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Andrew Cathie
29 May, 2010

Beat Hazard Review

PC Review | Can you beat this hazard?
In the last couple of years, twin-stick shooters have come back into vogue thanks to Independent and small team developers. We have seen the genre come back from relative obscurity with the release and subsequent success of Geometry Wars. Now, Cold Beam Games is trying their luck in the genre with their debut title, Beat Hazard. Beat Hazard is more than just your typical twin-stick shooter, combining the mechanics of the genre with the ability to procedurally generate levels based on your own song collection. While the novelty of playing to your favourite songs can be addictive, the shortcomings prevent what was a brilliant premise from becoming anything more than that.

Beat Hazard’s gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a twin-stick shooter in the past, simply move your ship around the screen, dodging countless enemies and asteroids, while shooting continuously and using your super bomb whenever you need to completely wipe the screen of enemies. It’s certainly functional, but it’s far from brilliant. Controlling your ship can be frustrating as the slightest tap of an arrow will cause your ship to move about an inch or so, making precise movements when the screen is full of enemies much harder than it should be. Playing in windowed mode is an even more frustrating experience. As you move the mouse around, you’ll notice that it won’t go right to edge of the games screen. This will cause you to accidentally click outside of the window, pausing the game and destroying whatever immersion you had going at the time.

BEAT

HAZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!

BEAT

HAZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!
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The unique twist in gameplay included by Cold Beam is the inclusion of three power ups which are dropped by enemies when you destroy them. ‘Power’ partially fills your power meter to increase the power of your ship’s laser, ‘Volume’ partially fills your volume meter and increases the volume of the song you’re playing to and ‘+1’ increases your score multiplier by 1. Once you fill both your power and volume meters you enter into ‘Beat Hazard Mode’, which turns you into a god of destruction, firing huge numbers of bullets at your enemies until you die. When you die your Power and Volume meters are reset and your score multiplier drops by 10. It’s a nice little twist on an all too familiar mechanic, but it isn’t enough to override the sense that you’ve done all of this before.

Beat Hazard features 4 modes: a regular single player mode, a two player mode, Survival mode, and Chill Out mode. In single player mode, you are able to choose one of the 10 songs included with the game, or pick one of the multitude of songs you most likely have on your computer and play through it. The 10 songs included with the game will most likely only last you about 25 to 30 minutes worth of play time. So unless you have your own music to play to, then you shouldn’t expect a long game. The two player mode is the same as the single player mode, just that you can play with a friend on the same screen. In Survival mode, you pick a song, and then you must fight off wave after wave of enemies for as long as you can. Once you reach the end of the song you picked, the game will automatically move into the next one and will continue doing so until you run out of lives. Chill Out mode allows you to play through an album for as long as you want, with unlimited lives. Your scores in single player, two player and survival mode will accumulate in the ranking system in the game. As your rank increases, you can unlock various power ups, including extra lives, extra bombs at the start of the track, and increases to your score multiplier.

Bombs away.

Bombs away.
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Upon first loading up the game you are greeted by the following, extremely appropriate, warning: ‘Photosensitive Seizures – This game uses full screen strobing effects’. If you have ever suffered from a photosensitive seizure, or even get some discomfort when there are lights constantly flashing and strobing on your screen, you will want to avoid this game. The main design premise of Beat Hazard can be summed up in a few words; flash, and heaps of it. From the second you and your enemies start shooting your screen will be filled with bullets that pulse and light up your screen, every enemy death ends in an explosion of pulsing light and every time you use a bomb, a ripple of pulsing light goes across the screen. Even when there are no enemies in sight the screen sparkles in time to the beat of the song you are playing and the power and volume meters are constantly flashing and sparkling. It can make for a very cluttered screen and it can be extremely hard to concentrate on what’s happening.


