It’s been a while since I’ve gone out of my way to bother downloading the additional tracks from a band I’ve heard as part of a soundtrack to a game, but strangely, that’s the first thing I did after playing LOUD on Planet X, a new indie rhythm action/tower defense game. It’s got a cracking soundtrack.
Best described as cross between Plants vs. Zombies and Crypt of the Necrodancer, Loud on Planet X is a simple but incredibly engaging and addictive game. Midway through a gig, your band is abducted and taken to an alien planet, where they must all be rabid Justin Bieber fans or something since they don’t seem to appreciate good music at all. The local aliens descend upon the acts on stage, trying to destroy their speakers, en masse. Lucky for you and for the hapless characters under your control, you can fend off the buggers with the power of music.
The actual gameplay is incredibly simple, though it’s by no means easy. The screen is divided up into four lanes with a button on the controller allocated to each one. It’s your job to stop the aliens charging down them before they can destroy your speakers and eventually rush the stage. However, it’s not just a case of opening fire with your weird speaker-lasers whenever you see an alien in the corresponding lane, as you can only attack in time to the beat of the song (the edge of the screen pulses to help you keep time), meaning that it’s all about prioritizing which aliens to attack while keeping in step with the song.
Honestly, it takes a little getting used to. I’d recommend playing through on Easy mode to begin with, just to get into the swing of things. On hard (and even on later songs in normal), losing the rhythm can completely derail your efforts. Then again, once you get into the groove, getting to the end of a song with pristine speakers and a high score is just about as gratifying as it can get.
Killing a certain number of aliens (Protip: health is represented by the amount of eyes they have) gives you access to a random music-based power up, such as bouncers that push aliens back, members of the crowd that blind them with camera phones, and bubble machines that slow them down.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, a rhythm game is only as good as the music in it – a front that Loud on Planet X certainly delivers on. Though CHVRCHES and Teagan and Sarah are arguably the most well-known acts on the bill, Loud on Planet X’s 28-song soundtrack (12 acts, with two songs per artist) doesn’t have a bad tune in sight. There’s a great deal of variety to the acts on offer too – from the aforementioned Indie-pop of Teagan and Sarah to the new-wave stylings of Austria to the grunge-infused July Talk. However, my favorite act, (and coincidentally, the band with some of the hardest tracks on the game) was Fucked Up, who have been playing in my car on the way to work pretty much non-stop since I bought the game (David Comes to Life is an album everyone should own).
It’s a nice touch that every band and artist has been lovingly recreated in-game, with each band performing in a different manner. Every band also has their own special move (that you can perform once you’ve filled the LOUD meter) that’s based on their real-life personas. The game’s art style, like the gameplay, is what you’d expect from most indie titles: simple, yet effective. Everything is created in a sort of paper cut-out style reminiscent of Sound Shapes or Drink Box’s Guacamelee.
It’s an extremely straight-forward and enjoyable experience, but a short one. The whole thing, all told, is over in a mere two to three hours, though with rhythm games, longevity doesn’t matter quite so much. It’s only as long as the tracklist, after all. Coming back to try and three-star all the tracks on hard may take a lot longer. It left me wanting more and despite the developers saying everything you need is in the release, I would love an expansion some when further down the line with a new line-up.
If you’re a fan of the music involved, and are in the mood for a good rhythm game without the need for embarrassing plastic guitars, I’d highly recommend queuing up LOUD on Planet X. Its simple yet addictive gameplay and brilliant soundtrack makes it a must for fans of indie music and rhythm games alike.
Loud on Planet X was reviewied on PS4 with a copy provided by the developer.
Publisher: Pop Sandbox| Developer: Pop Sandbox | Genre: Music/Tower Defence | Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 12+/T | Release Date: April 19, 2016