Review: Soundodger+ (PC)

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One of the perks of writing articles for bemanistyle is stumbling upon those lesser known indie titles.  These days game development is more readily available than ever.  The market can get so saturated with games of different scale, it gets hard to keep up with everything that comes out.  This stands especially true for the smaller Steam releases along the way.  I opened my inbox to find a press kit from developer Studio Bean for one of their titles- Soundodger+.

Soundodger+ is yet another foray into the rhythm genre mashup that seems to have taken the indie world by storm.  I was quite surprised by what I found. After-all it’s not too often you see rhythm game and “bullet-hell” under the same umbrella.

The first thing that grabs your attention is the visuals.  Given the way the game plays, I was immediately reminded of the PlayStation 3 gem, Everyday Shooter.  The 2 games share a similar aesthetic, and both appear at first glance to be shmups.  Upon further inspection however, it becomes more clear that Soundodger+  doesn’t really fall into that genre.  You will not be shooting enemies in this bullet-hell, instead, you be getting shot at and dodging… a lot.  In fact the dodging is what this game is built around.  This is an easy enough concept to wrap your head around isn’t it?  See the bullets coming for you, and just get out of the way!  However, the more I played the game, the more the game revealed to me.

As the bullets fire, they come at you in all different shapes and sizes.  The presentation really is something to behold.  As I bobbed and weaved my way through the mayhem, one thing became abundantly clear- I was dancing!  No seriously, my mouse was moving to the beat.  Not only do the sequences of flashes and bullets release to the rhythms and various beats, but the patterns they create, call for you to fall in line rhythmically.  This game requires just as much a sense of rhythm as it does hand-eye coordination.

There were some truly mesmerizing moments that resulted from the combination of visual cues, coupled with the way your cursor moves in sync.  I carefully followed the paths the game laid before me.  Sometimes this would be narrow pathways through a dense field of bullets and missiles, other times it would be like following closely behind the stream of bullets, as they formed a design across the screen.  To me, the bullets or “enemies” in the game were more like a dance partner, guiding you with their movements on which way to go.  There is no set path per se, however there are definitely ideal ways to go that make more sense based on how the patterns are coming together.  All of this being said, what’s dancing without the music?

In total there are 23 tracks carefully crafted to provide unique experiences.  With each song you complete, you’ll gain access to another.  The music included in this game really is something special.  Some of the artists I was vaguely familiar with, however others I’d never heard of, but I’m glad to have found them.  There are high energy songs that will keep you you on your toes, frantically plotting your next move carefully.  Then there are others that you can really zone out to and just let the rhythm guide your movements.

While 23 songs can seem somewhat meager, there are a few other modes that can keep you coming back for more.  There’s the song editor, which allows you to create and customize your own patterns to the song.  There’s also a user generated section, which allows you to try your hand at other people’s creations.  Finally, one of my favorite features was the auto-gen mode, which allowed for you insert your own MP3s, which the game generates it’s own patterns to.  The results aren’t always perfect, but for the most part it gets the job done.

On top of that there is a lot to get out of the songs you are given. The difficulty range will keep you working to improve.  The songs are ranked by difficulty from 1-5; 1 being the easiest, 5 being the most difficult.   As you can see from the images, the game throws everything it has at you.  To mitigate some of the craziness you can press a button to send the music into slow-mo, allowing you to consider your options, and what direction you would like to go.  This however, comes at the cost of your score.

Overall there is a lot to like about Soundodger+. Due to it’s simple premise, and minimalist presentation, initial impressions may lead you to believe this is a shallow one-off game. When you dig beneath the surface a little more, you find there is a ton at work here, and I found myself impressed on multiple occasions. The game is pure arcade fun, as you’ll likely find yourself wanting to play over and over again to best your scores. I definitely recommend giving this game a go.