WARNING: THE FOLLOWING POST MAY CONTAIN STROBE LIGHTING EFFECTS.
I just bought Beat Hazard a few days ago – much to the recommendation of Destructoid – and, to be honest, this is probably the game that will make many gamers wish they’d gone to Specsavers. I talked about shoot-em ups yesterday and alluded to mentioning ones that may leave you a tad out-of-pocket, and this is the first of 2 that I’m going to bring up.
Beat Hazard is a shoot-em up with a massive hook: the game is powered by your music collection. Everything in the game is procedurally generated by the strength of the music alone, much akin to its spiritual cousin, Audiosurf (which again, I intend to do a little piece about at some point). Everything that happens in the game, from what enemies and bosses appear, to how strong your lasers are, is entirely based upon the song itself. Every track on your hard drive is a level, and every one will offer up a very different experience of the game. More (and a clip of it in action) after the jump.
I’ve played the PC version of the game, available through Steam, GamersGate and Direct2Drive, as well as direct from Cold Beam Games. The game is also available for Xbox 360.
First things first, let me just say that this game probably works equally as well with a gamepad as it does with keyboard and mouse. It was obviously designed as a twin-stick shooter, much akin to Geometry Wars (the other shooter I wanted to bring up, more on that later). Movement is handled with WASD or the directional keys, and aiming and shooting are mouse-controlled, with left-click being to shoot and right-click deploying smartbombs.
Right, now that that’s the instruction manual out-of-the-way, let me just say.. oh my god. What a light show. Seriously, don’t play this game if you want to preserve your vision and/or have epilepsy of any form. But if you are willing to sacrifice your vision to attempt to play this game, it’s one of the best fireworks displays you’ll see. Vivid colours pulsating everywhere, all to the timing of the playing track, it really is a sight to behold. Gameplay’s just as manic, especially when you pick really fast and high-tempo tracks to play (and yes, I did do the whole over-clichéd Mandatory Dragonforce In A Music Game On The Hardest Setting play”), and on tracks where there’s a mid-song lull coming off a fast section, it can turn into a real panic station as there’s still a slew of enemies on-screen and the quietness brings your firepower down more than a few notches.
I’ve clocked in at least an hour of gameplay so far on it and I know that I won’t get bored of it, I’ll always find myself coming back for more. Whereas Audiosurf’s in a way a bit more of a relaxed ride to the end, with no absolute fail conditions and no traditional Game Over, there’s more of a sense of urgency about Beat Hazard that really helps give it the “Just One More Track” factor. So far though, my favourite track to play on it has been Pavement’s “Space Ghost Theme Pts 1 & 2” from Disc 2 of their “Brighten The Corners” album (they’re billed as separate tracks but I merged them in Audacity for gameplay purposes. Sue me!). It starts off mid-paced, picks up towards the end of Part 1, goes really slow at the beginning of Part 2 and picks back up to a steady pace to finish up. It’s one of those tracks that just perfectly conveys how much the music affects the firepower, and I’d love to get a video of a run through that track up here (since the above isn’t me playing) .