LOUD on Planet X is a Kickstarter game by indie developer Pop Sandbox which fuses various game styles into one music based experience. It has 14 featured artists and each has two playable tracks. The music is varied with a good selection of genres but does the gameplay match up?
LOUD on Planet X doesn’t have a story but does has the premise that midway through performing at a concert, you’re abducted and placed on an alien planet where you must fend off alien attackers using music and an array of abilities and boosts. The music in the game is the core mechanic and the games best feature. The game starts out with a brief tutorial which introduces the basic controls and gameplay features, before being abducted mid performance.
The screen is divided up into four lanes, with the stage to the left of the screen. The action takes place on the middle and right side of the screen where hordes of aliens approach the stage moving from right to left. I played the game on PC so the main controls came through clicking the mouse on each particular lane. For controllers you will be pressing specific buttons that are mapped to each lane. You click on each lane to attack enemies, but the attack only works, however, when you match the beat of the music, meaning the game is all about timing. The outer edges of the screen also pulsate to help keep you focused on the rhythm. I tried mashing the buttons just to see what happened but it soon became clear that thought, timing and precision was vital.
Enemies can take varying amounts of damage, which is shown by the number of eyes they have, a nice visual touch. Once you start to take out multiple enemies a meter builds up meaning you can use random boosts and abilities that appear in the top right corner. To use these, you click on the icon and then select one of the four lanes to place it on. These abilities can include things like barriers, smoke machines and strobe lighting.
The controls are very easy to pick up and the object is very clear. Clicking along to the rhythm of the music is satisfying and there are plenty of enemies to focus on at all times. The screen can fill almost suddenly with multiple enemies and you don’t get to rapidly tap the aliens away. You have to make sure to stay in timing with the beat of the song and means that you have to quickly think ahead and plan your next move. As soon as you miss a beat you can quickly slip out of the rhythm and begin to make mistakes.
The enemies are varied and interestingly designed which keeps gameplay feeling fresh. The different aliens act in various ways, like some moving faster once hit by music, some blur your vision and some break up into smaller multiple enemies. This is where using the power-ups can be incredibly important. These boosts may help you in sticky situations but be aware that moving to select the icon may throw you off the beat and therefore lose the rhythm of the song. It can be a big risk to try and grab the boost that doesn’t always pay off, but when it does its very helpful at keeping enemies at bay. If enemies reach the stage they will damage your speakers and the only way to repair them is to click and hold down the button to fill the meter. Time spent doing this means that more enemies will edge closer to the stage.
There have been many music based games over the years but unlike other games, increasing the difficulty here doesn’t increase the tempo or add more notes to hit. In this game it simply means that you will face more enemies during each stage/song. Increasing the difficulty means that hitting each beat of the song becomes even more vital and critical to successfully fending off the alien swarms. Some songs have a slower pace whereas some songs are far more hectic and fast-paced meaning the challenge is much trickier. I generally played on normal mode but did experiment with easy and hard modes on different songs. Hard mode is certainly extremely difficult, with heaps of enemies, that move quickly across the screen. Its easy for people to compare this game to popular franchises like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, but its actually a very different style of game.
Loud On Planet X has a fantastic soundtrack that features some awesome artists like Purity Ring, CHVRCHES, Lights, F*cked Up and Austra to name a few. The choice of music is great from heavy thumping tracks from F*cked Up to electronic upbeats tunes from Purity Ring. This mixed with the tower defense style gameplay makes for an enjoyable experience. The game does a great job of having the option to play in a much more laid back way or if you like a challenge you can switch up the difficulty setting.
The presentation of the game is also fantastic and has a clean minimalistic style. The game feels similar in style to games like Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee by Drinkbox Studios due to the colour and character design. I also loved the designs of the artists themselves, which all acted slightly differently and felt unique. The special attack each artist can use are visually unique and provides a nice extra touch. I already love some of the artists like CHVRCHES and Purity Ring so it was nice to play through those songs but it was also great because it introduced me to some new artists that I didn’t know much about. The soundtrack overall is great and I pretty much enjoyed every song on offer.
Overall LOUD on Planet X is a music based game that certainly feels unique and sets itself apart from other musical franchises. The visual design and gameplay mechanics are simple, easy to pick up but still offer some challenging moments. I love music but unfortunatly have no musical skills whatsoever, so its nice to play a game that makes me feel involved in a performance, even if it is just clicking a button. I appreciated the varying levels of difficulty and the choice of music is great. I would certainly recommend this game as I enjoyed my time playing through every track and improving my rhythm and timing.
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