Reviewing Soundfall at the same time as watching Eurovision 2022 has made for a surreal weekend that was as much about feeding wolves with bananas as it is chopping little people into bits while they have a dance. Does that sound entirely normal to you? While it’s probably par for the course for the Euro music competition, Soundfall’s own unusual musical escapades wrap a loot-driven hack and slasher around a rhythm-action bopper. In fact, those little dancing guys are out to wreck music. Eurovision wouldn’t stand for that, and neither will you.
Drastic Games has really gone to town with the musical theme of Soundfall, especially in the narrative, which heaps Conductors and Composers upon Instruments of Harmony, all in the cause of saving the kingdom of Symphonia. It makes sense, mind you; Symphonia is the place where all music is born, finding a form before it’s released into the world. Discord has started to seep into Symphonia though – that’s some naughty out of tune badniks, not the handy chat platform – and you take on the role of Melody Harper, a struggling musician who’s drawn into this world, finding out she’s a Guardian of Harmony capable of eradicating the Discord from the world.
You’re given a batch of musical tools with which to see these Discordians off, starting with an Audio Blade and a Beat Blaster. Each level is a different musical track, and you have to time your sword swipes or gun blasts with the beat in order to maximise their damage. Mistime it and not only will your weapon spit out a puny hiccup rather than an almighty boom, but you run the risk of it jamming up entirely, forcing you to frantically dodge until it’s ready to go again.
Your dodges need to be similarly timed, and a perfect dodge will result in a couple of moments of invulnerability. Some rare weaponry grants you extra boons as well, from additional dodges to improved speed or the ability to heal a certain amount of damage that’s dealt. Loot is found in treasure chests, with some hidden throughout each level, while there’s always one waiting for you at the exit. The better your performance, the better the gear.
Music is at the heart of Soundfall, and there’s an insane amount of it. It leaps between genres too, so there’s upbeat pop, through samba, funk, pop-punk and metal. What’s even more impressive is that it’s generally very good indeed, without featuring any big-name acts. There’s plenty to discover here, and though there are a few weaker numbers – and some that are so short you might miss them – it’s a great showing, particularly if you simply love music no matter the genre.
The audio certainly helps to keep things fresh, as the fundamental gameplay loop could be repetitive. You work your way through each section, killing enemies as you go. Gates stop you from progressing until you’ve killed enough Discordians and then you’re back to it, heading towards the exit with loot on your mind.
That loot can alter the way you play though, whether it’s a different gun or enhanced abilities, but the appearance of rare items feels a little too low; I found myself having to hang on to an underpowered choice in order to keep a particularly useful skill. If they tune up the loot drops a little further that would ease some frustration.
As this is part rhythm-action game, it’s not a surprise to find that replaying tracks is a fundamental part of the experience. You’re given a rating at the end of each song, with the pinnacle requiring you to hit that 100% combo mark, and it doles out XP depending on how well you’ve done. Trying to get through these tracks with a perfect combo is exceptionally tough, but you’ll start to find it is possible once you’ve got the hang of it.
You can bring up to three friends with you on this musical adventure, and with others in tow it can get pretty hectic. You’ll need to really crank the music up to make sure you’re all able to hit the beat. At least as a team you can make up for that one, slightly embarssing friend who has no rhythm. Admit it, you know which one we mean.
You encounter other heroes along your journey, with five of them becoming playable through the course of the narrative. They’ve all been sucked into Symphonia just like Melody, though whether you’re playing as Jaxon, Lydia, Brite or Ky, your fundamental aims are the same albeit with some different abilities to keep things interesting. I really like the character design here, and both protagonists and antagonists inject life into the world.