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Beat Hazard Review

Review; Jul. 20, 2010; Channels: Video Games; By Jenner David Cauton
Music is the weapon.

Independent companies often have smaller budgets, which means cheaper, lower quality games, but of course that depends on how you see it.  A trend I noticed is that, usually, it's these type of games where you won't find gameplay of its kind anywhere else.

Beat Hazard Screenshots
Preety colorrrs.

Beat Hazard, made by Cold Beam Games, is an arcade twin shooter.  You've probably played these games before.  Robotron, Geometry Wars, Zombie Apocalypse, etc.  You move with the left analog stick, shoot with the right.  (Or WASD and mouse for PC.)  You control a little space ship on the screen and blast away armies of ships, bigger ships...even bigger ships and...even bigger ships.  Oh yeah, and there's asteroids.  If there's one thing that Beat Hazard lacks, it's lack of enemy variety, but due to the game's design, it's hard to complain.

The game's main feature is that each level and your own ship's weapons are generated based on the music you have playing in the background.  Slow parts of a song will generate small amounts of enemies, and your own ship's cannon then resembles a simple pea shooter.  When the intensity of a song starts heating up, the game will suddenly throw hordes of ships at you, yet at the same time, your own ship is able to shoot a pulsating stream of death.  Techno and heavy metal all seem to produce the most visual/difficult results.  Anything slower or songs that have fewer instruments tend to be easier and not as flashy.  Your own ship's projectiles don't seem to make any sound when fired, probably because it would get annoying to listen to above the music.

You can also collect several powerups in the game.  You can collect multiplier powerups that increase your score multiplier.  (Which can also be raised through other means as well.)  Powerups make your ship's laser stronger.  Then there's Volume powerups, which increase the song's volume and increase the spread of your laser.  Smartbombs can also be collected to eliminate all enemies on the screen.  Due to the sheer amount of enemies, your ship's weapon kind of resembles more of a flamethrower than a laser if you're constantly waving it around.  Collect enough powerups, however, and your ship will enter "Beat Hazard" mode, which adds a more direct rail gun to the center of all that madness.

The game feels like it turned a Winamp visualizer into a game.  During the most intense moments, the screen can be filled with so many ever-changing colors, sparks and fog that your own ship can get lost in the mass rather easily.  Enjoy the visuals, but you also have to pay attention.  Your music-driven weapon can also get you in trouble at times.  For instance, if a song suddenly drops in intensity, the enemies will stop coming and seem more passive, but any enemies you haven't killed before that time will still be there.  Try dealing with 50+ enemies on the screen when your ship suddenly short circuits.

The game has three game modes.  You can play a single song, survive a whole album, or chill mode, which is just basically survival with unlimited lives.  (No leaderboards in that last one though.)  The more you play, you'll increase in rank, which gives you permanent upgrades, such as increased power or multipliers at the start.  One such upgrade increases your maximum amount of lives to four.  And it's the only one that deals with lives.  Without any way of getting extra lives mid-game, why 4?  Most games either give you 3 or 5, but 4 is such a strange number. 

One thing that seems a bit bothersome to me is the volume powerup.  Sure, it increases the spread of your weapon, but why touch the volume?  When you first start a game, the music will be very soft.  When you reach maximum volume, it matches the volume to whatever max you set the music to in the options screen.  (Yes, I was worried, too, that I was going to be blasting out my eardrums.)  It seems rather jarring to be jamming to whatever tune you're listening to, then to suddenly die, and everything just drops.  It's the equivalent of having your mom or dad bust in your room screaming at you to turn it down.  Just let me enjoy the music.  I want to be a viking god that travels in a guitar shaped spacecraft that spews the magical powers of rock to defeat the forces of evil.  *bullhorn hands*

Beat Hazard Screenshots

The game supports .mp3, .wav, .aiff, .ogg, .mwa, and .flac, which is a pretty wide range of file formats.  However, it doesn't support DRM files, which leaves iTunes out of the question.  For an additional dollar however, you can download support for non-DRM files from iTunes, .mp4, and .AAC. 

This game can be bought on Steam for $9.99 or on XBLA for 400 MS points.  I don't know why Steam is double the price, but it could be for the ease of already being on your computer, which is mostly where you're music will come from in either version.  There are many music-oriented games, but if you're looking for one that delivers straight up arcade shooting, you can't go wrong with this.

Presentation - 9

In-game, it's all about presentation, so you can't go wrong here.  The music browser on the PC versions, though, is entirely console based, so it can take forever scrolling through all your music.

Story - N/A

There is none.  If you want, use the viking theme.

Graphics - 7

Your very own fireworks show that you control.

Sound - 10

Ten because it's however how good you want it to be.

Gameplay - 7

Does what it's meant to, but could of used more game modes.

Current Stability - 10

It's not a very complex game, so there's not really any problems either.  At least none that are really noticeable.

Lasting Appeal - 8

This game can be as long as your music library.


Review Score

Not Rated by ESRB


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