstand the mediocre gameplay on display.
It’s not all bad though. In fact, L.F.O’s primary draw is its remarkable soundtrack. Electronic beats play throughout the game, and your actions within the game actually impact the music directly – your automatic weapon’s audio works so well with the music, I actually found myself trying to fire at various beats to mix up the music a bit. Additionally, the missiles create clapping noises when fired which also work well with the overall audio. To compliment this, the Switch will continuously vibrate to the beat of music, which is really cool at first, but I won’t blame you if you wish to turn this feature off.
Graphically, the wire-frame aesthetic works well with the audio as well – yellows, blues and purples really pop from the screen and the game runs at a continuously impressive rate. My only gripe is that there’s little to differentiate one level from the next. It really is a shame, then, that the gameplay itself fails to match up to the strong visual and audio work on display.
L.F.O mixes strong audio design with retro inspired graphics to great success, but unfortunately its basic gameplay lets it down dramatically.