Beat Hazard

I’m a touch surprised that it has taken me so long to write about this terrific game. Beat Hazard is one of the finest indie titles that I’ve played and a wonderful testament to what one individual can do.

So what exactly does the game entail? Well it is a top down shooter and starts off looking like yet another Asteroids clone as the player’s ship blows up, well asteroids. Throw in a special “bomb” weapon, enemy ships and bosses and you have the basis for a playable but rather unoriginal game. To be honest, the enemies and boss fights aren’t the greatest. Aside from the highest difficulty level, bosses are easily defeated by moving around in a circle and the actual variance in behaviour for the regular ships is very limited. However where Beat Hazard stands out is the visuals and use of the player’s music. Each game lasts for the duration of a song and the intensity tries to match the beat of the song. The visuals also keep in line with it developing into a stunning array of colour, albeit one that you can get lost in.

They key to the game is that the weapons become more powerful with the beat of the music and pick ups that the player collects (altering volume & weapon power). Once the volume & weapon power bars hit max, the “Beat Hazard” weapon is used which is an insanely vibrant and destructive version of the regular weapon. Rather than trying (and failing) to describe it, check out the video below:

There is a bit of a flaw in the game’s use of music. At the start and end of songs the volume is usually quite quiet, leaving the player rather powerless. This is particularly an issue at the end when there’s massive swarms to deal with and suddenly you’re left with a pants weapon. Also bosses seem to often get spawned during the mellower bridges in the songs that I’ve played, which isn’t exactly awesome. Despite this, it is still a good fun game to play!

There’s a curious progression path in Beat Hazard. Players earn points to level up which automatically improves them, such as starting with a higher multiplier, extra bombs or more powerful weapons. In effect, the game becomes easier. There are different difficulty levels but if you’re not ready for the step up then you have the unusual path where the player’s skill is improving with practice whilst simultaneously the game is making it easier. I think really the game could do with a wider scope in difficulty modes to make it a little easier to transition up to avoid the player losing the challenge at their current difficulty level but struggling when looking to step it up. That said, once you have the Beat Hazard weapon at the start the game is very playable at Hardcore difficulty level and I managed to complete an Elite song on my second attempt. However I know in my heart, I’m not that good. The game is just over powering me because of the playing time.

In all Beat Hazard is a stunning game. There are a few niggles in the design but for a few quid you can’t go wrong!

Source: Xbox 360