Indie Impressions: Cadence (Kickstarter Demo)

Music creation and editing software is something I’ve always been incredibly interested in learning how to use, but doing so is in a lot of ways like learning an entire new language. Though there have definitely been improvements in teaching newcomers how to use the software, by and large my experience has been loading a program up, being overwhelmed with toolbars, audio tracks, and more level adjusters than I can even begin to imagine what I’d do with them. So hearing about Cadence, I was immediately taken in by how its entire design is focused in the opposite direction of giving you millions of ways to adjust your sound, leaving you with a minimal but still highly functional and dynamic arrangement of tools to create loops which when layered form an actual song.

First let me clear one thing up: Cadence is not an audio editor, but rather a music focused puzzle game. You’re presented with a 3D arrangement of floating nodes, which when lines are drawn between them form repeating loops, each node adding its own sound to the mix. It’s an elegant and intuitive way of playing with music (even if it’s largely pre-made), with different nodes being introduced gradually but each providing another layer for you to branch off of, potentially differing drastically from how the puzzle was originally designed, but still giving you enough guidance that you don’t become lost with how many options are available to you.

cadence pic

Eventually puzzles start to incorporate multiple sets of nodes, giving you a virtual symphony to work with and the task of getting them to all play nice together. Initially I was afraid this was when the demo I was playing would start to leave me behind as I tried to fiddle with tools I only barely understood, but surprisingly that never happened. Everything about Cadence is so simple to understand but full of possibility that I welcomed everything new it gave me and readily set to work stringing them together and loving the result (the loops might be small but the sound is still consistently beautiful).

What really excites me about Cadence, though wasn’t something I was able to try in the demo, is the level editor that gives you free reign over every node, sound, and positioning that the games designers use to build the level. Potentially this could create a situation where the puzzles become a sort of tutorial to building music with the editor, teaching you how different nodes can best go together and the rules of how the game works, but in a way that’s far more engaging and fun than pretty much any music editor out there (at least any I’ve ever attempted to learn).

Cadence is still a fair ways off, but already impressively polished and showing loads of potential. Even if the editor doesn’t pan out like I hope, the puzzles alone are such an ingenious mix of musical experimentation and systemic efficiency (I swear it’s cooler than that sounds) that at the very least it will end up as one of the better puzzle games I’ve played in years, and certainly among the best sounding.

Impressions based off the public alpha demo available for free on Cadence is currently seeking crowfunding on Kickstarter.

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