I’ve always been a fan of the Canadian music scene, so LOUD On Planet X really appealed to me from the moment it was revealed. Sure, there are international musicians on the soundtrack too, but most of it comes straight from Toronto-based developers Pop Sandbox’s home country. It means we get to listen to home-grown talents such as LIGHTS and Fucked Up, but we also get to see the likes of Scottish synthpop trio Chvrches as well as American rock group HEALTH.
For those who haven’t heard of it, LOUD On Planet X is an arcade style rhythm game where you are tasked with taking out an endless horde of aliens. You don’t use weapons, though – these aliens can only be vanquished through the use of music. You have to hit buttons in time with the beat of the music, each successful hit sending an attack down one of four lanes. Survive until the end of the song and you’ll have succeeded – it’s like Plants Vs Zombies, except rather than protecting plants you’re protecting musicians.
I’ll be honest, when I first started playing LOUD On Planet X I really wasn’t digging it. The tutorial on offer wasn’t great and I just couldn’t get to grips with matching beats. I’d like to think I’m well co-ordinated with rhythm games (Guitar Hero/Rock Band) but I was constantly messing up, though it wasn’t as painful as in other rhythm games – the music doesn’t cut out each time you miss a note. This isn’t a game that tasks you with playing a song after all, but instead using a song to take on alien scum.
I stuck with it though and when I actually got the hang of what I had to do I started to have a good time with the game. A really good time in fact – I didn’t turn it off again until I’d completely worked through each of the 28 songs the game has to offer. Rhythm games are like Pringles for me – once I pop, I can’t stop, though a lot of that ‘can’t stopping’ is owed to the quality of the game.
When you start a song you have your selected artist on a stage and four sets of lanes in front of them. Each lane is assigned a button that works down the controller – R1, Triangle, Circle/Square and X. Aliens then start to attack the stage, slowly approaching from the right. The easiest way to describe it would be to reference Plants Vs Zombies again, with the aliens playing a similar role to the titular zombies.
In order to take them out you need to press the relevant lane button in time with the beat of the music. There’s a big give away of this with the outer rims of the screen turning pink in time with the beat, though actually keeping up with it can be pretty tricky – especially when you consider each song you switch between has a different tempo. Keep up with the beat though and you’ll soon get a x2 multiplier, a necessity when trying to achieve the highest score on a level. You’ll see some funky visual effect on the screen too, bringing plenty more colour and grandeur to each level.
The musicians come with protection in the form of speakers across each of the lanes, though they can only take two hits from the aliens before getting destroyed. Fortunately, you can repair them, though you’re left vulnerable whilst doing so. Some songs see constant hordes of aliens coming your way, and once your speakers are gone it’s a one hit kill scenario – you have to be careful in LOUD on Planet X or you’ll suffer plenty of deaths. Or anal probing. It’s not specified what the aliens of Planet X want to do to these musicians, though I’m sure it can’t be pretty…
You do have access to some music concert themed power-ups that’ll help you out in dire situations though. There’s extra speakers, photographers that disorientate the aliens, bouncers who’ll push them away from you – there’s plenty to keep you protected. You’ll get access to them the further you progress through a song, though I found them a little awkward to use at times. You have to press the R2 button the same time as hitting a lane button, which for me was a nightmare when trying to carefully keep in time with the beat of a song. The power-ups are a little underwhelming too – while they look great and fit in perfectly with the theme of the game, they never lasted long enough to really help you out that much.
One think that is useful though is the game’s ‘LOUD’ meter. The more aliens you kill, the more your LOUD meter fills up. When it’s full you can activate it by pressing the shoulder buttons, wiping out all aliens on the screen with the current musician’s signature move. It’s pretty sweet – each special attack is uniquely crafted for each musician, using a mixture of both their logos as well as their characteristics. My personal favourite was seeing Fucked Up’s Mr. Damian parade around on screen top-less, taking out all aliens in the process.
Aliens come in all sort of shapes and sizes, though they all have one similarity – the amount of hits they can take is measured by how many eyes they have. If you see a cyclops alien coming your way then you know it’ll take one swift hit to wipe out, whilst a quad-eyed alien is going to take four hits to take down. They all differentiate in type though with aliens that switch lanes, aliens that are only vulnerable whilst moving, aliens that charge at you, aliens that explode when defeated – there’s plenty of variety and you’ll have to carefully decide the order you take them out if you’re going to succeed in LOUD On Planet X.
The gameplay is both fun and addictive, though there’s not a whole lot to keep you coming back for more. There’s only one game mode on offer and with no online leaderboards there’s not many reasons for you to re-play the songs on offer other than to try and get a three star rating. Somehow though it didn’t stop me coming back to the game – something I owe to the quality of the set list.
It’s certainly going to be a matter of preference, but I really loved the soundtrack featured in LOUD On Planet X. There’s a decent mixture of genres on offer, each bringing something different to the game. There are the fast beats of Fucked Up’s ‘Queen Of Hearts’, the easy-listening ‘Patsy’ from Monomyth, the up-beat synths of LIGHTS’ ‘Up We Go’ or even some sick rhymes from rapper Shad – seriously, there’s so much on offer and it does make playing through each song feel completely different.
There are 14 different artists on offer that each have two tracks, so it is a lot more limited compared to games like Guitar Hero or Rockband. With a limited amount available there’s no guarantee there’ll be something for everyone on the set list – I can’t complain though, since there wasn’t a single song I didn’t like. There were a couple of songs that had silent moments in them that seemed weird for a game that depends on you following a beat, but it wasn’t enough to take anything away from the gameplay.
Aesthetically the game looks great, featuring colourful graphics that wouldn’t look out of place in a DrinkBox Studios title with its edgeless style (perhaps it’s a Toronto thing…). I love how the developers have actually re-created each artist featured in the game too – every effort has gone into re-creating now only their appearances but styles and instruments too. It’s a neat touch and something I could appreciate as a fan of the musicians featured.
Whilst I’ll admit my initial impression of LOUD On Planet X wasn’t a good one, once I actually got into the game I couldn’t put it down. Gameplay is simple and fun, the soundtrack is rad and it looks fantastic with a sweet visual design that re-creates the musicians on offer.
There’s not a whole lot of depth to the game outside of simply playing through each song, but at the low price-point you can’t complaint too much – it costs less than a CD and features banging tunes and aliens to blow away… what more could you want? (Apart from Handsome Furs and Crystal Castles DLC…)
– An awesome soundtrack
– Simple yet fun gameplay
– A sweet visual style that re-creates the musicians authentically
– Lack of leaderboard and game modes means a lack of replay value