Cadence: Where Physics And Music Fall In Love

By John Walker on March 5th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

When you watch the first-look video for Cadence, a self-described “zen-like audio-generative puzzle game”, you’re going to stare blankly for the first 40 seconds, unsure why this black and grey thing should be of interest. Then at 41 seconds you’ll go, “Ooooh.” If you don’t, it means you’re rubbish, so you’d best not admit to it.

The purpose of the game is to connect “nodes” together with lines, in order to build circuits down which musical pulses can travel – each level’s goal is to create a constantly looping sound. It starts off fairly simply, before introducing concepts like logic gates in a friendly fashion. Take a look:

Creator Peter Cardwell-Gardner was formerly a sound engineer, and you can see the logical progression. This is physics meets sounds meets puzzles, and the resulting effects seem very enticing to me. I’d quite happily listen to those little musical bursts for an afternoon, calming my frantic, angry brain.

The game is still in development, but there’s an online demo you can click at. This lets you get a good feel for the style of puzzles, and also shows how arrghghnnnggghh it is when you make a mistake, the nasty sound spoiling the harmonious atmosphere. It’s very smart – the harmonising, the discordance – I rather like this.

And of course there’s a Greenlight page to vote up. Which you definitely should, for the studio name alone: Made With Monster Love.

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  1. P7uen says:

    I always like the idea of these things, but then they always turn out quite limited and I give up or get bored, like with Electroplankton.

  2. mikmanner says:

    One of the problems with audio puzzle games I’ve found is that the player ends up hearing the same looping sections while they’re figuring out how to solve the puzzle, it’s a real creative challenge to make it so that what the player hears doesn’t annoy or intrude in the thought process of solving the puzzle.

    • Premium User Badge Tinus says:

      It’s a neat puzzle game for sure, I’d play it. But yes, you’re on to something.

      This is a game about graph theory, not about sound or music. That’s not a bad thing by any means, I like graphs. But the puzzles are about manipulating signal flow through graphs, and any resulting musical structure is seems purely incidental and optional. You could probably play this game without the sound off, right?

      (Edit: Oh hai, it’s you!)

      • mikmanner says:

        Hey man! Yeah it’s not an ‘audio puzzle’, the music is reactive. I’ve yet to play a game where you solve puzzles by listening, I prototyped an idea once where you’d have to select the correct elements of a loop of music from a group of objects which all emitted layers of music, only some of them were actually from the main loop…it didn’t really work. haha

        • Premium User Badge Tinus says:

          I think that’s the thing: correctness. When it comes to music, what does ‘correct’ even mean? The notion of correctness lacks ambiguity, which music is full of.

          My guess would be that the first good music game will be a not-game. The concept of goals would need to retire for it to really work. That’s not to say lack of direction is a good thing, but that problem solving in systems might be too constrictive a framework.

          • mikmanner says:

            See my idea was that the target loop you needed to piece together the elements of was the ‘correctness’ – the target loop was the same as the picture on the front of a puzzle box. But I totally love your idea of a not-game music puzzle thing, where correctness, or the goals of the puzzle is based on what YOU think is correct. Interesting.

          • Kasper says:

            Yeah, I agree. It’s really tricky to make a music game where both the gameplay (in a traditional sense) AND the music is the focus of the interaction. Being musically creative often takes the backseat and instead the problem solving becomes the main focus – with the music being something reactive in the background, like mentioned above.

            In the example with Cadence, I think the music experience could be made stronger if the music didn’t stop when you completed a puzzle – but it instead kept playing and the music of the new puzzle would be layered on top of music from the previous puzzle(s). That way you’d have more musical continuity and it would feel like one, coherent piece of music that slowly evolves.

            I’m working on interactive music projects myself with my design group bitCrushers. We’ve created an interactive prototype of a concept that’s a bit in the opposite ditch: an interactive music sandbox that’s a bit like a game interaction-wise, but without actual gameplay in the traditional sense. There are some demo videos at if anyone is interested.

          • hwan says:

            Finely said.
            And as it stands the creation of music itself feels like the most appropriate game of/about/facilitator of music.

      • Premium User Badge particlese says:

        For some reason, my morning-brain translated “Oh hai, it’s you!”…”Hey man!” into “omg mikmanner==Tinus”, which made this conversation rather amusing.

        On-topic, though, the one game I’ve played with vaguely similar musical puzzle-solving was Auditorium, which I liked enough to back the “sequel” on Kickstarter. Definitely good for just chilling out, as mentioned in the article, although Auditorium’s solutions are a bit fuzzier/analoguier/continuous than Cadence’s. My least-favorite part was that the loops weren’t timed quite right or had built-in reverb, so there was a big auditory discontinuity every time the loops looped. Cadence seems like it’ll avoid that by being synthesized or using finer-grained sound bites.

      • meepmeep says:

        Indeed, it’s just a graph-solving game, which is not intuitive if you don’t know the methods, and not interesting if you do. I don’t really see how the musical element adds to this, or even how it relates to the gameplay at all.

  3. Beernut says:

    I can see myself liking it, but I don’t see any mechanic that couldn’t have been implemented in 2d as well (obviously with cornered lines or curves instead of straight connections). Puzzles in 3d, which have to be rotated and zoomed in and out obscure the actual problem and should only be used iff absolutely necessary imho.