Music and rhythm games have always been a bit of a love of mine, and so the concept behind Loud on Planet X intrigued me. Combining rhythm and defense, your goal is to hit buttons along with the beat of several indie songs to fight off aliens. Does this rhythm defense game rock, or should it go back to the recording booth?
Featuring 14 indie bands, each of whom have two songs each, Loud on Planet X runs a pretty decently varied gauntlet of music. The game seems to have at least something for everyone here. Bands like Metric and July Talk bring in some rock, Monomyth and Health have slightly stranger tunes, while Shad and Cadence Weapon contribute with rap. By the end of the game I found a good chunk of the game's 28 songs on my iPod and even the ones I weren't interested in were less because they were bad and more because they weren't my style of music.
Each level in Loud on Planet X basically plays the same. The band will be on the left side of the stage and in front of them will be four lanes, each of which gets its own speaker. By pressing one of the four face buttons and R1, or one of the d-pad buttons and L1 for lefties, you can fire a laser from one of the speakers. You have to tap the buttons along with the beat though, or your lasers won't fire. Some songs are slightly harder to find the beat on than others, but the game tries to assist you by having the speakers move and the corners flash along with the beat.
Enemies come in a few different types, with each level always having one of each. The aliens have many eyes on their bodies and the amount of eyes they have determines how many hits you'll need to kill them. Basic aliens either come in one-eyed fast forms or three-eyed slower forms. How they look doesn't change how they act: they'll always just advance in a straight line until they reach you. Special aliens are really where the change-up is. One of them explodes into a screen-obscuring blob after it dies, another splits into two smaller aliens, while a third moves slowly until the first time you hit it, which then causes it to charge. Sometimes the swarms of aliens, especially when assisted by the specials, can get in close and cause some moments of panic where hitting the beat becomes a lot more difficult.
To assist you with this is two different systems available in the game. The first is Loud, which slowly fills up every time you hit an enemy. Once your Loud meter is full, you can press both triggers to deal a screen-clearing attack. It takes a bit too long, the ability has an animation that shows the whole band, and it always seemed to throw me off the beat without fail. Still it was a useful skill that saved me when I needed it.
The other system is items, which constantly recharge as you play. While Loud was a useful system most of the time, items just always felt generally useless. I could use an item on a lane by holding down the right trigger and hitting the button associated with that lane, which always felt awkward at best. Loud on Planet X never makes it clear which items do what, but after experimenting with them it felt like none of them ever felt useful. Some items knocked enemies back to the end of the line, others stunned them in place, while one made that line continuously fire without me having to do anything. Yet because the item you get is randomly picked anytime the item box fills up, I never felt like I had the item I actually needed for the situation. Much like attacks, items also need to be placed along with the beat, and much like Loud, they were very good at throwing me off the beat. In the end it's a system I mostly ignored.
Unfortunately this means I basically approached every level only using the basic attacks and occasionally the Loud attack when things got too hectic. The game's 25 stages quickly settled into a repetitive pattern: tap buttons along with the beat. It makes Loud on Planet X feel like there's very little to the game. Putting the difficulty on hard at least helped with this, ramping the challenge up and making me stay on my toes a little more.
One weird thing to note comes from the level select screen. Instead of putting things in a well-organized list, or really any other way that makes sense and fits with the theme, the level select screen is just sort of random blocks haphazardly thrown about an empty area. They're organized in a way that makes it difficult to select what you actually want, and trying to find a specific song requires either memorizing where it is or scrolling through everything in the hopes of finding it.
How much you enjoy Loud on Planet X is going to be almost entirely based on how interested you are in the soundtrack. My suggestion is looking up the 24 songs in the game and seeing if the majority of them are your kind of thing. Even if you do enjoy them, you should still be ready to play the game in short bursts: what's here is decent but it gets old fast. Much like listening to a good song on repeat.
Loud on Planet X was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a code provided by the developer. It is also available on Steam, Android, and iOS.