Does it offer the ultimate guitar shredding experience?
Rhythm games cater to a crowd of folks who like to listen or jam out to incredible tracks with their friends and family. These games encourage players to make precise button presses that often follow the beat of a specific soundtrack. Some rhythm titles offer different modes, challenges, and awards to maintain a player’s interest.
Many rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band even simulated “the rocker’s journey,” allowing players to create avatars and build upon their character’s reputation by performing well-known songs at familiar locales. Players have access to peripherals that resemble instruments, such as drum kits and guitars, giving them the tools they needed to feel like natural rock stars.
The days of games like Rock Band are long gone despite some beloved rhythm games cropping up in remaining arcades. However, some indie developers wish to capture and emulate that former feeling for fans. Loud is one of the latest arcade rhythm games that aims to fill the rocker void in some fans’ hearts. While it offers a compelling coming-of-age narrative and challenging gameplay, it falls short in many areas.
Loud is an arcade rhythm game developed by HyperStrange and published by QubicGames. In this game, players follow a girl’s journey from a bedridden rock enthusiast to a famed guitar player. You’ll help her achieve her dreams by performing many rock-inspired songs through twelve diverse levels. As you play through the game, you’ll arrive at multiple locations. Each locale offers different objects, colors, and scenery to immerse players. You’ll also earn a new outfit and guitar as an award for your stellar performances.
These awards are woven into Loud’s story, but they don’t grant players any advantages in the gameplay department. The gameplay follows a similar theory to most rhythm games, as you’ll need to tap and sometimes hold specific buttons at timely intervals. The game offers three different note patterns to its gameplay, and these distinct patterns add to Loud’s difficulty and force players to pay close attention. Completing the story will grant you access to the game’s “free mode” and a bonus track, which you can play at your leisure.
Although Loud’s narrative was relatively simple, it added some wonderful charm to the game. Loud follows Astrid, an up-and-coming musician who wants to make it big in the music business. While she doesn’t start off with the best equipment or reputation, she’s determined to reach her goals. Along the way, Astrid encounters many roadblocks regarding broken friendships and unfamiliar territory. She’ll also find positivity with her newfound lifestyle through parental support and her decisions to take risks. I tip my hat to HyperStrange for attempting to craft a profound and emotionally-driven tale. Unfortunately, Loud’s storyline is a bit basic and lacks depth and nuance.
As you follow Astrid’s journey to stardom, the game chooses to skip past wondrous moments several times in hopes of reaching her happy ending. I was thrilled to see Astrid endure some ups and downs throughout Loud’s story, but none of those obstacles phase her too much. It felt unrealistic to see Astrid shove emotional issues away like they were no big deal. I’d argue Loud’s story would’ve benefitted from fleshing out those subplots a bit more, rather than going for the “tell and not show” approach. Showing Astrid’s struggle to maintain tight connections with family and friends would’ve added the depth I was craving with this rock-induced coming-of-age story.
Along with Loud’s narrative comes its simple control scheme. There are six different buttons you’ll need to press, mash, and hold to the beat of the music. The game utilizes your controller’s “up, left, and down” d-pad inputs alongside its “X, A, and B” face buttons. The former corresponds with the three lanes on the left, while the latter handles the other side. Yellow, purple, and red stars represent this game’s notes. Each of them offers different forms of play, as mentioned earlier.
Nailing precise inputs will net you a bunch of points that ultimately make up your final score and letter grade by the song’s end. The game also offers rainbow versions of each note. You can use these specific notes to boost your score. On that note, you’ll receive error queues if you make mistakes during a song. Racking up multiple errors will net you a large red X. Three Xs result in a failure, meaning you’ll need to replay the level.
Loud’s difficulty ranges from “Chillin” to “Grindin.” The former is the game’s easiest mode, while the latter is its hardest. At the end of each level, you’ll receive information detailing your score, streaks, and combos. You’ll also get to see how many mistakes you made during your performance. Though simple in design, I came away feeling mixed about Loud’s gameplay.
Thanks to its controls, Loud felt great to play. Timing my inputs to each soundtrack’s beat felt grand and soothing. The purple “Hold Stars” and red “Mash Notes” made up my favorite aspects of the gameplay. The former was a joy because the game allows you to move the note in a wave-like fashion. You can do so by tilting your left and right control sticks side to side. This small detail meshed well with the charming child-like aesthetic the game went for in its presentation.
