LOUD on Planet X - HighrezGaming

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LOUD On Planet X / 27th of April 2016

There is something rather obliquely obvious when looking at LOUD On Planet X, aside from the fact that it’s a rhythm-action game, it’s undoubtedly been created primarily as a vehicle for unsuspecting Canadian artists to find themselves being pushed onto a gaming audience. Now, Canada has certainly produced its fair share of highly respected musicians, with the likes of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Grandaddy having emerged from its stunning landscape of icy tundra and lush forest to wow the world with their musicianship, lyricism and general song writing craft. It is perhaps also quite clear that none of the artists featured here live up to the likes of those that I’ve just mentioned, and so it is that LOUD On Planet X can’t manage to match the best that the rhythm-action genre can offer by some considerable margin which is rather saddening as there is definitely a good game here trying to get out.

For starters though, the game has obviously been built with touch screen platforms in mind (it’s available for both iOS and Android users), so PC owners will be far from pleased by the lack of setup options, which in the shoddy state that they are currently in limit the game to sub-1080p resolutions and force it to always open in a window. There’s at least a calibration tool to off-set any delay with the input device, though unlike the far more user friendly variants found in the likes of Rock Band, this tool won’t actually calibrate the difference automatically, it’s up to the user to already know this. Disappointing.
Moving beyond this though, players will find that LOUD On Planet X pits them into the shoes of one of Canada’s current crop of alternative bands, transported to an alien planet by an unknown species seemingly hell bent on their obliteration. Using the one weapon at their disposal, their music, the bands fight back and that, if you hadn’t already figured out, is where you come in. The plot is a tad flimsy at best, but it’s not really of any consequence, what it does do is set up a rhythm-action/tower defence mash-up that sees the action play out on a screen divided into five lanes along which aliens manoeuver their way towards a stage fronted by the band’s speakers. Your job is to wipe them out before they can destroy the speakers, simple right?

Now, whilst I have already put down the soundtrack a bit (sorry), there can be no doubting that it’s certainly an eclectic mixture of artists, some will likely hold more appeal than others, but on the whole, it’s a fairly strong showing from the likes of CHVURCHES, Purity Ring, METZ and many, many more who each contribute two songs to round out the twenty-eight song score. The visuals on the other hand are much more streamlined, minimalist and functional, they’re hardly going to entice players in on their own, but there’s certainly no denying that watching the animated versions of the bands bob along to the beat, along with the screen clearing special attack manage to add a nice, and most welcome level of panache to the graphics as a whole. Besides, that isn’t really why you’re reading about this is it?
The gameplay is also equally simplified, with players simply clicking on their chosen lane (preferably the one with an alien sitting closest to a speaker) in order to fire a beam of energy out and damage the foe closest to it. This must be done in time with the music, and therein lies the first problem, the player is simply reduced to the role of a metronome as they sit clicking the left button of their mouse to a steady, and at times rather boring, 4/4 beat. Let’s face it, there isn’t a heck of a lot of rhythmical variation between the music included here, there’s no Rush to keep players on their toes and no Rock Band style rhythm patterns to convince the player that they’re actually playing along with the band.

Thankfully, that’s not all there is to it though, there are score multipliers to earn from performing well, a screen clearing super attack to unlock, and a steady supply of random bonus attacks that are earned at a nice, steady pace. These pop up in the top-right corner of the screen, and contain such outlandish weapons as cameras to stun oncoming foes and security personal to block the aliens progress, it’s nice to see that the developer went with the theme of live music and stuck to their guns, exemplifying the subject matter in almost every aspect of the game, so plaudits must go out to them for that.
Of course, the game is still pretty challenging despite its simplistic mechanics - even for a rhythm-action veteran - with multiple enemies attacking right from the off, though the challenge later gets ramped up by forcing players to have to watch out for different types of adversaries as some can jump about between lanes whilst others even have shields. Personally, I didn’t think that there was much of a difficulty curve to the build that I played and quite frankly, it made traversing even the first level an ordeal, one which will likely put off most gamers, even if they drop the difficulty to easy. This is an area that the developer, Pop Sandbox, will urgently need to address if this effort is to find any semblance of success within a rather competitive market. Additionally, there is only a very brief tutorial to explain the most basic mechanics of the game, it doesn’t stretch much further which leaves the player in the dark as to what’s going on around them, or how they can hope to rack up a decent high score, and again, this is something that the developer simply must address as quickly as they possibly can.

There’s no denying that LOUD on Planet X has some potential, but as it is, it’s almost entirely unrealised. There may be a fairly nice soundtrack and some solid attention to detail (some of the artist’s own quirks are replicated by their virtual representations), but the gameplay is far too bland, unbalanced and on the whole, unexplained. If this is going to sell then Pop Sandbox have got some serious work to do, and it’s sad because there’s definitely the foundation for an enjoyable rhythm-action release here, it’s just not nearly polished enough for it to shine through.
James Paton
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