I’ll never return to Sayonara Wild Hearts. Or, more specifically, I can’t, and trying to do so will only drag me kicking and screaming further from it. It’s an experience that exists perfectly encased in frozen amber that I will only look longingly at from afar, remembering what it did for me in an otherwise tumultuous and trying year.

Something I think about quite often is LittleBigPlanet. That’s not because I love it, though I did love my time with it. But instead, it’s because there was this level in the wedding section called Skulldozer. It featured, obviously, a Skulldozer, which is exactly what it sounds like.

I had popped in the game for the first time maybe a scant few hours beforehand, and then my college housemates came home from class. One of them decided to join me while the other devoured a truly inspiring amount of milk and cereal and watched us play. And it was rather sedate for the most part, spiked with yelps and pleas for mercy as we discovered the slap functionality, but as soon as that Skulldozer dropped, we were all on our feet. Yelling, screaming, laughing.

And that’s what Sayonara Wild Hearts was like for its entirety. After hearing a bit of the heat behind its release, I was expecting to be immediately wowed. Instead, I was immediately underwhelmed, which I think was a consequence of not fulling understanding what it was I was expecting to be wowed by.

Then, it begins. Like, really begins. You start winding through this Rainbow Road-ass skateboard tour. You ride a luminescent motorcycle through a ghastly, ethereal forest. At some point, you are fully tearing up downtown infrastructure with some remarkably powerful firearms.

It’s a smooth, effortless ride, like you are embodying all the world’s hidden cache of beginner’s luck the first time you ski down a snowcapped mountain. The trees whip by with nary a concern. All you feel is pure exhilaration, not even worried with how fast you are going, how dangerous this is, or whether you should be pizzaing or french frying. You wouldn’t even know what to be thinking if you were to be thinking anything. It is raw elation.

Sayonara Wild Hearts

And that’s why I think about that LBP level. The next day, we all tried to return to it with new players in tow, and it just didn’t work. Maybe we got in our heads or maybe we just weren’t in the mood. But it rubbed off a little of the shine from that golden, shimmering memory.

I don’t want that to happen with Sayonara Wild Hearts. I refuse to let that happen. I’ll never play it again, but I’ll never stop thinking about it.