‘Soundfall’ preview: a toe-tapping rhythm shooter brimming with summery goodness

'Soundfall' boasts an infectiously catchy soundtrack and plenty of vibrant levels

If you’ve taken a glance out of your window in recent days, you may have noticed that a particularly dreary winter is coming to an end. There’s no telling how long our nice weather will last, but as if sensing a shift into brighter seasons, enter Soundfall.

A spirited rhythm game, Soundfall is an isometric shooter that tasks players with bouncing through each level to the beat of a song. Though not quite as hardcore as Crypt Of The Necrodancer – your movement isn’t locked to the rhythm – you do need to shoot, dash and swing to the beat of whichever song accompanies each level. Along the way, you’re harried by creatures of Discord (not that one) – monsters who want nothing more than to see you miss a step. It’s sort of like Diablo, albeit with all of Blizzard‘s gory satanic imagery swapped out for throwaway references to Paramore and Blondie.

At first, Soundfall starts off nice and easy: in the tutorial, you’ll get to grips with the game by playing along to one of the game’s more relaxing orchestral pieces. Enemies are in no hurry to catch you, and crumple in just a few bright pink blasts.

Soundfall. Credit: Drastic Games.
Soundfall. Credit: Drastic Games.

After the tutorial is ticked off, Soundfall dials up the volume. In the following level you’re still grooving through vivid green pastures, but this time you’re moving to the beat of an infectiously poppy bop called ‘Fly Fly Fly‘. Later areas in the colourful Skylands zone are similarly accompanied by light, breezy tunes that prove infectious. In the first act, Soundfall radiates summer vibes: filled with bouncy club ballads and inoffensive radio-friendly cheer, it doesn’t just feel like you’re gunning your way through a video game – it feels like cool night air blowing through your pub-bound taxi, a speaker playing from someone else’s garden, and a million other summery things. Soundfall‘s music curation knows exactly what it wants to deliver, and the fact that it works is a great testament to how fluidly Soundfall‘s soundtrack intertwines with the combat.

In later levels, Soundfall shows that it’s not afraid to test the waters with different genres. One particular level involves making your way through a volcano, dodging cascading lava to the rhythm of thrashing drums and gut-punch guitar riffs. A track by meganeko and FantomenK, ‘is this ok?‘, transforms one zone – a fast-paced sprint through a rich purple Cyberpunk-y area – into something that feels heavily inspired by Sonic The Hedgehog.

Soundfall. Credit: Drastic Games.
Soundfall. Credit: Drastic Games.

With higher BPM songs, Soundfall becomes altogether more intensive. The preview’s last level – an EDM-fuelled nightmare with minions of Discord terrorising every inch of the screen – felt more like a high-intensity Osu track than a casual shooter. Faster BPM isn’t the only tool that Soundfall uses to amp up the challenge – areas like the one just mentioned will sometimes decide to flood you with baddies, but there are also different types of Discord that are keen to halt your progress. Snipers will take a moment before hitting you hard, but a well-timed dodge can move you out of harm’s way. Meanwhile, some of the bigger beasts will opt instead to throw their gargantuan weight at you, or send you flying with a shockwave – though again, dashing at the right time can buy you another few seconds to shoot back.

Most of the enemies have their own rhythm you can play to – attacks are well-telegraphed, but staying attuned to that rhythm while staying on-beat to each level’s song adds an extra level of difficulty that takes some getting used to. Soundfall‘s lighter levels are still plenty of fun, but the tougher levels get your heart pumping along to the beat in a way that makes it much more compelling. The first act eventually gives up some extra tools to help get you through Soundfall in one piece, and adding these to the mix goes a long way in eking more enjoyment out of every toe-tapping skirmish.

Soundfall. Credit: Drastic Games.
Soundfall. Credit: Drastic Games.

There’s a lot of praise to be sung for Soundfall, but it could perhaps do with a little more interactivity on the gameplay side of things. Without risking Soundfall becoming monstrously complicated, it could add a few more options for combat – in the preview, weapons extended to one melee attack, a ranged attack, and an ultimate ability. Even when the going got tough, Soundfall could have been even more engaging by spicing up the combat – though as only the first act was included in the preview, there’s every chance that Soundfall has plenty of abilities hiding away in the full game.

On a similar note, although Soundfall has options to customise your loadout, the preview’s limited gear didn’t feel like it influenced anything beyond a damage score. Again, it may be something that pops up later in the game – the trailer below certainly seems to suggest it does – but the state of gear in the preview was slightly underwhelming.

Despite those fairly minor qualms, there’s a lot of fun to be had in playing Soundfall – when I hit the end of my preview, I couldn’t help jumping back in and replaying some of the levels I’d already cleared. There’s a compelling rhythm in trying to careen through a level in the span of one song, and some of the loading screen tips promise all sorts of genres further into the game. From a small glimpse, Soundfall promises to be a catchy rhythm shooter that exudes good vibes – but hopefully it adds a little more variety later into the game.

Soundfall is set to launch on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, and Xbox Series X|S in spring 2022. 

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