Making all this noise shouldn’t be a LOUD.
For someone with absolutely no rhythm, I do surprisingly well at music games. The thing with this genre is that there aren’t really that many ways of doing it in a unique way. Yes, you have your peripherals that were all the rage during the Guitar Hero craze, but beyond that you’ll ultimately be pressing buttons to the beat. I liked AVICII Invector for its fun aesthetic, and the unique theme of Kickbeat’s martial arts was certainly interesting, and those elements made them stand out from the crowd. LOUD is a new music game for Nintendo Switch from Hyperstrange that has enough there to make it interesting to play for its short runtime.
You play as Astrid, a teenage girl with dreams of being a rockstar. Starting out with just a broom, dancing around in her bedroom, she’ll get her own guitar, learn to play, and make friends on her path to becoming a full fledged musician. The story is played out via simple cutscenes with some very cringey dialogue, all accessed from a cute pinboard in Astrid’s room. As you play, this fills up with polaroid photographs of events throughout the four stages of your burgeoning career. It’s a nice touch, and plays into the fact that Astrid is still a young kid pursuing her dream. The plot is simple, but sweet enough.
Unfortunately, the story ends after about 45 minutes with a lot left unresolved. Friends are gained and lost within a few minutes of plot and we hear little about Astrid’s father beyond his interest in music. It’s odd that these plot threads are set up and then almost immediately abandoned. I could argue that the setup of the game is only meant to demonstrate the start of Astrid’s story, but I feel that seeing her reach those arena performances would have been satisfying.
Then again, who comes into a rhythm game for the story? You’re here to tap buttons in time to some sweet jams, and the mechanics here are solid and enjoyable. The screen is split into left and right sides, with each side having a top, middle, and bottom lane. As in so many games of this style, you’ll need to press the correct button when the star shape matches up with the star outline, in time to the music. With six lanes to keep track of, this could get a little difficult to keep track of, but the setup of the buttons is quite smart. The face buttons on the left side of the controller control the left screen, with the top, left, and bottom buttons controlling each lane. The same is the case on the other side of the controller.
There are additional controls to take into consideration, such as notes that need you to mash the button, or others that need to be held — with obligatory analogue stick wiggling for a whammy bar effect thanks to Guitar Hero — but any complexity stops there. It’s a great method of keeping on top of all these notes at once, and once you’ve got the hang of it, it becomes instinctive quite quickly.
The songs themselves are solid enough, but somewhat unremarkable. They’re all rock tracks due to Astrid’s goal, but a lot of them blended together for me, with little that would make one track stand out over another. There were a couple towards the end of the game that had a bit more to them than others, with Fear No More having some meaty riffs that were missing from previous offerings. With that said, all the songs are fun to play through, even if they won’t be stuck in your head for weeks to come.
Score chasing certainly helps keep interest after the credits have rolled in LOUD. Songs aren’t all that difficult to finish on the easy and medium difficulties, but the hardest setting — unlocked by getting an S rank on medium — is a solid challenge. You’ll really need to keep track of which side of the screen you’re working on as the notes appear from both sides at once. It felt like this was specifically designed for ambidextrous people, especially if you try the bonus song that unlocks when you finish the story. If you’re after a challenge, it’s certainly available here.
I enjoyed playing through LOUD, even though the story ended far sooner than I feel it should have done. The songs were fun to play through, and the visuals are bright and vibrant, mirroring the youthful excitement of Astrid chasing her dream. This isn’t a genre redefining moment for rhythm games, but it’s certainly a fun addition with enough mechanical differences to make it stand out from the crowd. There’s a reasonable chance that this will be your jam.
LOUD is available now on Nintendo Switch, and coming soon to Xbox, Playstation, and PC.