Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beat Hazard, The Game Every Music Fanatic Must Play

The idea behind Beat Hazard is actually really simple and I must say that they pulled it off quite nicely. Essentially, they've taken a traditional asteroids shmup style game and added a spice of what you'd see from games like Audiosurf, DDR, or Guitar Hero. The combination ends up being a quite fulfilling and appetizing visual and audio experience.
So what sets Beat Hazard apart from any other game on the market? What the player does is not much different from what you'd expect in any other classic top-down, two-dimensional shmup on the market. That is, dodge the enemies and obstacles while blasting them for all you're worth. However, like I mentioned above, there's a musical twist to the gameplay. The game has a visual feedback experience that follows the tunes you are playing to. What's more, the more intense your song is, the more power your character has. This creates some tense situations in which your song can take a slow break while you have a bundle of enemies on the screen. To be honest, I have never actually gotten a sense of tension from a musically based game and those moments where you are thinking to yourself, "Oh crap, come on music go faster!" are thoroughly enjoyable.
Beat Hazard offers a few game modes to choose from, Normal, Survival, Two Player, and Chill Mode. Normal Mode is exactly what you'd expect, open a song on your computer, and start blasting away at enemies while the light dances across the screen. Survival and Chill Modes are almost quite similar, they both play endlessly (grabbing songs on your computer that are within the same folder), but Chill Mode has fewer enemies, less feedback, and infinite lives (this is actually quite fun if all you want is a little something to do while listening to music). I must say, if there was one thing I was disappointed in with this game, it was the multiplayer. The game does not support net play (this is perhaps due to huge charges that would be drafted to allow people to play together on tunes they don't have -- the RIAA strikes again!) and the limited multiplayer it does have requires that you have an xbox controller (one player will use keyboard/mouse and the other uses the controller).
So let's talk about the graphics, they are simple to be honest. Though, you do not need to have the most spectacular graphics to create a good game, just what works with what you've made. Beat Hazard succeeds at this quite well. The game uses two-dimensional sprites floating around in a picture-esque space atmosphere. These graphics must sound awfully dated, but to be honest the resolution on the textures is actually quite good and even at higher resolutions (I was playing the game at 1920x1080) the sprites had no blurring or visual distortion. This is the baseline before we look at what the developers added to enhance the experience for musical interaction. Across the background, the devs added a floating three-dimensional graphic that changes colors over time as you play, it adds a constantly refreshing change of colors to the mix while you float around battling enemies in two-dimensional glory. Earlier I mentioned they use visual feedback that coincides with the intensity of the song, the players bullets (and a number of other particles on the screen) react to what the music is doing in the background. So what happens is these particles begin strobing along with the music, creating a beautiful effect. The intensity of the strobing varies by difficulty, Hardcore+ difficulties use an intense visual feedback experience where it seems the entire screen might explode from all the flashes happening, while easier difficulties are actually quite tame and it's almost like watching an equalizer in a media player.
So there you have it. On a scale of one to ten, I'd give it an eight. Great atmosphere, great graphics, unique experience, and fun. I just wish there was net play, but there's not much that can be done about that.

1 comment:

  1. I had fun with Beat Hazard, but I found the variations in gameplay is not big enough among the different songs I play, maybe I don't have a library of songs which are different enough.

    For "music-generated-gameplay" games I'm still sticking with Audiosurf happily. True that it's not exactly the same kind of game as Beat Hazard, but the differences in the tracks generated by different songs are bigger in my opinion, the different "characters" you can use also plays very differently. The depth in the score system provides plenty of room for challenge. Also it supports chinese text in MP3 tags which is also an important thing to me (I'm from Hong Kong).

    Maybe you could give Audiosurf and try if you haven't. :)