LOUD lets you live through the origin story of a young rockstar one song at a time. hitting the digital shelves late February of 2023, LOUD is an arcade rhythm game with 100% original beats and a whole lot of personality to show. We play as Astrid, a young girl with huge dreams of playing music for millions and being among the greats.
The game opens up with a “best played on controller” notice, so this is exactly how I approached my playthrough. Once we navigate through the menus and jump in we’re greeted by a static cutscene introducing our main character as she lists through her favorite musicians with a broom ready in hand to air guitar her way to the top. Once we’re through the cutscene we’re greeted with a pinup board showing different polaroid’s and adding more as we progress through the story, this serves as the game’s main song selection board for the story mode as well as giving away little bits of story pieces with every new polaroid added. Each period of Astrid’s life contains an introductory cutscene, 3 songs and an ending cutscene that progresses the story forward. After the first cutscene its right into some broom air guitar gameplay as we’re lead into our first song, which also serves as a tutorial for the controls of the game.
The arcade style controls stand out distinctly from more traditional rockband-esque rhythm games. The game is mainly controlled by the by the outer directional keys on the D pad towards the left and the Y B and A keys on the right, each key corresponding to a particular line of notes on screen to be pressed as indicated. The game also highlights 3 different actions to be performed while playing through the songs, there’s the singular star indicators which simply require a single button press once they approach the correct note timing, then there is the line indicator which requires the player to hold down the corresponding button as long as the line remains on screen, and lastly there is the mashing indicator, depicted as a swirly line that passes through the notes during which the player must mash the corresponding button. With the variety of button actions and combinations the gameplay is able to masterfully weave through different song pieces providing just enough control variety to allow an immersive song playing experience. One thing that did bother me throughout playing though, was the face that the shape of the indicators did not line up with the end of the line that highlights the correct timing to hit each button, a lot of rhythm games do this so that a player is able to use pattern recognition and see when the shapes line up to time their button presses perfectly, however because due to the shapes and indicators being slightly different here, this type of secondary timing technique is not very easy to pull off and can sometimes throw you off and result in you missing a note.
With 3 different difficulty levels and 18 songs plus a few bonus tracks, LOUD is definitely able to keep players engaged in its rhythm gameplay. It took me around an hour and a half to fully play through the story in the lowest difficulty however going back to perfect each song on each difficulty has surely resulted in multiple hours of play time, and this is before even trying the bonus tracks and potential unlockable hidden content.
Graphically, LOUD presents itself with a simple 2d illustrated style, with each section of Astrid’s journey revealing a new character style, instrument and stage; displaying a myriad of vibrant colors to truly give each section its own personality. The cutscenes while very minimally animated are able to quite nicely convey the personality and thought of our main character in that particular story section. One thing I will point out however is the games tendency to tell instead of showing. Many times I found myself just staring at a barely animated image during a cutscene while the character goes on to describe multiple things that I am not really seeing on screen, the character does eventually hit upon what has been shown and illustrated but this can very easily take the player out of the immersive experience.
LOUD could also use some work in the story department. While it is true that the story is very much not the main focus of the game, even then it comes off a bit too predictable and linear. Astrid goes from air guitaring on a broom in her bedroom to playing in front of thousands at a music festival in a matter of what seems like minutes and during this time we barely get a few glimpses into her true character. There’s hints here and there of who Astrid is as a person and her history, provided to us through the cutscenes as well as character outfit descriptions, however this personality seems to have little bearing on the plot. There is an instance where Astrid expresses her discomfort with one of her producers making unwelcomed advances at her, this story beat is resolved in just two lines, with our main character simply explaining how they complained about the producer and thus he was replaced. There are no repercussions of this event on the overall story and Astrid continues on with her music career, with the plot not even acknowledging any difference. Even when the game’s main selling point isn’t its story line, a story that can immerse the player and keep them engaged is a truly important aspect of any game and LOUD sadly falls short in its narrative.
With all of its rocking tunes and difficulty, even with the story falling a little short, I found myself deeply enjoying my experience with LOUD. I see myself definitely sinking a few mores hours into the game, making sure I am able to gain at least an S rank on each song and even looking through the achievements to see what different experiences may be lurking within.
With its gripping arcade rhythm gameplay I give LOUD a 7.5/10.
It successfully achieves what it sets out to do however it could use some polish in the way it presents itself and its story.