I spent last week playing Beyond: Two Souls and The Wolf Among Us, two games that minimized game mechanics in order to tell a story. This week, I decided to do something completely different and Soundodger+ certainly fits the bill. Soundodger has no plot, no themes, and no characters. The game is just you, the music, and a ton of projectiles.
The best way to describe Soundodger+ is 'minimalist'. You control a simple white circle that sits at the center of a larger circle. At the edges on this sphere are more orbs that produce projectiles in time with the music. These projectiles come in three forms: cones that travel in a straight line, larger spheres that roll slowly through your play area, or cubes the home in on you for a short period of time. If you get hit, the song fast-forwards a bit and gives you a few seconds of invincibility. Soundodger+ feels like a musical game of dodgeball. For the best score, you don't want to get hit.
The controls are simplistic. There's only two inputs: movement with the mouse or analog stick on your controller, and slowing down time with the left mouse button (or A on the Xbox 360 PC controller). Simple controls and the spartan nature of the graphics means there's very little to get in the way of you playing the game. And that's perfect.
Soundodger+ is about you being pulled towards the music and being pushed away from it at the same time. When I was playing with a great song, I was grooving with the music, but the music is also creating the virtual minefield for me to navigate. There are moments with a great song where the world just melts away, leaving me in a very zen place. Getting hit and having the song fast-forward interrupts that; Soundodger+ gets you to the point that you want to keep your flow going even more than you want to get a perfect score. That's two ways of coming at the same reality, but the difference is key to the game.
And hey, if you want to get a feel for Soundodger+, you can play the free version online right now. The '+' indicates a few extras over the free game. There's new songs along for the ride, including pieces from Fez composer Disasterpeace, Journey composer Austin Wintory, and Super Meat Boy and Canabalt composer Danny Baranowsky. Steam Achievements have been added, if that's your sort of thing.
But really, your $7.99 - $5.99 until October 18th! - is buying two additional gameplay modes. The first is Auto-Gen Mode, which allows you to choose any MP3 in your collection and have Soundodger+ automatically create a level for you. Like AudioSurf, this was my go-to gameplay mode after spending some time with the 'real' levels. I've been using Spotify Premium for all my music needs for around 8 months, so I haven't purchased an MP3 is a while, but Soundodger+ had me on Amazon buying my recent favorites just to play them in the game. I'm sure that's a win for musical artists or something.
The second additional mode is for those who really want the levels to match their songs: Editor Mode. In the Editor you can take a particular song and hand-craft your own Soundodger+ levels. Here you can choose what type of bullets come your way, when they come, and the spin rate of the outer orbs. Studio Bean, the developer of Soundodger and Soundodger+, has created a series of videos showing players how to use the Editor here. It's a nice extra bit for fans, but I didn't have the patience to sit through editing one of my own songs. You can download levels from other users, which means there could be a strong community component keeping the game alive.
Soundodger+ is a great little game that can occupy the extra moments of your life. It's small, it loads up quickly, it runs on my low-end laptop, and my gaming sessions can be as long or as short as I want. Soundodger+ provides all the excitement of bullet hell shooters, but with a calming flow to keep you grounded. It's a beautifully-crafted game and it's well worth the asking price.
- Visuals: There's not much here, but that's a good thing. The graphics are simple and to the point. Some of the amazing color combinations and patterns found in the songs are works of art.
- Music: It's a music game, so the soundtrack is absolutely amazing. It's very dance and electronic heavy, but if that's not your speed, you can always use your own songs.
- Interface: The UI is as minimal as the game. Soundodger+ only has two inputs, but that's all you really need.
- Lasting Appeal: You can play forever if the mood strikes you, hopping from song to song in your collection. Or you can try some of the user-created levels. Soundodger+ should never get old.