There’s a personal journey when you pick up a new rhythm game. At the start, you’re more than likely stumbling over yourself just to string together a few notes before eventually failing out. By the end of your time with it, you’re probably on a second playthrough of the available levels/songs, attempting to hit top rank and best your own personal score. LOUD is a new rhythm game from Hyperstrange that does an amazing job at capturing the sense of progression not only for the player, but the main character as well.
Pulling at your heartstrings
LOUD follows the story of Astrid, a reclusive young girl that aspires to be a rockstar. With no equipment or fans, she embarks on a musical journey of self-discovery. The player is along with Astrid for every step of her journey, and you can really feel the character finding herself and gaining confidence as the story goes on. From pretending to strum a dust broom in her bedroom to casually playing tunes at a subway station, and eventually rocking out to a packed show, we really get to watch Astrid grow and mature before our eyes.
What’s really neat is that we’re growing with her, too. I’m no rhythm game maestro, but this isn’t my first rodeo. That said, I was having some troubles getting used to the controls at first. Like with any good rhythm game, I became more confident in my abilities and eventually, the levels that originally felt unbeatable, I was replaying in an attempt to get an S rank. There’s an excellent sense of progression not only in the narrative, but the gameplay.
All the right notes
LOUD follows the standard rhythm game formula of tasking players with pressing buttons that correspond with different notes as they appear on-screen. There are standard notes, as well as hold and mash notes. Timing is king, as your ability to press the button at the right moment will determine if you get a Perfect, Good, or Miss a note entirely.
LOUD feels like it was designed specifically with the Switch in mind. There are 6 different input buttons, which correspond to the top, bottom, and outer face buttons of the Switch Joy-Cons (or Pro Controller). On screen, the notes are arranged on either side of the screen just as they appear on the controller. It gives the game a distinct visual identity and also makes the commands easier to follow.
When you’re hitting notes, the HD rumble gives a vibration when you land a Perfect note, a lighter one for Good, and none at all for a Miss. It makes the game feel more physically responsive as you play along to the music, and it's all the more satisfying when you get into a groove and start nailing streaks. Players also have the option to calibrate their input latency, ensuring that they are comfortable with how their inputs are being registered.
After completing a level, you’re given a letter rank as well as a numerical score. The game also tells you how many Perfects, Goods, and Misses you had during the run. The three difficulties in LOUD are Chillin’ (easy) Skillin’ (medium), and Grindin’ (hard). In order to unlock Grindin’ difficulty, you have to achieve an S rank in Skillin’. It adds a level of replayability and challenge to the levels in LOUD.
While I had a good enough time trying to best my own scores, it would have been cool to have an online leaderboard. Even if it was just limited to friends, having other players to weigh yourself against would provide an additional challenge.
Music to my ears
The art style in LOUD lends itself to the wholesome feeling that’s constantly present. It’s warm and colorful, frequently helping to convey the tone and emotion of a given scene. This is also achieved through Astrid’s various outfits and guitars, which players can select from as they’re unlocked throughout the story. From pajamas to a military jacket and full on rocker outfit, the costuming is an essential part of Astrid’s journey.
While it’s always important for a game to have good music, that aspect skyrockets to the top of the importance hierarchy in rhythm games. The music in LOUD dope. From the head-banging anthems to the more melodic ballads, there’s a good variety of original music that once again plays into the story and overall tone. I often found myself rocking side to side and nodding my head, especially on repeat runs where I was familiar with the song. I genuinely hope that Hyperstrange plans to release the original soundtrack either on streaming services or vinyl at some point in the future, because I’d nab it up in a heartbeat.
School of rock
LOUD is a groovy rhythm game that has some excellent tunes to pair with a charming protagonist and a solid gameplay layout. There’s great incentive to replay, and I’ll surely be coming back to master those levels that I barely got past the first time around. It's a perfect pickup on Switch, and I’m sure it’ll also be quite enjoyable on PC.
This review is based on a digital Switch code provided by the publisher. LOUD launches on July 14 for Switch and PC and costs $11.99 USD.
- Beautifully weaves together story and gameplay progression
- Wholesome characters
- Challenging gameplay options
- Stellar original soundtrack
- Feels like it was crafted for the Switch
- Would be great if it had an online leaderboard
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, LOUD review: A star is born