It becomes obvious early on, that for all the flash and pomp, there is very little substance to the spacecraft models in the game. While the action is happening you won’t really notice the models at all, but that’s just because the screen becomes so congested and bright from all the explosions and bullets that it can sometimes be nearly impossible to actually see your own or enemy ships. There are a total of four different regular enemy models, which are constantly repeated in each song, and three boss enemy models. Three of the four enemy models are close to the same model, except that each one is slightly larger than the last and is slightly more elaborate in design, and the three boss models are also pretty much just larger, and somewhat more elaborate, versions of the regular enemy models. All seven enemy spacecraft and your own spacecraft are a dull grey, with only small amounts of colours to accentuate them, and all of them have very rough edges. While the colour choice makes them much easier to see when there is lots of colourful light on the screen, the roughness can’t be justified so easily, especially when there are only a total of eight space craft models in the entire game. The designs are functional, but that doesn’t stop them from being extremely boring, and the lack of variety makes the game get old faster than it should.

Taking on all four enemy models at the same time.

Taking on all four enemy models at the same time.
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Despite all of the flaws, there is a certain majesty that comes along with being able to play any song you want. Regardless of how often you lose track of your ship, or get bored of the enemy models, it cannot completely ruin the feeling of elation you get as you play through the guitar solo in ‘Selkies: The Endless Obsession’ or when you finally manage to finish the boss marathon that is ‘Bad Romance’. The main premise of the game shines, but the rest of the game lets it down and turns what could have been a brilliant game into an average game.
The Score
Beat Hazard has a brilliant premise, which is sadly let down by uninspired gameplay and lacklustre presentation. Still, if you're a fan of twin-stick shooters and love music, then this game is for you. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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12 Comments
3 years ago
What? 6? I'd give it at least an 8! More likely an 8.5 (technical review is too technical!)

I love the gameplay, it beats Audiosurf any day, I find it's more much suited to the hardcore gamers that love to try get high scores. Speaking of which daredevil wasn't mentioned, which is basically where you get a 4x increase to your multiplier if you don't shoot for 5 seconds straight, makes going for high scores that much more fun.

The only criticism I really agree with here is that the ship models ain't exactly pretty and to me don't seem to 'fit in' with all the bright stuff, even if they do stand out enough to be seen. I wouldn't say they are poor quality though in the way you seem to think they are, as in if I were just to look at pictures of them, but in the context game they just seem too much like flat 2D pieces of paper flying around space, I suppose that contributes to why I think they don't 'fit in.'
3 years ago
I also love this game. I have both Audiosurf and Beat Hazard and while I do feel that Audiosurf is the better game (far more polished and the gameplay/graphics sync to the music well compared to Beat Hazards strobe light spam), Beat Hazard is wonderful if you're looking for something more arcade-like and twitchy.

Never really noticed the ship graphics, too busy enjoying my own tracklist and watching the visual splendor on Hardcore difficulty.

I guess the main thing is that you have to really love music or have a significant amount of it to get the full enjoyment of games like this.
3 years ago
With a wired 360 controller this game plays like a dream.
3 years ago
^ Absolutely. Playing Beat Hazard with a mouse and keyboard is a suckers game, and you don't want to be a sucker... huh?

Deserves a solid 8. Easy.
3 years ago
I've been told by a few people now that the controls are much better when using a 360 controller. But not owning a wired 360 controller or the wireless receiver means that I had no choice but to play it with a mouse and keyboard. But really, since they are the main way that most people will play games on a PC, the controls should have been tooled to work a bit better with a keyboard and mouse.

As much as I would have loved to give the game a higher score purely for being able to play it to music that I love, I really felt that the technical issues brought it down enough. As Todd said, I really did take an extremely technical view on the game which resulted in the lower score. The gameplay is functional, yet unimaginative, the designs are functional, yet extremely boring and sorely lacking in variety, and the presentation can be an extreme eyesore at times, especially after playing for a long time without a break. So from a technical standpoint a 6 is fair under the Palgn scoring policy.

But if you want to go from the non-technical side, your whole impression of the game will be based on how much you love the music you're listening to. It very much is a fun game, I think I've now clocked up a bit over 10 hours in it according to Steam, and can be highly addictive if you love your music.
3 years ago
slapshakle wrote
With a wired 360 controller this game plays like a dream.
Oh I knew I forgot something, yes, I play with this, could be why I love it so much more. I tried KB+M and hated it!
3 years ago
I'll have to agree with the score of 6.

