Soundfall turns dungeon crawling into a killer dance party
There are times when I play certain games where I want to listen to my music on Spotify instead of listening to the game soundtrack. I did this during a few games – Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Shantae Half-Genie Heroand Sonic forces (the final boss, anyway) — but it doesn’t always work as well as I hope. The music in the game tends to fit the mood of the experience better than anything I try to play on it.
sound drop, a co-op rhythm-based dungeon crawler from Drastic Games, a startup game studio founded by Epic Games alumni, is a different story. Its soundtrack of indie songs has the energy of a great Spotify playlist, each disparate track syncing perfectly with the action.
Be my DJ
In sound drop, you play as one of five Guardians of Harmony – musical geniuses Melody, Jaxon, Lydia, Brite and Ky – who have been transported to the musical world of Symphonia while playing their own music in the real world. They are summoned by the Composers to save all the music in the world of Discord, an army of creatures called Discordians who corrupt every song they touch on orders from his lieutenant Banshee.
The game contains 140 songs. Each country in Symphonia has an assigned musical genre to which its surroundings vibrate in the style of 1930s cartoons. For example, Serenade Skylands, where the campaign begins, has a mix of pop and EDM, with songs like Fly Fly Fly by Ethan Martin and Frida Winsth (which I’ve played several times on Spotify while writing this) and Drawn to you, drawn to you by Vincent Vega. Minuet Forest, Symphonia’s third ground, plays classical music composed by artists few of us may know.
sound drop also features original tunes, which play during level selection and in levels where heroes get their Harmony Instrument, ancient artifacts that grant special abilities. The soundtrack is mostly made up of tracks by lesser-known indie musicians and they work perfectly alongside the action – as long as you follow the rhythm of the metronome at the bottom of the screen.
The main hook of the game is that players will get a bonus for attacking, dashing and dodging in time to the music. The on-screen metronome varies according to the tempo of the song, which is expressed in beats per minute (BPM). For example, Fly Fly Fly plays at 129 BPM, which is a good pace for players to space out their attacks between beats. If you attack the Discordians or rush on the beat, you become more powerful, gain a moment of invincibility, for a few moments, and maintain your chain. Execute your attacks out of rhythm, the chain breaks and your attacks aren’t as powerful, not to mention your weapon overheats.
The game uses gameplay elements from dance dance revolution, just dance, and Guitar Hero, and puts them all in a roguelike dungeon game. Instead of using a dance pad or a guitar, you just hit the beat with your hands on regular controllers, much like beatmania or the Crypt from the Necrodancer series.
An accessible pace
sound drop is a particularly accessible rhythm game thanks to its flexible difficulty levels. New difficulty modes are unlocked as characters level up (intermediate at 10, expert at 20). Even if a level defaults to the hardest difficulty, you have the option to recall it to Warm-Up if the increasing number of Discordians becomes too overwhelming for you, no matter how hard you try to strengthen the armor of your character and weapons. I managed to pass a few levels on medium difficulty, but mostly played on the easiest difficulty because I believe gameplay should be as relaxing as the music itself.
I like rhythm games as much as other game genres, but sound drop takes the genre to the next level. He takes every daydream I have of battling bad guys on my favorite songs and brings them to life, making each song a unique challenge. While many popular rhythm games feature a level of physical activity, sound drop doesn’t require you to get up and dance. You have permission to sit on your couch at home – or when you’re traveling somewhere if you’re playing the game on the Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck – and rock out to an eclectic playlist of songs from every genre as you loot and shoot through every dungeon and temple. The music particularly suits its polished presentation, which plays like a medley of Disney’s FancyUltra and Coachella.
If Drastic Games is a DJ, sound drop is dance floor, rhythm and music brought together in the greatest visual album the world has ever seen.
sound drop is available now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.