Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beat Hazard - Indie Review

Beat Hazard is a dual stick shooter. There is no shortage of those. I ended up with this game because of Steam’s “Indie Pulse Pack” which packed it in with four other games for five bucks. (This game usually retails for 9.99) I must say though, when I actually played the game, I was impressed.

The main gimmick is that when you start the game, you load mp3’s from your music collection. Beat Hazard takes the enemy formations, and your bullet power, directly from the wave patterns of the music. Basically what this equates to is that each song becomes its own unique level. Then, on top of that, there is a large flashy light show which flickers to whatever you have playing in the background.

My first reaction to this gimmick is that the game assumes you listen to electronic “wud wud” music. However, I played the game to a twelve minute jazz session from Benny Goodman and I must say that it worked out really well. The jazz music mixed with the smoky light show had kind of an Epcot center feel to it. The only problem I ran into was that since my guns were tied to the wav patter, whenever Mr. Goodman would stop for an applause break, my guns would go dead.
The game comes prepackaged with an album of generic hard rock music so that you can dive right in and get playing. However, if you are buying a game that utilizes mp3’s in this way, chances are you are better off plugging in your own tunes. I found a free heavy metal chiptune album which works exceedingly well with this game. (Dr. Zilog – Endless Hallway) It has given me a reason to go back to the 8bitcollective and grab some free chiptune albums. So Beat Hazard in some way has had a domino effect in getting me back into electronic music. (Though it should be noted that heavy metal music works really well in this game as well.)

iTunes music is also compatible. However, they decided to make this DLC for an extra dollar. I wanted to be irritated because I generally think DLC is a cop out. In this case though, were talking about an indie game developer who has to deal with Apple for licensing. I get the feeling they had to choose between making it a dollar DLC or charging 15 bucks for the game to pay off apple.

I expected to get 20 min to an hour out of this title, but now I’m 4.4 hours in and I’m still enjoying it. The light show is pretty, the game works well and keeps itself fresh, it features steam achievements (if that’s your thing) and best of all, and it’s compatible with a USB gamepad. (I have played a couple of freeware dual stick shooters lately that are not.) Is it worth the cost? I would say so. On a scale of one to ten, I give it a score of Bing Crosby. (That's saying a lot.)

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