The developer’s decision to add a scoring system into the game helped boost its replayability for me. It felt gratifying to earn my first “S” rank in the game’s second difficulty option. This feeling urged me to replay the earlier levels to achieve similar success. I also enjoyed unlocking Astrid’s various outfits and guitars during my playthrough of the story mode. These items served as a win-win scenario for the game. Not only did I feel rewarded by earning these cosmetics, but they also held importance to Loud’s overarching plot.
Despite Loud’s enjoyable gameplay, I found many issues that prevented me from loving it. For example, some levels had notes that didn’t correlate well with the soundtrack’s beats. Due to these slight errors in note placement, I missed out on a few S ranks. While the “Hold Stars” were my favorite notes to play, I found some of Loud’s levels implemented them during unwarranted intervals. I also had a few issues regarding the game picking up errors after I’d correctly mash away at a “Mash Note.” These slight moments took me out of the rockin’ experience several times.
Nonetheless, I felt the game would have benefitted from more unlockable items and levels, as well as an online multiplayer mode. The unlockable items, though visually appealing, don’t add much to the gameplay outside of that. It would’ve been interesting if each guitar changed the look, sound, and feel of the gameplay. Furthermore, you cannot challenge your friends online or locally, nor can you compare your scores against other players via a leaderboard. Introducing a multiplayer mode or online leaderboard system would encourage players to play the game multiple times.
Loud’s gameplay and story may have left me with mixed feelings, but the visuals were beautiful. I adored its cartoon-like approach toward character and environmental design. It blended well with the fun and wholesome vibes I obtained from Astrid’s story and Loud’s gameplay. I adored how the lanes were designed after a guitar’s fretboard. Seeing the notes casually stroll past the strings felt magical and childlike. It helps the game immerse players with its comforting atmosphere. Adding four different maps for players to perform songs in was another neat touch on HyperStrange’s part. The background elements of each stage are nicely detailed and eye-catching. Furthermore, Astrid’s multiple outfits and guitars capture the different stages of her life and journey well.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I was a fan of Astrid’s computer-generated design. Her movements often came across as a bit too sluggish at times, though I enjoyed seeing her pumped up and excited about my successful performances. During these moments, I felt Astrid was full of life like any girl her age would feel. While I wasn’t feeling Astrid’s 3D design at points, I had no issues with her 2D design. I felt this was where Astrid’s character design shined brightest because we see her in the midst of extreme heartache or overwhelming happiness. Granted, you’ll see her get upset when you fail a performance, but I felt her 3D design made those moments feel lackluster. Besides that nitpick, Loud contains excellent and flavorful visuals that many fans will appreciate.
Loud’s soundtrack gave me a slightly similar feeling as its visuals. I felt each piece captured the rockin’ vibe the game aimed to emulate. All of them were entirely instrumental and gave off feelings of punk rock, but most of the songs seemed the same regarding tone and beat at times. The music can be a hit or miss for some folks who love listening to distinct musical genres. However, Loud’s OST serves its purpose well enough for me to ignore those issues.
Astrid Wong-Searby, the voice actress who portrayed Astrid in the cutscenes and the gameplay, did a remarkable job. Her voice work fits Astrid’s teenager-like mannerisms and attitude wonderfully. Although I’m not one to enjoy failure in games, I liked the melancholy soundtrack that played during those moments. Hearing that track accompanied by a silly grave with the word “mediocre” engraved on it made me chuckle a few times. While Loud’s soundtrack can be repetitive, I think it does a fine job of immersing me in this rocking world.
Loud does not come across as the ultimate arcade guitar experience. The game lacks some depth and features that would warrant a title such as that. The story leaves out some important elements of conflict and resolution for many of its subplots, the gameplay occasionally runs into trouble regarding its placement of notes on the left and right side of the screen, the lack of multiplayer or an online leaderboard system prevents it from having high replay value, and the inconsistent visuals and soundtrack – while great – often threw me out of the experience.
But, despite its shortcomings, I had a wonderful time with Loud. I could tell the developers wanted to create an exhilarating guitar shredding experience with the game. While it’s not as grand as something like Guitar Hero, it offers some neat ideas and gameplay styles that make it stand out. Loud contains a great degree of challenge and will help anyone improve their rhythmic and precision-based skills. The game rewards players for completing levels and introduces an offline rank structure to encourage players to return to the game. The cartoon-like visuals and rockin’ soundtrack mesh well and fit with Loud’s wholesome world. Astrid is also a likable character who undergoes some essence of growth (even though it could have been more actualized).
Loud is listed at $11.99 on the Nintendo eShop and has enough charm and content to warrant a purchase by fans. It may not be the loudest and best guitar shredding rhythm game out there, but it’s certain to give you a rock-hard challenge.