Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: Beat Hazard

Beat Hazard (2010)
Developer: Cold Beam Games
Platform: Personal Computer
Induction Date: 04/19/2010

Music engagement and visualization at their best.

So we have seen how our favorite collection of music would look and feel like as a racing track and a puzzle game in Audiosurf but have you ever wondered how they would manifest as a shoot-'em-up? Games like Rez and Every Extend Extra have both experimented with such combination before - with Rez ended being a total masterpiece - but they both fall short compared to this little indie game called Beat Hazard. After first making an appearance on the X-Box 360 last year, the game is released in its complete form for the Personal Computer and if you like listening to music or you enjoy shmup or you like them both equally, you will absolutely love Beat Hazard.

The game has twin bosses! These guys know their shoot-em-ups really well!

Beat Hazard is a game where you control a tiny ship on the screen, shooting at asteroids and ships of a variety of different sizes while listening to your choice of music track. The game comes with a soundtrack of its own which feature nine rock/trance influenced selections but to really enjoy the game, you want to use your favorite music to play the game with. The pattern of enemies and the graphical effects on the screen are all generated from the data analyzed from the music that you use. Since the same pattern will be used for each unique track, you can truly "master" a song and get the best score possible from that particular track. When enemies are destroyed, they would drop +1 score multipliers, volume increase pick-up (the game starts off with the music track a bit muted), and power-ups. The changes in the music directly affect your shots so if you know a song well, you can strategically position yourself for the most effective offensive maneuver, especially during boss battles. It is easier to see this works in music that comes with a vocal track - the longer the vocal notes, the more intense your bullet stream becomes. There are several difficulty settings that you can select and the harder settings will generate crazier visual feedback and more enemies to shoot at.

Some tracks produce more color-variations than others.

Visually, the game is breathtaking. During the busier sections of a music track, the screen can easily be filled with flashing lights and exploding particles. Sometimes, it can get very difficult to see where your ship is but that is part of the game's challenge. It is nice that the game can also be used as a functional visualizer if you want something pretty to look at while you are listening to your music while doing some other things. As if the core gameplay itself is not addictive enough, playing the game will earn you points and you can continue to rank up the more you play the game. You will receive helpful perks at higher ranks that will make you enjoy the game more while giving you slight advantages over the enemies. The game can be played on a track to track basis or if you want to experience something more continuous, say a whole entire album, you can always play the Survival Mode - as long as you are able to get through it before your lives run out.

I am proud to be this kind of Master Chief rather than that other, more popular one...

Beat Hazard is one of the best games ever made. For me, when it comes to the music-fusion genre it has bested Audiosurf, Lumines, and even Rez. It is so easy to play and it is a lot of fun to master. The game is only limited to the amount of music you have. Beat Hazard feels a lot less random than Audiosurf when it comes to the actual play mechanics because of its adherence to the beauty of precision and simplicity. Not a lot of games could bring tears of joy in my eyes and playing Beat Hazard using tracks from Tori Amos and Happy Rhodes is truly an otherworldly experience. If you have already own the game on the 360, you still should to invest in this version because it comes with Leaderboards access. You can buy the game straight from the developer's website as well as other direct distribution channels. If you like achievements, go for the Steam version. The only flaw to this game is that the Leaderboards are grouped by the length of the track when the Leaderboards in Audiosurf are listed by every single track ever played by the game's community. Maybe a future update would fix that but even in its current form, this is a game that no gamer could afford to miss. A masterful musical shmup with endless possibilities and replay value.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Click here to read the review of the "Ultra" downlodable content.

1 comment:

Toddr said...

I recently bought this game and I totally agree with you. It's simply breathtaking. I play on 200% visualizer and it's just so much fun to look at I usually die cause I'm not paying attention :P I'm gonna be doing a review of it in the next few days if you want to check it out.