An interview by Jack Boyles.
The rhythm game at one point was a profitable move. Drunkards playing guitar hero in pubs, Sing Stars own YouTube and Bongo playing fun; rhythm-based games were social gaming at its best.
Students in their dorms or families at Christmas were all jamming out on plastic peripherals. Like all gaming fads, rhythm games became oversaturated. People moved on and the peripherals found a new home in your local pawn shop or market. However, in the past few years, a resurgence in rhythm games has started brewing amongst a certain gaming crowd and one such game is brewing in a cauldron; that game is Soundfall.
Developers Drastic Games have set their ambitious busy minds on reinvigorating the rhythm genre. As Soundfall isn’t just a typical rhythm game, it’s a twin-stick shooting, dungeon crawler rhythm game where you blast enemies to the beat of the music. And it bloody well works.
In Soundfall, you must run around these Sci-fi/Fantasy procedurally generated landscapes, destroying enemies, staying alive and grabbing loot. Yet to get serious points, it’s all about blasting to the beat.
First, it all seems overwhelming; enemies chasing you, bullets flying everywhere and keeping to a beat seems like a lot to take in. Then composure settles in, you start to see the word ‘Good’ pop up, you get into the flow, now the word ‘Great’ and then before you know it, everything in its right place.
This was no easy feat, speaking with Nick Cooper, he and his partner Julian Trutmann had tough questions they had to answer themselves:
“In an action game like ours, there are a lot of things to manage. Like enemies spawning in, environmental hazards and exploration, and making everything smooth, and seamless by paying attention to that — and still paying attention to the music was a big challenge.
“How do we communicate that visually? How do we communicate that through sound? Also, a big challenge to communicate was ‘ohh, you hit your action onbeat not offbeat’, how do we make that clear and at the same time not making noise, in terms of both effects and sounds; not to see or hear what’s going on. To make that distinction whilst not being overwhelmed was a challenge”.
It’s that fine balance Drastic Games absolutely level. Looking at the game and playing is intense but you grasp it so suddenly that it just proves the talent of these two developers. Within a good minute, you’ll be running around blasting enemies away like some Colonel composing Moonlight Sonata with Navy Missile Launchers; basking in a sensory overload.
As ex-Epic employees who have worked on Fortnite and Gears of War; Drastic Games know the importance of quality and accessibility.
“[We want the game to be] easy to learn, difficult to master. We want to satisfy those hardcore players who want it to be crazy rhythm, bullet hell. But we also want to satisfy the player who want to pick up and jam out to their favorite tunes”.
Soundfall is a game beaming with life, from its use of colours, the environments, character and enemy design. This game art style is like a good fresh glass of juice; revitalizing. It’s tone perfectly complements the premises of the game. The main characters are instantly recognizable in their sci-fi body suits and giant swords. Enemies in the game dance towards you in a cute kind of way; it has the charisma of a Saturday morning cartoon.
Yet it’s how all of this works together that creates a sense of cohesion. Talking about these elements in the aesthetic, Nick said:
“How do we make it so everything in the world behaves in time with the music. We want enemies to act on the beat, we want trees in the background to dance on beat, we want other hazards to act on beat; we want everything to be all tied in with the sound”.
This pulsation in the design pumps you up — it helps you understand the beat. A small touch that’s nothing short of genius.
For demo purposes, only dance music was available, albeit a little inoffensive for me, it creates the perfect soundtrack to the concurrent presentation. It’s all energetic, capturing the essence of what Soundfall is, a pick up and play fun time.
When asking how they chose the music for Soundfall, Nick said:
“We found a bunch of up-and-coming artists we thought were a great fit for the game and art style. We plan on having a wide variety of music to play in Soundfall”.
The demo I played was nothing short of brilliant. I’m not much of a twin-stick shooter guy but here there is enough going on for me to want to play the game.
Soundfall is incredibly polished in every aspect. I found myself bopping along to the music and dispatching enemies as I went from segment to segment, zipping through lasers, collecting loot and beat-blasting enemies.
Above all, you can’t help but feel that this is something special and will be a hit among many a gamer. The title is already building some buzz, with YouTube videos of a family dancing to the trailer and people cosplaying the characters; a hit, I’m sure it will be.
To listen to the full interview click here.