When done right, music and video games pair together to create some of the most awe-inspiring cinematic moments in history. Nothing feels better in a game than fighting a boss battle with a memorable score, encouraging the player with every note. In some cases, a soundtrack can make or break a game.
There have been several games that have attempted to weave music into their story and core mechanics. Games like Crypt of the NecroDancer time players to an invisible metronome, encouraging them to move and attack with the underlying beat. Now Soundfall is attempting to evolve on this concept, giving players a hack-and-slash musical adventure that’s a lot of fun to listen to.
The game starts pretty suddenly, with the player character coming home after a long shift as a barista. Immediately, there’s a cinematic where the player is transported into a magical world called Symphonia. From the start, it’s easy to notice how high quality these animated scenes are. While they’re few and far between, they were created beautifully.
There aren’t enough of these cinematics, though. Instead, most of the story is told through short character conversations where the screen alternates between two pictures. Compared to the music and liveliness of other parts of the game, these moments fall flat and quickly become uninteresting. The story is pretty simple and feels like it was made for the mechanics instead of the other way around.
While the player will have multiple characters to choose from as they get further in the game, the main story follows a girl named Melody who’s trying to leave Symphonia and get back to her everyday life. As she is the guardian meant to save the whole world, this new musical world isn’t eager to lose her. Symphonia is where all music comes from, and the hordes of Discordians are quickly destroying it.
With each biome acting like a chapter, the player will naturally progress through each level, which is its own music track. Each area will have its own music genre, like classical or pop, and feature a variety of artists from that. The selection is hit-and-miss, with some tracks feeling perfect and others that don’t feel like they fit as much when compared to the others.
That being said, the moments where the tracks fit are genuinely spectacular. There are some empowering moments in some of the levels where players can quickly find the beat and jam along while fighting. Unfortunately, other levels are hard to hear, and sometimes the music doesn’t do much to enhance the core gameplay mechanic.
The metronome mechanic works pretty well, and it’s easy to find the beat thanks to all the visual cues. While this game’s primary focus is music, a player could easily enjoy this game without any sound at all, and the difficulty wouldn’t be affected. While you’d be missing out on some great songs, the beats per minute vary and will make each level different with or without the music.
The characters don’t differ much outside their special abilities and personalities, so there’s no build or other kind of loadout that the player can mess with. While each character has their own gear, there is no difference outside of the weapon they’re tied to. This also falls flat and feels like a missed opportunity to level up the gameplay.
The different Beat Blasters offer the most variety in gameplay, with several different styles of projectiles. Blasters like the Scattershot or Sixteener offer varying ways to play, although some feel more powerful than others. Some weapons also have unique effects, like slowing down enemies or chaining lightning between them. These change up the gameplay and make taking down monsters easier.
Speaking of chains, the combos this game requires to complete a level are pretty harsh. Even in the early levels, it’s hard to not take damage and break the chain you had kept up. In addition, the requirement to hit 100% of the beats feels like a high bar to set. While the game doesn’t have a lot of varying content, it seems to prevent the same thing repeatedly with varying difficulty.
Each level’s layout in a specific area could be the same map, from how they appear. There is little to no noticeable difference between varying levels outside of the musical track that each level is paired up with. While the music might be nice to listen to, the visuals of this game don’t necessarily match the quality of the music. Everything looks too simple and repeated to make a lasting impression on the player.
The enemies are all very similar, with some attacking from close range and others shooting projectiles from far away. While they come in a handful of shapes and sizes, there’s not much difference between them. They all blur together as the player attempts to keep the beat and progress further through the levels.
Overall, progressing can feel like a slog, occasionally rewarded by finding a song that you vibe within the collection. The game seems to recognize how tiring it is to go through each level, giving the player the option to choose between songs freely. This is a welcome feature, as going through the same levels repeatedly would frustrate the most level-headed player.
That’s not to say that the game isn’t fun, but sometimes it requires such fast-paced and error-free movement that it becomes more of a headache than anything else. The soundtrack samples all kinds of artists and is a joy to listen to as a collection, but when it becomes the score to your repeated failure, it’s easy to get annoyed with the game.
The Final Word
Overall, Soundfall is a wonderful game to listen to, even if the combat and metronome mechanic can be frustrating to work with. Soaring through a level because you’ve found the rhythm is a uniquely cool feeling, but the rest of the gameplay fails to do it justice. While Soundfall was designed around the music and metronome, it feels like a little more complexity would help this game take flight.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!