Wot I Think: Soundodger

By Nathan Grayson on June 19th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

If I had been in charge of naming Soundodger, it would probably be called “Don’t Fuck Up Don’t Fuck Up Don’t Fuck Up: The Game.” But I guess that’s not entirely accurate, because your goal in this delightful (and free) magical rainbow rhythm triangle avalanche is to avoiding fucking up the soundtrack, not the game. Each song (from folks like Fez collaborator Disasterpeace, I might add) slings singing daggers of pure sound in your general direction, and you have to skirt each pattern’s edges just so to avoid them. Fail, and the song gets broken into a billion screaming pieces by a hideous record scratch and a sudden, music-less void. It’s a brief, largely inconsequential, er, consequence, but the soundtrack is so good and the flow of each pattern so satisfying that it’s physically painful to ruin them.

But once you get into the zone, well, let’s put it this way: I just got done playing for waaaay too long, and each time I blink, I see triangles. Glance quickly in any direction? Triangles. You are triangles. I am triangles.

This one first made its way into the public eye during GDC’s Experimental Gameplay Workshop, and its musical pseudo-bullet-hell stylings have come along very, very nicely since then. The act of playing is incredibly simple: just move your mouse cursor and avoid triangles, then let gorgeously stylish visuals practically suck you into the screen while songs that range from chirpy chiptune to sparse synth to dubstep flood your ears. Needless to say, this one is best experienced with headphones.

The twist, however, is that holding down the left mouse button lets you drop in and out of a time-and-music-sludge-ifying slow-mo as you please – but at the cost of any points you’d normally gain when triangles make it to their destination without going through you.

So it’s a balancing act. Normally, I try to go through without using slow-mo at all, though I do have to admit that a couple songs sound even better with a digitized turtle manning the synth. Each song’s pattern is custom-made, though, so there’s a lot of diversity and personality throughout. Sometimes, it felt like songs were attacking me – sending volleys whistling toward my jugular (or whatever the amorphous circle blob anatomy equivalent is), but only as a setup. I’d dodge predictably, and – boomthudwhudcatscreechdeathyodel – slam right into a single, insidiously well-placed triangle.

But other times, it was all about trusting a song’s ebb and flow. Triangles would begin to assemble into these massive, rolling waves, and survival was as simple as finding the rhythm and riding them – circling and circling, as though dancing both to the music and with it.

Other times still, I wasn’t even dealing with triangles at all. Lumbering blobs, me-seeking diamonds, and other devil shapes weaved their way into musical quilts that were doing their damndest to smother me, and the end result was nearly overwhelming – but not quite. The difficulty curve arced nicely too, such that each new wrinkle knocked me off my “Yeah, I’ve totally mastered this game” pedestal, but all the king’s soldiers and all the king’s men were still able to put me back together again. Just barely.

That said, I do feel like Soundodger has one fairly fundamental flaw. Now, “fundamental” is usually a Big And Scary word in games writing, but I’m definitely not trying to say that the game’s broken or anything like that. Rather, its core punishment for failure – a brief yet jarring stop to the music – totally killed whatever flow I had going before some wave of musical demon teeth sheered me into ribbons. In essence, messing up once meant that I was much more likely to mess up again. And again. And again. Now, there is a “Zen Mode” that strips out the sudden stop, but it doesn’t count your score or aid in unlocking new songs. It’s more of a training mode, if anything.

There really is a lot to love about Soundodger, though. It’s an incredibly simple concept executed with oodles (and perhaps even kaboodles) of style, a truly excellent fusion of sound and mechanics. Also, there’s just something delightfully hilarious to me about taking a selection of largely soothing-to-the-point-of-snoozing tunes and turning them into the most stressful activity on Earth.

So now it’s going to be kind of weird for me to tell you that you should at least stick with it until you reach your first, er, dubstep song. Just trust me on this one. If you want some crazy erratic (yet impressively choreographed) triangle patterns, look no further. You know that thing dubstep does where everything stops and then moves violently back and forth, and pretty much everyone makes fun of it? Well, it’s in the game, in its own hilarious way. It’s brilliant little details like those that make Soundodger so great.

But enough from me. Soundodger’s free, so you should go play it. Plus, I haven’t even beat all the advanced versions of the (sadly limited; here’s hoping for more in the future) song selection yet, so I’m going to scatter into an elaborate flock of triangles and reform in front of the game now. Up, up, and awaWUBWUBWUBWUB.

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20 Comments »

  1. Zanchito says:

    The game didn’t do much for me, but I enjoyed quite a bit some of the groups and will be looking for more of their stuff. Thank you!

  2. InnerPartisan says:

    Hmm. Sounds a bit dodgy to me.

    (Oh my god I AM SORRY!)

  3. Premium User Badge

    DrScuttles says:

    When I played the first song I got a satisfyingly high percentage. The next one I went for was all fast and stressful and I failed over and over. That made me sad. Apart from that, it’s a nice take on the music game.

  4. riverman says:

    it’s like those top down shooty bullet dodgy games but without the part I don’t like (the shooting); sold!

  5. nimzy says:

    Of course, Mr. Grayson. In the world of video games it’s triangles all the way down.

  6. SuicideKing says:

    Also in the news: Game sharing coming to Steam!

  7. dE says:

    So how long til someone makes a Through Fire and Flame Youtube Video of it?

    • The Random One says:

      Thirty seconds longer than it’ll take for someone to make a Bangarang video of it.

  8. Servicemaster says:

    Whoa! The song Katapult made me GIGGLE. That was a weird feeling. I was all, “triangles what are you doing, oh heehee NO NO heeheeheheee”

    That was strangely intense. And now I patiently wait for the spotify playlist.

  9. MichaelPalin says:

    Yes, yes, nice game and all, but Microsoft has just backpedaled from DRMing disc-based games on the Xbone. What does it say from us PC gamers when we are letting Valve and EA still do the same with Steam and Origin!?

    • SuicideKing says:

      They actually have. People are calling it the Xbone 180 now XD

  10. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    Quite nice, surprisingly generous collision detection as well, which is nice in one of these “oh my good the bullets I’m going to die” games.

    For those who do like themselves to be ridiculously challenged (anyone who completed Super Hexagon springs to mind) there’s something that can only be unlocked by collecting a heart near the start of each of the advanced levels and not getting hit again until the end of it. That sort of nonsense is way beyond me though.

    Had my fill and enjoyed it. Some nice music, fits in well with the flow of the game, rather enjoyed it. Would be quite neat as a “play with your own music” game but I suspect that would be a tricky thing to accomplish( (the levels definitely seem hand crafted to me, or near as makes no difference).

  11. arche.exe says:

    “…has had new English-language localisation to improve the shonky voice-acting that the game suffered on released.”

    Is that sort of irony?

  12. Curundir says:

    Language error: “because your goal in this delightful (and free) magical rainbow rhythm triangle avalanche is to avoiding fucking up the soundtrack”

    In short: “your goal is to avoiding fucking up”

    Also, the screenshots seem like 4:3 stretched to widescreen, while the video has correct aspect ratio.