Rhythm Action has had a mini resurgence over the last year with Guitar Hero, Rockband and Amplitude all coming back. Very much in a smaller, indie vein is Loud on Planet X – a game that asks you to shoot aliens to the beat. However, by ignoring many of the usual rhythm tropes, the game misses the mark in some key areas.
Each song features four lanes of aliens coming towards the stage. If they reach the stage it’s game over so you need to zap them to death before they get there. You do this by pressing the button that matches the lane that the alien is in bang on the beat of the track you’re listening to. Timing is key, as is prioritising your alien attack. On easy mode only one or two will be coming at you at once, but on normal and hard all four lanes are in use most of the time.
To keep you on the song beat the edge of the screen flashes and so if you find yourself straying offbeat you’ll divert your eyes to the edge to resync yourself with the song before returning to blast aliens. You’ll also have randomised power-ups that will prove useful to help slow down or bat back aliens as well as a speaker in each lane that acts like a last resort barrier similar to the lawnmower in Plants Vs Zombies.
It’s interesting that I felt this game had more in common with Plants Vs Zombies than a rhythm game and that’s because of two key things that I feel really let the game down. The first is that the aliens arrive randomly every time so it means that there’s no pattern to learn that matches the song and so it feels more like your slowly button-mashing rather than feeling the rhythm. It makes the game feel lazy by design and that is made worse when the beat doesn’t always seem to match the song beat very well. Yes, there is a calibration tool to match audio and visual (without any help to get it right for you sadly) – but some of the tracks still feel offbeat. Add to that the random nature of power-ups that you can’t rely on, it means on harder difficulties sometimes you need the luck of the draw to survive a few waves of enemies. The enemies themselves have only five forms and whilst you’ll know their attack patterns individually, there is no rhyme or reason as to how they show up in your playthrough. That procedural element just isn’t fun in a rhythm game where besting patterns is what we strive for.
Featuring 14 current indie artists like Little Dragon, CHVRCHES and Metric, each artist gives two tracks to the game and it creates a usually fascinating soundtrack of electro-indie pop-rock. There’s a few out there choices but on the whole, the music is the games strongest point. Graphics are basic but stylised and work really well. I like that each artist has its own superweapon which you can trigger after every 10,000 pts you rack up.
Loud on Planet X
Whilst I happily played through the game to unlock all the tracks, it felt like an empty experience. It's hybrid of gaming is interesting but its execution feels lightweight and too random to enjoy as a rhythm game, and too focused on rhythm to enjoy as a lane defence game. Instead, it has an identity crisis in the middle of both whilst having a great soundtrack to bop to.
Fantastic soundtrack crammed full of indie gems.
A rather unique blend of lane defence and rhythm action games.
For a rhythm game, to lack rhythm, pattern or pace feels unintuitive and disconnected from the player experience.
Lack of variety in aliens, stages or their attack patterns.
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