On paper, it works like a dream. Vikings mixed with 70’s Funk and a cracking art style. Hell, your character is called Magnus Jones – how cool is that? And it does work, really – it’s just a bit of a shame that unless you’ve got an Ouya console, you won’t be able to play it, and even if you do, there’s just not enough here to blow minds.
The story isn’t particularly deep, but it serves its purpose in setting up the game. Surreptitiously refused entry by the bouncers of the hottest club, Magnus (or you, really) needs to fight through randomly generated dungeons full of colourful enemies and collectibles. Let’s face it, everyone will have played a dungeon crawler by now, so to grab you, a game has to offer something unique, which Soul Fjord actually does pretty well. Combat is played out as you’d expect, but with a twist: this is a rhythm game! As you wander around, a constant stream of circles will roll across the screen, and once you start a combo it will change to the next button required to maintain it. It sounds complicated, and it is to begin with.
The biggest problem here is that the very nature of the music makes it awkward to get into the rhythm. It often feels like you aren’t in time, so instead of playing to the music, you end up playing to the visual representation of the music.
It’s standard fare elsewhere, though, and grabbing experience through combat allows you to upgrade, but it’s the art-style and audio that keeps you going. In fact, perseverance with the combat system is achieved simply because of the desire to see more of this world. It’s difficult to get to grips with at first, I really can’t stress that enough. The soundtrack that you’ll be playing to is excellent, but given the repetitive nature of the gameplay, more variation would be welcome.
Magnus is fully customisable, thanks to all the loot you’ll be picking up on your travels. Thankfully, while the items you collect do offer cosmetic changes, they also actually change your stats and skills, too. Soul Fjord does have in-app purchases, but confusingly it seems that you can play it without ever needing to use them. It’s rare to see a developer choose to not nickel-and-dime the customer in this fashion, and that should be celebrated.
But the trouble is, even the art style can’t save Soul Fjord from ultimately being a bland experience. The unique ideas are initially welcome – it’s nice to play a game that you actually have to think about for a change, mechanically – but when they play out over only a few levels, with such a high degree of repetition, there’s a chance you’re going to have had your fill of things before ever considering playing it on a higher difficulty level, or shelling out money.
VERDICT: At worst, Soul Fjord can be a bit boring, but at best it’s a creative iteration on a well-trodden genre. If you’ve got an Ouya already, it’s a no brainer that you at least fire up the game to try it out – but it’s hard to recommend anyone go and buy a console to play it. The Ouya needs exclusives, and it needs inventive ideas like Soul Fjord, but it alone can’t sell the device.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.
Review code provided by publisher.