Music is a captivating piece of art that some of us (almost) can’t live without. Urges to scream, cry, move, dance, and swing comes from music. However, we don’t have a context for what our music looks like. We can feel the waves and listen to the ripples, but we can’t see any of it. Thus, we end up looking at Studio Bean’s Soundodger+, the commercial version of an Adult Swim Flash game that definitely knows how to connect the player to the music.
Soundodger is a bullet hell of sorts, like Jamestown and the Touhou Project, but with an overall emphasis on music. The player guides a circle past multiple obstacles that aim to freak out the music upon colliding with your mouse cursor. With some of the most calming songs by popular indie game musicians like lifeformed, Danny Baronowski, Disasterpiece, and Austin Wintory, the game set itself in a way where every fast-forward feels frustrating and slowing down the song feels degrading.
It sounds horrible to say that a game makes you feel terrible, but for Soundodger, this adds to the overall experience of the game. Every level feels like a whole new landscape with different elements. Every song formats their colors, arrow strings, and enemy layouts to make you feel like you’re running through a brand new world, exploring each song for what it really is, almost as if painting a canvas through playing each level. The player is immersed into the songs they play until they run into an oncoming obstacle.
As a bullet-hell, Soundodger is a hard game. Obstacles are coming from all over the game board, with swirling circles throwing the player off as they try to figure out where to move next. To make the game easier, by a click of the left-mouse button, you slow down the song, thus breaking the immersion and feel of the song in order to survive the onslaught of the level. When you run into an obstacle, every arrow, square, and giant sphere, upon collision, throws the song into a mess and fast-forwards into awkward parts of the song, thus in a way breaking the level. You don’t want this – you want to hear the whole song, but the game makes it hard for you to achieve that victory. However, because of the difficulty, beating a level with 100% feels incredible.
Studio Bean definitely knew what songs he had to put into Soundodger. Each song is calm, soothing, and mellow. If at some point, the beat breaks, you would feel bad because the song feels ruined. In terms of pure game design, the game literally is a magic circle where the objective is to remain within the confines of that magic circle. Breaking the music gets you pumped to play the level again for that 100%.
In terms of special features included in Soundodger+, there is a local level editor along with a song auto-generator that creates levels based off of your MP3s. There is hope for the ability to share your levels/songs, but that is hope for the future.
Soundodger is a beautiful game that easily entrances and hooks players into music. Of course, in order to fully experience each song, the player has to be really skilled. Regardless, if you’re someone who likes a good challenge, play Soundodger. If not, buy the soundtrack for the game. You won’t be disappointed.