Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Beat Hazard

System: PC (Steam), Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Indie Games)
Rating: N/A
Reviewed on: 360
Price: 400 MS Points (~$5) / $9.99 (Steam)

Now here's a game that makes me feel like a little kid again.  My dad got me started on gaming when I was three years old.  We played all the classics: Galaga, Centipede, Pac-Man, Asteroids...

Wait a minute...This game looks a lot like asteroids!  What's this? I can use my own music?  It's only $5 on XBL?  I'm sold!

That was more or less what I first thought when I saw this game.  As I sat down and tried it out, I found myself feeling more and more mixed.  I had a lot of fun with this game, but not without reservations.

Any game that panders to nostalgia will automatically garner a group of fans.  There's no question about that.  Beat Hazard takes the well known concept of asteroids and adds a unique, albeit gimmicky, feature.  Beat Hazard uses your existing music stored on your console or PC's hard drive to create the levels within Beat Hazard.  What does this mean? It means, better pull out all those music CDs if you try an play this on your Xbox 360, you have a lot of ripping to do!  Sure, this game starts you out with ten songs.  What's the fun of that when Beat Hazard lets you spin up your favorite tracks?  I'd much rather pull out the underground trance from my collection, rather than use what they give you.

Right off the bat, I found out that not every song in my collection is right for Beat Hazard.  Songs with long bits of silence do not make good levels.  This is easiest to see on the hardest difficulty.  There's nothing more frustrating than a wave of enemy ships pouncing on you and all you have to defend yourself is a pea shooter.  That said, I found that trance and rock music made much better levels in this game.

I had quite a bit of fun playing through Tubthumper by Chumbawumba.  Nothing like a little 90's Brit-pop to get you riled up.  Actually, the whole album is quite a bit of fun, simply because it's energetic music that shifts around its volume.  This makes the levels challenging, but not impossible.  Timing the smart bombs is very important when playing Tubthumper.

As fun as Beat Hazard is, it's not without its flaws.  Ripping entire music collections into the 360, CD by CD, is cumbersome and highly boring.  Bring a book, you're gonna need it.  Also, Beat Hazard uses a lot of strobe effects.  So much so, that there's a seizure warning in the product description on Xbox Live Indie Games.  This definitely lowers the target audience.  Back when I played Sonic 2 on the Sega Genesis, the pulsing lights in Casino Night Zone would give my mom vertigo and motion sickness.  She couldn't watch because of this.  Even I started feeling a little queasy after playing Beat Hazard for a while.

Every now and again, there will be a boss ship that attacks you with these lasers that lock on to a certain direction.  Namely, yours.  it will toss out these thin white lines that show where it will be shooting, as if it want to give you a fighting chance to dodge them.  This really feels more like a foul mockery, since the lines are difficult to pick out over all the colors and noise from what you're spewing at it.  Yeah, thanks?  It doesn't really feel like the developers were trying to help the players with that addition.

All in all, if you grew up with the classics, and you have a resistance to strobe lights, you cannot miss Beat Hazard.  It presents a fantastic nostalgia trip that cannot be missed.

No comments: