I’ll start this by saying I’d never heard of the original (free) Soundodger when I set out to review this, but I’ve had a long love affair with beat games, fueled mostly by hours poured into FreQuency and its sequel Amplitude on the Playstation 2, Jumping into Soundodger+ was a no-brainer for me after some quick looking around to see what it was all about. It looked unique, interesting, and — perhaps most importantly — completely insane.
Boasting a robust list of unique tracks designed for the game, Soundodger+ has a good base to start from. The gameplay is deceptively simple, mixing elements of beat games with something along the lines of Japan’s bullet-hell shooters, merged together into a singular experience that has you, represented by a small white dot, dodging wave after wave of timed-to-the-tune projectiles. These projectiles sometimes come as simple solitary darts flying across the game’s round space, and sometimes come as long, sweeping rows of things screaming towards you or even stopping or reversing mid-flight. This all happens in reaction to the music with which the level is paired.
Each stage in the normal gameplay is represented by its track, with the producing artist noted along with the difficulty level, ranging from one to five. The simple design lends itself to easy pick up and play immersion; you receive some basic instruction to use the mouse to dodge incoming objects, as well as the use of a click-and-hold slow-motion for increased maneuverability at the cost of completion percent. The songs are typically electronic tunes, playing along the edges of trance, downtempo, and ambient styles (at least, what I’ve heard so far); more stages are unlocked by accumulating percentage totals by completing the available tracks.
I’m a fan of the types of music I’ve encountered, so that’s been a strong point. Soundodger+ also features an “Auto-Gen Mode” for using locally-stored MP3s (possibly other formats, as well; I haven’t tested), which works pretty well. I played around with a few genres just to see and each one worked out alright, though not as seamlessly timed as the in-game set list. There’s also an editor for creating stages for songs of your choosing, as well as a “user levels” option for sharing these with other players. I see a lot of promise here, and hope that I’ll get a chance to see what people create.
The gameplay, as I said, is pretty simple: Move your dot, avoid the incoming objects, and keep going. One of the game’s weakest points for me, came up very early – the “hit box” on the most-used projectile is really forgiving. “Wait, did that hit me, or did it not?” was floating through my mind for much of my first go — until something did hit me, and the extremely obvious effect rattled me quite a lot. I was left wondering how I’d dodged so many things that I thought had struck home. Also, you can pretty effectively dodge most things simply by flitting back and forth rapidly, even if you pass through solid lines of pointy enemies along the way. This is certainly a flaw.
All in all, Soundodger+ is a solid outing that I’ll certainly come back to, and I look forward to playing around with the stage building tool later, but the flaws that make certain objects too easy to avoid detract from the game, and there remain some issues with the Auto-Gen mode that make stage creation more tempting, and likely necessary for a truly excellent experience.
[+Solid soundtrack] [+Detailed custom level editor] [+Easy to pick up and play] [-Twitchy controls] [-Poorly mapped hit-boxes]