Soundfall

Soundfall game

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Bob Hoose

Game Review

You can find plenty of genre mashup games in the teeming video game ranks. But few have met the task with as much consistent creativity as Soundfall. This colorful game blends an impressive music/rhythm mechanic with role-playing dungeon crawling and some old-school arcade shooting panache. The result: a game that will keep both your toes and your trigger finger tapping.

To put things as plainly as possible, Soundfall has players shoot swarming crowds of enemies to a beat. And the more accurately you hit those beats per minute (BPM) the more successful your outcome. But more on that in a bit.

The story side of the game is straightforward. A young woman named Melody is eagerly anticipating her audition with a company called Star Vision. And while she really wants to win a spot with this group, her stage fright is leaving her a bit skittish.

Then after slipping on her headphones for a few calm-me-down moments, she’s mysteriously swept off to the alternate reality of Symphonia and called upon to defend the land and best an attacking army of tune-ruining Discordians.

Armed with a variety of musical weapons, she must make her way through Symphonia’s worlds/levels—each with its own looped musical underscore—and use the power of the beat to clear away all the baddies. Along the way, she meets a quartet of other playable characters who have their own musical skill sets and personalities. And who knows, if she hits her allegro stride well, she may even gain a bit of compose(ure), too.

Game mechanics-wise, it’s important to time your shots and Melody’s in-game dashes to the pulse of whatever music is playing. Each level has its own tune and rhythmic tempo (including everything from orchestral themes to electronic dance music to punk to heavy metal tunes), and the environment of trees and other inanimate objects dance along to the beat with you.

There’s a metronome at the bottom of the screen to follow visually if you like. And some consoles, such as the PS5, let your controller give you a helpful beat-pulse as well. (The game even comes with a latency adjustment to let you fine-tune your controller as much as necessary to hit that beat perfectly.)

The more perfectly your actions hit the beat, the better your weapons blast foes and the better loot you can score. And if you clear an area before the level’s song loops, you gain more rewards, too. If you fall off tempo, however, your metronome “autotunes” and blocks you from attacking for a short space of time, which lets the foes—who don’t give a hoot about your boot scoot—a chance to swarm in closer.

Gamers can play four-player co-ops, locally or online. The game packs in more than a hundred additional tunes in various genres to choose from when replaying the different procedurally generated stages. And the game allows players to upload their own music—that it then automatically maps out rhythmically and creates a stage specifically for. (The only problem with the uploading process is that Soundfall has a hard time mapping some downloaded files rhythmically without some special tweaks and programming: things that may be outside the capability of younger gamers.)

POSITIVE CONTENT

Once you get a knack of the head-bopping beat and time your rhythmic shots and dashes properly, the gameplay feels surprisingly rewarding. And the included tunes are catchy and appealing without feeling too similar or mundane.

CONTENT CONCERNS

This is, predominantly, a shooting game. It’s all about fantasy violence, though all that zapping is mess-free and bested foes just poof out of sight. Later levels of enemies can swarm frenetically, and they gain long-range cannon, dart and missile abilities—along with environmental lasers and bombs—that make the play a bit more challenging.  

Gamers claim loot in the form of better shotguns, blades, sniper rifles and pistols, along with better armor. And each weapon has its own beat-focused destructive power and spread or rhythmic blade swing.

In addition, this is a game you can play online with strangers. And that could present younger gamers with bad language or other verbal communications they aren’t expecting. Online multiplayer play can also be a bit wonky at times.

GAME SUMMARY

Storywise, Soundfall is, frankly, nothing special, and it is a shooter. But the toe-tapping gameplay may well make this one of the best music/rhythm games you’ve never heard of.  

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.