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Soundfall Preview: Sonic Boogaloo

/ Oct 9th, 2018 No Comments

Soundfall Preview

Whether it is the latest game in a long-running series or a brand new franchise with a cool concept from a newer developer, PAX West gives you plenty of opportunities to investigate interesting games. Sometimes, games you didn’t even know you needed to be excited about come to your attention.

Soundfall is an exciting mash-up of the dungeon exploration genre and the rhythm game genre. The two gameplay concepts come together to form a fascinating experience. While it suffers from some of the issues that all rhythm games suffer from, the cool combat and great look make up for it.

Slash to the Beat!

In Soundfall, you can tackle levels by yourself or with up to three friends. It features procedurally generated levels based on the song. You’re not necessarily tackling a dungeon itself, but rather your song choice.

Song choice determines enemy placement, difficulty and level layout. Slower, easier songs result in less tough dungeons, but you’ll have your work cut out for you during faster, more complex songs.

Regardless of your song difficulty, the core gameplay has a learning curve. It isn’t simply a dungeon crawler where you can mash buttons to succeed. Every gun shot and sword slash has a purpose thanks to the rhythm-based combat. In order to slay enemies most effectively, your actions must be timed with the beat.

As you move through a dungeon, there is a meter at the bottom of the screen noting the rhythm of the song. While you’re movements aren’t penalized for not being on beat, your actions are. Like a rhythm game, you get a note ranking every time you strike an enemy. If you’re completely off beat, your attack will dole less damage, whereas if you time an attack just right, you get a perfect ranking and hit for bonus damage.

While there is a huge sensory overload at first, once you get used to the rhythm of the song, you can start using Soundfall’s specific timing to your advantage. This also adds a level of strategy and skill to the sometimes mindless hack-n-slash genre. Despite how cool the layer of rhythm mechanics is, it does suffer a bit from being extremely busy.

Honestly, it is a lot to take in when you hop into the game. Not only are you contending with moving through a dungeon and fighting an enemy, you’re also trying to make sure you’re keeping an eye on the notes to make sure you’re staying on beat. If you’re not being mindful of the beat, you can easily get overwhelmed by groups of enemies.
 

Soundfall Preview

Timing is vitally important to Soundfall’s gameplay.

After playing a few levels in the demo, it does suffer a bit from the dissonance of rhythm games where you’re paying more attention to the notes than what is happening on screen. This is fine for most rhythm games, but what is happening on screen matters in Soundfall, and thus, this can be disorienting.

Playing the game in co-op makes for a different experience, one that helped me get my bearings with the gameplay. While the demo only showed off the main protagonist, the final build promises to have multiple warriors to choose from. The other warriors will wield weapons other than the main protagonist’s giant sword, including a shield and a bow and arrow. The idea is for the co-op gameplay to rely on these different weapons and combat styles to switch up the synergy and strategy.

Big Ideas

Soundfall is a cool concept. While its gameplay was a lot to take in, it played fantastically with gorgeous graphics and smooth framerate.

Drastic Games has a lot of ambitious plans for Soundfall, including the ability to import your own songs to make levels. The idea is letting you choose your favorite songs, then playing a dungeon based around it using the same parameters for enemy placement, difficulty and level layout. Imagine playing a dungeon based on that cow song. However, that is still a bit early for that feature, so platform-specific implementation isn’t nailed down. The feature promises to give Soundfall nearly infinite replayability if done right.

Soundfall releases on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in 2019.
 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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