Getting a game days before the release date often means I won’t cover it until I’ve finished it or at least seen what it offers. Luckily for me, Loud can be completed in one sitting – story and all, so here are some words.
From Hyperstrange and Qubic Games, Loud tells the tale of Astrid, a young teenage girl who aspires to be a guitarist and ‘live the dream’. Unfortunately, her axe is a common household broom, but that doesn’t stop her from rocking out. As one should.
Divided into four key chapters, Astrid goes from bedroom performer with the hopes of becoming a signed artist. Throughout those four chapters, her look changes significantly, but her sound remains the same. Admittedly, it’s not the kind of music I’d listen to in my own time, but it was perfect for the gameplay.
You might wonder what kind of game this is and how it plays. Sorry about that. Loud is a rhythm game, and as per the earlier news piece, it’s a little like Guitar Hero, only the music is exclusive to the game, and the setup is a bit different. First of all, you play six notes using the left and right joy-cons/side of the controller.
The left side is up, left and down, and mirrored on the right with X, A, and B. In the centre of the screen is Astrid, and three guitar necks dress the left and right. You press a button when you see a star on the respective neck. Simples. There are also three variations of notes: the standard button press, a button mash, and a segment where you hold a button and modify it with the left stick. The aim is to get the best rank and progress with her story in-between tracks.
All the cutscenes are voice-acted and tell how Astrid is getting on over three years. Not that there’s a complicated narrative arc, but I’ll leave out the details of what happens. You start a track, choose an outfit and guitar (cosmetic only and unlocked through progression), and then your difficulty. There’s Chillin’, Skillin’, and for the life of me can’t remember the third. Killin’? [It’s Grindin’ – Me]. Basically, it’s hard mode.
As you might expect, Loud is more immersive the higher the difficulty. Chillin’ will get you through the game, Skillin’ offers a balanced challenge, while the hard difficulty is precisely that, but y’know what? It’s fair. My biggest challenge was shifting from side to side, as swapping from left to right didn’t connect with my motor skills in a short space of time. This could be where I complain that it’s broke, but it’s not, far from it.
Out of the box, Loud is finely calibrated. Granted, I played in handheld mode, so there was no wireless play, but the timing was impeccable. Any mistakes were 100% me. There is a calibration tool, but unless you’re playing on the telly, I’d keep it as the default. If you can juggle the intensity, by the time you play the harder modes, it almost feels like you’re playing the guitar – as all real guitarists poo-poo that sentiment…
But, you can complete the story in one sitting. Is there much point in sticking with Loud? Sure. While licensed songs are great, as mentioned, the tracks here suit the mood and are neither overly catchy nor whiny to the point you don’t want to play. This is a really dumb statement, but an honest one: play it loud. That’s not a play on words, but because the timing is so good, the louder it is, the more likely you’ll pick up the rhythm without focusing too much on the screen.
Also, to unlock each difficulty level, you need to get an S rank in the previous level. A score summary will break down how many perfects, goods and misses you made, your accuracy and overall ranking. Despite not missing a single note on some, it still didn’t award 100% as I had a few goods. That said, anything over 90% is an S rank. Finally, spoiler alert: when you finish the game, there’s a bonus track selectable from Free Play that features the Liberator difficulty. Perhaps this is Loud’s closest equivalent to Dragonforce? For me, at least.
In summary, Loud is a fun game with brilliant timing, a great soundtrack and immersive play. You might only play in bursts once you finish the story to better your scores, but you’ll be playing again for the enjoyment and not for achievements or forcing yourself to get value from it. Certainly worth a look, methinks.