‘LOUD on Planet X’ Is Scratching My Growing Rhythm Action Itch
This small indie game is making a lot of noise, featuring music from CHVRCHES, Purity Ring, HEALTH and more.
For years I was an idiot. In many ways, really, but for the sake of this article, I'll focus on just one thing: I didn't "get" rhythm action video games. Perhaps it was because I worked full time in music journalism, and didn't fancy the idea of a night in with a tacky plastic guitar and awful cock rock that I spent my working day spitting on (metaphorically, in print). I'd rather see a real show, or if you made me spend time with a games console, either plug into something GTA-shaped or fall back on a retro classic like NBA Jam.
Idiot. I flirted with the standard-controller tap-alongs of the PlayStation 2 era – Gitaroo Man, Amplitude, PaRappa the Rapper 2, I own them all and I've played them plenty. But I can't say anything really resonated with me, not for any considerable time. I know, right? Sacrilegious. Hand in my badge (I don't have a badge). All that stuff. But I found redemption, dammit, with Guitar Hero Live's emergence late last year. Its redesigned guitar peripheral clicked with me – or, rather, my fingers did with it – and I love its streamed music channels, delivering a solid selection of tracks to (attempt to) full combo 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing the cat doesn't sit on my router. I very belatedly fell in love with Elite Beat Agents on my 3DS, picking it up for a steal in a local second-hand store that knew no better, and the same high-street chain provided me with a dirt-cheap copy of Rhythm Heaven, a bizarre collection of mini-games where you must tap, hold and swipe in some truly deranged situations. Love it.
And right now, I'm loving LOUD on Planet X, played at an appropriately high volume on my PS4. It's a small game, slight of design, but capable of leaving a big impact. I'm not yet certain how long I'll be hammering away at it for, but let me tell you: it's going to be a shit-ton of fun while it lasts. Take a look at it in action, why don't you.
'LOUD on Planet X', trailer
The aim of the game is to defend your stage from an alien invasion. Yup. You defend your stage from an alien invasion. You do that by blasting laser beams from speakers, down four channels of encroaching nasties, which are mapped to four buttons on the PS4 pad. Sounds easy. And it is, assuming you can keep a beat, as mashing just won't work here. Each press has to be in time with the music, with whatever one of the 28 songs included you're hearing, split between 14 artists, for the laser to operate. So you have to keep your rhythm, plus an eye on the ever-creeping, multi-eyed bastards coming towards you, and the speakers themselves because they can be damaged, and the special-move metre that allows you to deliver a crushing blow once it's filled with a double clench of L2 and R2. There's a lot going on, is what I'm trying to say here.
The game's makers at the small Canadian studio of Pop Sandbox describe it as "a hybrid of rhythm game and classic shooter with tower defence elements", or Guitar Hero meets Plants vs Zombies. And that's a neat enough summarisation for me, honestly. We need not go any deeper in regard to how the thing plays. Where I should expand, though, is on the playlist. LOUD on Planet X might only feature 14 artists, but they're pretty damn good ones for the most part – though everyone prefers their own flavours, I appreciate that. But if you said to me, "Yo, Mike" – don't ever stop me with, "Yo, Mike", unless you really want to be ignored – "Sorry, hey Mike, have you seen this sweet game with music by HEALTH and Metz and Cadence Weapon and Metric and Purity Ring and Fucked Up and Little Dragon and CHVRCHES and Austra in it?" I'd be like, "Sign me the fuck up, buddy." I won't call you "buddy", promise. Not ever. (Unless your name is Buddy, I guess.)
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So here I am, thumbing buttons in time with Cadence Weapon's "Conditioning" – an old DJ set favourite of mine, which probably explains why I get fewer bookings these days – and just grinning like an absolute buffoon Because Video Games. (It's got "Sharks", too. Banger.) Is this what it was like to play Guitar Hero way back when, around the time I was being a prick about it? Shit. Sorry about that. Idiot. Anyway, the aliens are no match for me, however much they separate on being hit by my awesome lasers, burrow down into the ground or spread themselves right across all four paths of attack.
But then, I know "Conditioning" really well. "Guns + Ammunition", by July Talk, though? Or anything by Monomyth? Fucked it. Gig over. The aliens have taken over the dancefloor. But that's nothing a restart can't fix, and until this itch abates, I'll be smashing these extra-terrestrials to smithereens, house lights be damned.
LOUD on Planet X is out now for iOS, Android, PC and Mac, and PlayStation 4 (version tested). More information at the game's official website.