As much as I want to love this game, every time I start it up I get bored and close within 10 minutes. All the ships look the same and all the debris is coloured in the same grey so it's hard to tell the difference between an enemy and a piece of debri. Add to that the excessive strobing, it just turns into a cluster-fuck of bright lights.

Hell the visualiser in the menus is better than the game imo icon_confused.gif If all I wanted to do was listen to my music I'd use winamp.
3 years ago
"The 10 songs included with the game will most likely only last you about 25 to 30 minutes worth of play time."
I actually had no idea it came with music :P

Also the review didn't mention that the power of your weapons is directly related to the intensity of the music!

But yea I enjoyed it, especially on songs where your epic beam laser attack is extraordinarily epic, like in Bohemian Rhapsody.
3 years ago
Rush152 wrote
I'll have to agree with the score of 6.

As much as I want to love this game, every time I start it up I get bored and close within 10 minutes. All the ships look the same and all the debris is coloured in the same grey so it's hard to tell the difference between an enemy and a piece of debri. Add to that the excessive strobing, it just turns into a cluster-**** of bright lights.

Hell the visualiser in the menus is better than the game imo icon_confused.gif If all I wanted to do was listen to my music I'd use winamp.
I found this initally but eventually got completley used to the visuals so while the ships still looked out of place I could see everything and tell the difference between what was debri and what wasn't. Also my eyes really hurt the first few days playing the game, but adjusted to that too. Also btw they did release an update so now there is an option to lower the strobing effect.
3 years ago
Andrew Cathie wrote
and the presentation can be an extreme eyesore at times, especially after playing for a long time without a break.
Wuss. I can go for hours without feeling like my eyes are on fire. That being said, I am a cyborg.

Also, the score is spot on. Great game for ultra-hardcore music lovers and people into epilepsy; otherwise the design is pretty simplistic.
3 years ago
Not the point - this isn't a game to be rated alongside or against the standard off-the-shelf blockbuster wannabe fare. Beat Hazard, like Geo Wars, keeps the in-game details minimal for a reason; when you get down to it, lots of detail just gets in the way, this is a game for working into an almost zen-like state of pure instinct and reaction. You're not meant to be paying attention to what the obstacles look like, you just need to be able to differentiate them at a glance. Asteroid, Bomber, vulnerable bullet, invulnerable bullet... etc.

As for the visual noise? That's one of the main balancing points of the game! The higher the difficulty, the harder it is to discern the playing field when the music gets intense (which is when you're the most powerful, making it a great, if barstardish, balancing measure). You might as well criticize Trials HD for having fiddly, unforgiving controls, or Resident Evil 4 for arbitrarily limiting your freedom of movement.

When it comes down to it, this is a title designed for and sold almost exclusively to a niche audience - as such I just don't think that rating it from the viewpoint of 'what is this worth to an average gamer' really fits the bill.
3 years ago
^I think because of its price range, it can easily be catered to the average gamer. As someone who's into hardcore fast paced games and things with an insane amount of colour and things happening at once, on a personal note the game's easily a 9 (and I personally don't have a problem with the kb+m combo but can see where the issue lies).

That being said, I guess we review things from the perspective of "what kind of value can you get out of this game if you're the average gamer". On a purely critical level that doesn't push the game into the "review it for the niche audience" category, it does fit with the PALGN 6. It's a very basic game, and does everything on a competent note; but for the average player, it may not be all that snazzy, whereas us musical and passionate epileptic gaming folk will snatch it up and adore it.

I do agree though that visual clutter is a major part of the game rather than a hindrance though. It's there for the sole purpose of challenging you to differentiate objects, and considering what the game does, it's integral.

Also I am slightly drunk, so this post may or may not be totally garbage.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  16/04/2010 (Confirmed)
System Requirements:
OS: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7
Processor: 2.0GHz processor
Memory: 512+MB of RAM
Hard Drive: 40+MB of free hard drive space
Graphics: 256MB of video memory
Sound: DirectX-compatible sound
DirectX®: 9 or later

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