Rhythm games have been around for a while now. DDR, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Elite Beat Agents, Beat Saber, the list goes on and on. Finding a rhythm game that’s fun, new, and exciting isn’t common. Well, LOUD puts rhythm games together with a “Life is Strange”-esque narrative story to create a fully put together game from start to finish.
The story is about Astrid’s journey from playing guitar on her broom in her room, to getting a guitar from her father, all the way to her rocking the stage later on in her life. It’s a sweet story of a young girl gaining the confidence to be a rockstar, meanwhile learning about the ups and downs of living that lifestyle. Sometimes bands fall apart, sometimes friendships end, but if you truly love music, you’ll keep going and keep learning. The story is straightforward, providing a sweet and complete narrative, which I appreciated. The story is told through snapshots of her life through polaroids on her wall, while at the end of every section, there’s a small cutscene, usually stills with narration over them, that explains what’s happening next or has happened after a time-jump. This was a great way to show her story and keep within their theme throughout the game.
From a gameplay perspective, I picked up the controls pretty quickly after the tutorial song. As someone who plays quite a lot of rhythm games even now, I was able to go straight to the “Skillin’” level. “Chillin’” is easy, “Skillin’” is medium, and “Grindin’” is hard. From my experience, I only failed one song on the “Skillin’” mode, while “Grindin’” gave me a fight. I didn’t get S-tier scores on many songs after the first four. There is so much happening at the same time on the “Grindin’’’ mode that it’s sometimes overwhelming, but the challenge was a welcome one for me personally. While they are truly difficult to play, I definitely see myself going through each song and trying to get the S-tier for all of them on that harder difficulty level.
Your main buttons are the top, left, and right on the D-Pad on the left Joy-Con and then X, A, and B for the right Joy-Con. They use three types of button inputs, normal presses, mashing, and holding. They also have blue stars which are essentially “star power” from Guitar Hero/Rock Band. This setup worked wonderfully, there are only so many buttons and so many ways to try and put a rhythm game on a controller, but the team did a great job mapping things where they felt natural in my hands and I never felt like I “couldn’t” do something.
Now let’s talk about the most important part of a rhythm game: the music. All of the songs are originals in the pop-punk alternative style. For me, this was perfect. I adore this genre as a whole, and they really put a lot of love into these tracks. There aren’t any vocals, so the instruments are truly in the forefront. There wasn’t a single track I was ever upset about playing twice trying to get S-Tier on, or trying a different difficulty. Most of the time when I did make a mistake on my first playthrough of a song it was because I was starting to bob my head or dance a little, throwing off my hand placement. Each song felt different enough that I never felt like the music was becoming tiring. For anyone who grew up listening to the pop-punk scene or playing music in the pop-punk scene, there will be quite a lot of relatable moments throughout the story musically.
Because I personally play so many rhythm games, I wanted to see what would happen if I let someone play who doesn’t have as much experience in the genre. So I had two of my friends play a level or two each. Both were on the “Chillin” level and generally failed the first time, and made it through the second time. One thing remained consistent though, they had fun. I had a lot of fun watching them bob their heads along to the music even if they were redoing the song. Accessibility is so important when working with a new rhythm game. Can someone pick it up and just play it regardless of background? And while LOUD might be a tad difficult for beginners, the music and the story make it easy for newer players to get invested enough to continue playing.
One small nitpicky thing I had was when you miss a note, it does stop the song in a way. Which could be part of the personality of the game. When you’re playing something and you mess up and get frustrated, the song does kind of stop. For me, this wasn’t a huge deal. However, for both of the newbies to rhythm games, that was where both of them ended up failing the song. They messed up and never got back on track afterwards. This is such a small thing and may not affect others, but it was something I felt needed to have attention brought to it, especially if you’re new to the genre and are thinking about picking it up. The punishment for messing up seems a tad severe from an audio perspective.
LOUD isn’t the longest game, clocking in anywhere between 2-6 hours depending on how many times you play the songs or if you choose to go back and get S-Tier for everything. But at the price of $11.99 base and $8.99 at launch, you’re for sure getting your money’s worth. The game has 14 original songs, a full story, and feels like a complete experience. LOUD is a great time for newbies and experienced players to rhythm games alike.
LOUD comes first to Nintendo Switch on 15 July 2022, with PC, PlayStation, and Xbox to follow later. The Switch version will be available on the Nintendo eShop for $11.99 but will initially launch with a 25% off discount at $8.99.
LOUD turns the volume to 14 with 14 original pop-punk tunes telling the story of Astrid going from playing guitar with a broom in her room to rocking the stage years later. A wonderful game for those new to rhythm style games while giving quite a challenge to those with experience in the genre. At the price of $11.99, this is a must have for anyone who loves pop-punk music.