Signal to Noise is Audiosurf meets a bullet hell shmup by way of Super Hexagon. If you love all of those games then the sheer gameplay is going to appeal to you, even if the rest of the package doesn’t.
For £9.99 you don’t really get a lot with Single to Noise, or you get loads, depending on your perspective. There are literally unlimited levels as you just select a music track (some are provided but the real idea is you use your own) then play through it. There’s a handful of different ships but only one mode and no multiplayer to speak of. There are leaderboards but they are hidden away in a difficult to use menu and the rest of the game is just as barebones. There isn’t some spectacular climax to each song, it just cuts out abruptly and tells you your score.
The actual game part involves gliding down a tunnel shooting enemies, collecting pickups and avoiding obstacles. You can scoot left and right around the circumference or you can jump up to land on the opposite side. There’s no controller support here, it’s all keyboard based so it feels a little weird hitting ‘enter’ to fire your pathetic little laser gun. The enemies you face are as consigned to the walls as you are so it can sometimes be hard to judge exactly where they are (they’re also coming towards you) and the art is a horrible mess of polygons and particle effects that would be put to shame by the free games that can with my Voodoo2 Graphics Card that I got in 1999.
The joy to be had comes from recognising how the obstacles and enemies respond to the music, and then applying that knowledge to glide through without taking a hit, racking up huge scores. Unfortunately without easy to use leaderboards and with a menu that often stalls and hangs, the scores feel a little empty and hollow. It’s not like Super Hexagon where you can reset and instantly try to better yourself, everything feels a little bit slow and clunky. This isn’t helped by the fact that songs naturally often have slow beginnings and endings leading to downtimes in the gameplay with nothing really to do. Every now and then a boss is thrown your way as a giant floating skull but as far as we can tell it doesn’t actually do anything to you, you just keep hitting enter until it explodes, then you fly away boringly from the explosion collecting powerups. There’s no sense of danger or urgency. Indeed if you do die (as you will if you make the mistake we did and start off with a ‘Faint’ track) the button to simply continue is the same as the shoot button, so if you’re hammering away you probably won’t even notice that you died.
Overall Signal to Noise comes across as far more noise than signal. This is a mess of a game that has a great little piece of music analysis tech hidden away somewhere at its heart. If you’re desperate for a new arcade twitch reflexes game and have grown bored of Audiosurf, by all means give it a go, but Audiosurf is by far the better game and Audiosurf 2 can be found for much cheaper than this.