The trouble with hosting a music concert in space is that there’s just not many people around to listen, and the local aliens don’t really seem to appreciate Earth music in quite the same way.
They show up at the gig, uninvited and without a ticket, and all they want to do is wreck the joint. In hindsight, maybe space gigs weren’t such a good idea after all. Welcome to LOUD on Planet X.
Developed by Pop Sandbox, LOUD on Planet X is a rhythm shooter game – imagine that Guitar Hero and Plants vs Zombies were merged together in some kind of horrific teleportation incident. But unlike Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, the results are actually rather good. In traditional music rhythm game style, you have to tap a button in time with the music, but rather than pressing a button to correspond with a specific note, Guitar Hero style, you press a button to zap an alien. You’re presented with four lanes in which enemies – those pesky resident aliens – are approaching, ready to destroy your audio equipment. Each lane has a button assigned to it, so your job is to press the corresponding button in time with the music to keep those alien attackers at bay. You’re also granted regular power-ups (i.e. smoke machines to slow down enemies, and strobe machines to kill them), as well as a super attack that slowly charges as you play which will decimate everything on screen. If an alien gets too close to a speaker, it will damage it; and if you take too much damage, it’s game over.
LOUD on Planet X is made up of 28 levels, split into three “zones”. The first half of each zone is slightly easier than the second half, and you have to complete the majority of songs in the first half before the second half will unlock. Aside from this, you can complete levels in any order you wish. Every level has a difficulty option of Easy, Medium or Hard depending on how masochistic you like your gameplay to be. There’s a big jump in difficulty between each mode, and personally I preferred the laid-back pace of Easy mode that allowed me to better enjoy the songs. The mixture of tempos on offer means that some tracks are naturally easier than others, as aliens progress in time with the beat – so slower songs are simpler than faster songs, although faster songs will allow you to attack more frequently.
Whilst the gameplay is rather simple, it’s the soundtrack that’s king here. This is predominantly a music game above anything else and a stellar selection of licensed music highlights that rather nicely. There are 14 artists in total, each performing two songs, spanning several different genres – rock, indie, rap – including some well-known bands, namely CHVRCHES and Tegan & Sara amongst others. The music on offer probably won’t suit everyone’s taste but the wide mix of beats and tempo means that it’s almost impossible to not start tapping your feet as you play.
The presentation of LOUD on Planet X is commendable. Everything is incredibly simple, but it really works; the clean, 2D graphics are razor sharp and the cartoonish art style is just brilliant. Every band/artist has their own avatars; adorable, spaghetti-legged cartoon characters kitted out with carefully detailed instruments. The aliens are equally as pleasant too – gloriously gelatinous colourful blobs that hop and slither across the screen, ready to attack. Cleverly, the number of eyes an enemy has indicates the amount of times you have to hit them – anywhere between one and four. Each of the three level zones has its own enemy types, all as delightfully designed as each other, and all with their own unique attacks.
There’s no denying the brevity and simplicity of LOUD on Planet X. Once you’ve completed 24 of the 28 levels, you can access the “boss” – a megamix of songs you’ve already heard, but this time you’re being attacked by a giant space overlord; a green blob with tentacles that spread over each of your four lanes. It’s not overtly difficult compared to the rest of the levels, and once it’s beaten, that’s it; roll credits. With each music track lasting between three and four minutes, you’ll have completed the game within two hours. However, the choice of difficulty on each track means you can go back and beat them all again on a harder difficulty, and with each level granting you a star rating out of three, completionists can strive for top marks on each level. Still, that doesn’t leave much in terms of variation; aside from the different enemy types and the choice of song, the gameplay gets very repetitive pretty quickly.
At the end of it all though, it doesn’t matter. LOUD on Planet X is not really about complex gameplay or cutting edge mechanics. Everything is simple here for a reason: the focus is on the music. At the very least, LOUD on Planet X is a gorgeously-presented showcase of some great indie artists that any music aficionado is sure to appreciate. Although repetitive, the solid gameplay is merely a bonus; if you’re looking for a challenge, ramp it up to “Hard” and squirm under the pressure. For everyone else though, I’d recommend that you plug in a good pair of headphones, turn up the volume, stick the game on Easy and jam along to some excellent tracks.