Signal to Noise Makes Me Want to Turn The Radio Off
Signal to Noise has a lot of ambitious goals in mind. The game is an arcade shooter that generates based on music you play. There’s a level of rhythm to it based on this information but that’s not entirely accurate which I’ll get into later. Arcade space shooting with whatever soundtrack I choose? Count me in! Then I played it. In Signal to Noise you fly a ship that can rotate around a tunnel a la Tempest. Some spikey things show up. Some electrical things show up. You can shoot all of them and sometimes you get points? Power ups exist and you can use them, too?
If I seem unsure about the actual features in the game it’s because the game makes no effort to make anything intuitive. Outside of shooting and flying around it’s hard to tell what’s a power up and what’s an enemy. Beyond that it feels like you’re button mashing through a screen saver. I don’t need a game to run on the Crysis engine to enjoy it. The visuals aren’t really an issue except that the models used as enemies often look like spaceship candy if it were any other shoot-em-up. They unfortunately were not.
I tried several different tracks to see how the game would respond and it just didn’t line up. Starting with a quiet track and moving into something more aggressive I felt like the game definitely generated more stuff on screen, but unfortunately this didn’t hold up. The next play through I switched the tracks up and the game felt the same as the last round. It didn’t matter if I was listening to acoustic tracks or grindcore the game sort of threw stuff at me and eventually landed at a floating skull boss that could be killed sitting still and mashing fire. The game repeats after that. There isn’t any other game here to discuss, either. Your options are start, exit, and options. Once you’ve played Signal to Noise for a couple minutes you’ve basically played everything it has to offer.
The playlists play awkwardly, too. It would make sense if the game stopped for a moment when the tempo changed or volume got quiet but it switches from level segment to level segment without any regard to what’s playing. As a song finishes it starts to loop back then cuts to the next song with a harsh gap.
I did find a fun moment when I accidentally started the game with no sound. All I got was a gnarly feedback loop and an empty tunnel of nothing. It felt so existential. Then I got depressed and started the game over.
The thing about Signal to Noise is that all of these big ideas are just that. Ideas. There’s no real substance to give any satisfaction to the features it promises. The biggest part of the game is the music generated levels and the many different tracks I chose made me realize it feels completely arbitrary. Signal to Noise wants to do a lot of things that have been done a lot smoother and it just doesn’t. There are other games out there like Audiosurf that have a similar approach Signal to Noise claims. Not only that, but the titles are significantly cheaper and much higher quality, so I’d spend your time and money elsewhere this time around.
Final Verdict: 2 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Solanimus; Developer: Solanimus ; Released: November 20, 2015 ; MSRP: $12.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Signal to Noise’s Publisher Solanimus.