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Soul Fjord Review

Soul Fjord (1)

Mash-ups are hardly a new phenomenon for the game industry. NES titles such as Pinball Quest and River City Ransom shrewdly combined genres- while even earlier, coin-ops like Gorf and Tron attracted players by merging a variety of play modes. The recent release of Soul Fjord for the OUYA attempts a much more ambitious feat- uniting elements of the beat ‘em up, rhythm game, and Rogue-like into a cohesive and engaging experience. Although the free-to-play title has a number of minor flaws and in its current state is prone to the sporadic crash, the game certainly deserves an audition by owners of the cubic console.

Soul Fjord’s opening cinematic exposes protagonist Magnus Jones tragic ejection from a Valhallan discotheque, tasking the hero with scaling back up Yggdrasil and seeking retribution against the Nordic bouncer responsible for the snub. In execution, this entails guiding Jones through a succession of procedurally-generated levels, tapping out sequences of precisely timed combos, and managing an inventory of weapons, armor, and consumables.

Soul Fjord (4)

Traveling through networks of rooms, the indefatigable lead character is shadowed by a scrolling metronome. Pressing one of the two main attack button on beat invites players to tap out a chain of cadenced button presses. While matching the rhythm of the on-screen indicator issues a substantial amount of damage, flubbing a sequence isn’t entirely futile- enemies will still lose a bit of health. Likewise, grooving to the tempo of the game is an important component of defense. Holding down one of the shoulder buttons to block is helpful to reduce the potency of incoming strikes, but deftly timing the hoist of your shield proves to be far more effective. Yet, the most efficient tactic is dodging attacks with the dash maneuver- which proves invaluable against the teleporting opponents and traps which emerge later in the game.

Pleasingly, the different weapons which Jones picks up provide different combo opportunities, endowing the game with a feint Patapon-like vibe. Yet, where combat in the Japan Studio-developed title was easy to follow thanks to a linear progression, occasionally Soul Fjord surrounds the protagonist with attacking adversaries, which makes staying on beat downright difficult. The other problem arises from players being forced to rely on the game’s visual indicators rather than tapping buttons rhythmically due to the inclusion of half notes in some of the combos. Ideally, the game’s action would have been better synchronized with the basslines of the Fjord’s soundtrack.

Soul Fjord (2)

The title’s Rogue-like heritage is evident across the game’s loot system and its approach towards fatalities. Overcoming opponents and rupturing containers rewards players with a liberal supply of amusingly-named goods which help to augment Jones’ stats. While these superior sundries help the hero confront an increasingly formidable procession of foes, they are lost when Jones dies. Mercifully, the game’s collectables- records, permit players to “soulbind”, allowing these artifacts to be kept for a future playthrough. Herein lies Soul Fjord’s monetization methods- allowing gamers to purchase supplemental disks for real-world currency. Pleasingly, the game can be completed without expenditure- but be warned, the compulsion to retain effective or comical gear can be quite strong.

Soul Fjord’s amalgam of genres is matched by its imaginative aesthetics. Blending Nordic lore, a funk soundtrack, and grindhouse film grain, the game’s dissimilar influences congeal together agreeably, creating a context which feels enjoyably fresh. Certainly, the title’s visual output is to be commended- detailed sprites and brightly hued backdrops help Soul Fjord become one of the OUYA’s most attractive offerings. Unfortunately, the game’s performance doesn’t always match its graphical prowess- during ten hours of play, Fjord froze three times.

Soul Fjord (5)

Save for a few issues, the game’s seemingly incongruous combination of genres and influences succeeds – delivering an appealing and delightfully quirky game. If developer Airtight Games could smooth over some of Fjord’s craggy marks, there’s little doubt that Magnus Jones could ascend not only into Club Valhalla- but also into the hearts of the OUYA community.

Mash-ups are hardly a new phenomenon for the game industry. NES titles such as Pinball Quest and River City Ransom shrewdly combined genres- while even earlier, coin-ops like Gorf and Tron attracted players by merging a variety of play modes. The recent release of Soul Fjord for the OUYA attempts a much more ambitious feat- uniting elements of the beat ‘em up, rhythm game, and Rogue-like into a cohesive and engaging experience. Although the free-to-play title has a number of minor flaws and in its current state is prone to the sporadic crash, the game certainly deserves an audition by…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 80%
Controls - 70%
Aesthetics - 80%
Content - 75%
Accessibility - 80%

77%

Good

Summary : Soul Fjord’s unlikely concoction of brawler, rhythm game and Rogue-like largely works, thanks to pleasing gameplay and a micro-transaction model that’s equitable.

User Rating: 3.83 ( 4 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

20 comments

  1. Wow, an Ouya review? Didn’t expect that today.

  2. Wasn’t this supposed to be the ouya’s killer app? I don’t think the system will live another year. Just too much competition.

  3. I have two issues with the Ouya that need to be fixed before I can enjoy the system.

    1) Wi-fi connectivity. Look on any OUYA forum and you’ll see a ton of people having problems getting their OUYA to download.

    2) Controller lag. Its in almost every game and it’s pretty bad. It makes 60 FPS games feel slow.

  4. Licensed music or generic funk?

  5. If the original OUYA’s dropped a bit in price, I’d pick one up just to play around with. I heard there’s a lot of free games on the system.

    • Yeah its called emulation or piracy is most circles.

      • EMULATIONPIRACY.

        If you purchased the game and still own it, playing it on another system is legal. It’s similar to cracking DVD encryption to get to the data which you own on the disk.

  6. Good review Robert. Ive been hearing about the game for a while. Glad it turned out to be pretty decent. I’d definitely try it if I had an Ouya.

  7. A brawler and rhythm games DOES seem like an odd fit, but like you mentioned Patapon kind of pulled it off.

    Glad to see more indie games being covered here.

  8. I played for about an hour. I just couldn’t get into the rhythm part of the game especially when enemies spammed you all around. I did like the Rogue parts of the game.

    Maybe if there was the option to slow down the speed of the game.

  9. The Ouya still hasn’t won me over yet. At this rate, I don’t know if it ever will.

    • Seriously, give it a try. It’s not a $400-$500 console experience. It’s a $100 box that plays Android games, streams, and is fun to hack.

  10. Just watched a video for SF. Looks pretty cool. Glad its not pay to win, or is it?