Monday 5 July 2010

Reviewlet: Beat Hazard

There’s been an enorm-o-sale on at Steam for the past couple of weeks that I’ve been furiously not posting about in a desperate attempt to avoid adding yet more games to the big pile o’ stuff I hardly have time to play. I was doing quite well, partly due to the plethora of offers giving a paradox of choice, partly due to having a bunch of stuff from previous sales, until I finally succumbed and bought The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom on the recommendation of Melmoth, a couple of packs of Borderlands DLC (skipping Mad Moxxi’s Underdome on the recommendation of Jon Shute), Tropico 3 and Beat Hazard. Less than £20, all-in, a comparative flesh wound by Steam sale standards.

Beat Hazard is what I’d describe as “a bit like Asteroids“, in the modern parlance I understand it to be a Bullet Hell Shmup (true aficionados would doubtless sneer at the paltry number of bullets on screen, though, maybe “Bullet Drat” or “Bullet Heck” would be more apt). Like Everyday Shooter it’s a music-based shoot ’em up, but it uses your own MP3 collection like Audiosurf. The power of your guns, and intensity of the enemy attacks, are based on the volume of the music, which can lead to interesting gameplay when an otherwise-frantic track has a few quiet moments and your magnificent blazing lasers of death suddenly turn into pop-guns.

The visuals are stunning, fields of colour pulsating in time with the beat, especially as you power up your weapons in a particularly intense song. Definitely one to avoid if you have issues with photo-sensitivity, otherwise revel in the psychedelia.

As with Audiosurf it has the perfect gameplay chunk size, you can have a quick blast in a spare five minutes (or a spare 23 seconds for a couple of early Napalm Death tracks), but the “… just one more song” factor can easily keep you working through your MP3 collection for a couple of hours. Without the audio it would be a decent enough shmup but not really enough to keep me coming back, with a soundtrack of such unquestionable taste it’s definitely worth a couple of quid.

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