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Soundfalllogo.jpg.87d010136e2f361e300edba1c57a4166.jpgOne part Diablo and one part rhythm game, Soundfall challenges players to blast their way through enemy-filled stages, but only by attacking in time with the rhythm of the song. It's a concept that sounds good on paper but the final result could use a bit more tuning.
You play as Melody, a barista/musician who is suddenly pulled into the magical world of Symphonia, where evil Discordians are trying to destroy the harmony of the land. Melody gradually teams up with other heroes and it becomes your quest to destroy the Discordians and restore balance. The writing's not bad but too much of it is forgettable. The conflict is about as black-and-white good vs. evil as you can get, and the characters are a bit tropey and forgettable. There are plenty of good vibes as they learn to believe in themselves and work together though, so while it gets pretty saccharine at least it's a feel-good story.
The gameplay is essentially a rhythm game by way of a twin-stick shooter. You can equip up to two guns and swap between them, but in order to do full damage you need to shoot on the beat (shooting off-beat not only reduces your damage, it can cause your gun to briefly overheat if you're off the mark too often). The most important thing here is to simply listen to the song, but there's also a visual cue on the screen to keep you in time, and the controller rumbles in time with the music as well. There's a fairly wide variety of songs in Soundfall too so sometimes you'll be playing a steady 120 BPM song but other times you'll be blasting away at 200 BPM or going slow and steady at 80 BPM. Mastering the music no matter the tempo adds a significant degree of challenge.
Ultimately though, Soundfall has trouble balancing its rhythm mechanics and its shooting/exploring mechanics. Only attacking in time with the beat can feel stifling, especially during particularly fast or slow songs, and the disconnect that you can move and enemies are free to move/attack no matter the rhythm just kind of makes the rhythm system feel too gimmicky. Even when you're keeping the beat well it never feels like a perfectly smooth gameplay mechanic.
Maybe it doesn't help that each stage is limited by the length of the song, meaning each stage is at most a few minutes long. It's not quite enough time to make you totally comfortable with the rhythm of the song before you're shuttled off to the next one (with some long loading screens in between as well). Fewer but longer stages might have helped make the gameplay feel more cohesive.
Although there are tons of songs to play through, other aspects of the game can feel a bit repetitive. There are only a handful of enemy types, which makes mowing them down fairly repetitive. There's an okay selection of guns—not that many overall, but they have different effects so acclimating to each type is enough of a challenge by itself. Like most looter-shooters though you'll acquire tons of unnecessary equipment and will need to sort through which ones you actually want to bother using. There are also five playable characters and while they can all equip the same guns they do have unique special attacks, so if you get a full group of four to play together (locally or online), you can recreate the feeling of a proper RPG party with different character classes. Ultimately though, it's not quite enough to shake off the feeling of rote repetition that hangs over Soundfall.
The game's soundtrack is, not surprisingly, a highlight. With so many levels in the game there's a huge variety to the music, and it's pretty cool to go from thumping electronic tracks to more classic orchestral songs. Maybe not every song is a banger, but there are enough that you'll likely find plenty to enjoy. Soundfall's visual design however is a bit less diverse and a bit less successful. There are some great little details in stages, like the rhythmic bopping of the scenery in time with the music, but this is also a game that reuses scenery a ton, so stages start to look similar and bland very quickly. The character designs and cutscenes are a bit more colorful, but still not quite as polished as the soundtrack.
Soundfall is a fun, original concept with a gameplay combo that doesn't quite harmonize in the end. The rhythmic action can feel too limiting at times for a twin-stick shooter, and even when it syncs up well you're faced with stages that frequently end just when they're getting good. If the game does click for you though you'll be treated to hours and hours of content, whether you're jamming out solo or getting a band together to play with friends.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Harmonies
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