In The Sound Walk, a game of rhythm and reflex from developers CCCPlay, you play a disillusioned and regretful composer trudging through a strange world trying to recapture the lost fragments of your soul. See, you sold it in exchange for success, but in the end, just like everyone else, you've come to realise that maybe that wasn't such a good idea. How does one earn back their soul? Well, certain platinum blonde vampires will be shocked to learn that all it really takes is punching a bunch of ducks in the face and high-fiving some rabbits. And of course, you need to feel the beat.
Move through the stages hitting the appropriate [arrow] keys to dodge or hit incoming obstacles in time with the music; think Tomena Sanner minus some colours and the funky end-zone dance. Each time you miss a beat or get hit, the composer stumbles, the screen dims a little more, and he loses some of his life. You can regain life simply by stringing together a series of correct key presses, but if all your life runs out, you'll have to restart. Fortunately, at certain points, you can use the [arrow] keys to guide a bird to eat glowing dots! Why? Well, firstly, why not, and secondly, it fills up your Soul Power which, when activated with the [spacebar], makes you temporarily impervious to damage.
There are three difficulty stages, Dream, Nightmare, and Dementia, but only the last two grant achievements, which are necessary to unlock the final stage. The first two also feature guides; the arrows you need to hit are displayed below the obstacles. Handy, since the game demands a fairly precise amount of timing, and it'll take some trial and error to achieve.
Analysis: We are too easily won over by anything that even remotely resembles The Nightmare Before Christmas. I was a little suspicious that The Sound Walks' faintly familiar look was a ploy to win me over through nostalgia but, happily, it's definitely got its own vibe happening. Creature designs are weird and striking, and the mood set by the vaguely discordant soundtracks is only enhanced by the way the screen gets darker the more you fail. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, mind, but gosh that's pretty.
But while the dreamscape aesthetic and thumping soundtrack is undeniably appealing, somewhat less so is the nagging feeling that the game could have used a bit more polish. The obstacles you face on each level change according to your difficulty setting, but the music does not, making it too hard to rely on the beat of the rhythm itself. The game is extremely graphic intensive, and the slightest burp from your computer can cause the game to hitch and start missing notes and hemorrhaging points so hard it can be impossible to recover from at higher difficulties. I also wish the narrative had been implemented better; the various places you go and the creatures you encounter are visually striking, but don't appear to represent anything in particular. This means that while the game is interesting, it doesn't feel particularly meaningful, and it feels like the game misses out on the chance to tell a story in a really clever way.
Just because it doesn't measure up to what I personally wanted out of it, however, doesn't mean The Sound Walk isn't good. "Huh, that was cool," is just as valid as "Wow, that was amazing", and while The Sound Walk doesn't quite reach the latter, it easily reaches the former. If you've got the fingers for it (and the computer), it's a weird and satisfying little ramble through another world set to a catchy beat.