Beat Hazard - The Glow that Illumines, and the Glare that Obscures
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It's hard to argue the benefits of pollution. It's generally nasty, damaging to nearly everyone but the polluter, and often the product of someone's pleasure. While conversely, arguing the merits of a a video game like Cold Beam Studios' Beat Hazard, is much more plausible.

Beat Hazard is a music-based shooter. Every stage is powered by the player's music files, and plays a bit like the unholy child of Asteroids and Geometry Wars. The strength of the fire, the amount of fire, the enemies, debris, and bosses are all controlled by various musical cues. While it's not a particularly new system - having been used in games like Audiosurf and Beats - the system is different enough to be genuinely unique.

The song determines everything, which determines the game experience. Every song summons a set number of debris drifts, enemies, or bosses, which fly around the play field attempting to ram or shoot the player. The player must return fire before they are destroyed. It's a very basic setup, quite similar to Asteroids, but with a lot more of a reliance on the track that is playing. While this mechanic makes the game much more interesting, it also makes the game that much more variable.

Every event in game is determined by the game's soundtrack, which is determined while the player. If a song is minimal, slow, or long, it puts that much larger a strain on the player's playing ability. While this is handily offset by the ability to raise or lower the difficulty, it's still a recurring problem that lurks in the game's shadow, waiting to detract from the experience wherever possible.

Though this game's experience is nearly without equal. For every track, there is a long string of lights, flashes, and colors that accompany every mission. The more drive and instruments a song provides, the more action is packed into the screen. The tension is put that little bit higher, with the climax of a track providing the climax to the action, putting the player in the edge of the seat, and the danger handily to a close. It's not always perfect, but the for being generated instantly, it's amazing how well it all works.

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However, the climax does come at a cost. The game's engine uses colors and lights to signify shifts in song dynamics, as well as player attacks, enemy attacks, power-ups, background visuals, and warnings. The screen is so overwhelmed at nearly any given moment that the game has a learning curve by nature of adjusting the player to the raw energy displayed on screen. Even relatively light moments of gameplay can be overwhelming, so when climaxes arrive, they become forces in their own categories, without equal.

Which is to say, the game has a lot of light pollution. And with the mechanics in bed with the music, there's a lot of noise pollution as well. If anything, it's difficult to call the game anything but pollution, albeit interesting and dynamic pollution.

So, perhaps this review serves no other purpose than actually arguing the merits of pollution. It's shiny, loud, and almost painful to look at without an adjustment period. If anything, it's difficult to find a rival for this game's sensory pollution. There's just so much that's going on. Yet all these goings-on really make the game. Like the explosions of a Michael Bay film, or the sensory journey that accompanies a James Cameron movie, the "so much" amounts to a whole lot of experience.

Whether or not this title is fun depends almost entirely on the player's threshold for structurally limited mechanics and bright, flashing lights. However, something Beat Hazard can guarantee is that it will be an experience. The sheer presence of this title taps into the raw energy of watching fireworks, attending a rock concert, being dance floor-deep in a rave party, and translates it into an experience that can be played at any time to any soundtrack.

Bottom Line: It's hard to recommend any kind of pollution, but somehow it's harder to not recognize Beat Hazard's brilliance. There is a certain radiant awe about this game, even if it's equal parts illuminating light and obscuring glare. Worth experiencing at least once, even if it's just through a gameplay video on YouTube.

illuminates*

Nice review, funky looking game :)

What an interesting concept... I didn't see a platform mention but I'm assuming a PC game? How much does something like this set one's wallet back, I may need to give this a try.

While most of the review was very well done, I can't help but be confused by all the references to pollution. I just don't get it? Why did it need to be there? What does it add to the review? It served to frustrate and befuddle me rather than providing an analogy I could relate with the game.

Fightgarr:

I can't help but be confused by all the references to pollution. I just don't get it? Why did it need to be there? What does it add to the review? It served to frustrate and befuddle me rather than providing an analogy I could relate with the game.

I didn't really get much out of the pollution analogy either. Its actual meaningfulness in the review didn't come close to supporting the prominence it was given in the introductory and closing paragraphs, considering the only paragraph to attempt to use the concept in practical terms was short and poorly constructed imo (labelling the pollution label on the overload of sounds and visuals after describing them didn't work for me. Perhaps first declaring the similarity of those aspects to pollution, then drawing parallels would have worked better and seemed more significant. Also, while I can deal with word repetition, having the word "pollution" precede a pause three times in the same short paragraph was uncomfortable to read).

I can't help but feel that a lot of the potential of the comparisons brought up isn't being exploited. I mean, none of the terms or ideas associated with pollution are applied to the game, while the pyrotechnic appeal is evoked through comparisons rather than descriptions. It lacked some... I dunno...verve for the most part. It was really informative, if a bit clunky in places. But as it focused so much on describing game functions, it needed something to provide interest beyond competent description, which didn't really happen for me.

The game sounds pretty interesting, although I thought that about Audiosurf and didn't think much of that when I got round to playing it so I'm wary of these games now. Although I'll at least check this game out on youtube to see if it's as eyeball-searing as that screenshot suggests.

I'm sorry, am I the only one that can't get over the idea of a music-based shooter?

As for the review, stop saying pollution every next line and we're good.

Sigh.....dunno about it. I got it cheap, still I like Audiosurf more simply it seems to be the more complex game.

Besides sometimes you end up fighting a boss during a slow time of a song for no real reason and...yeah you are in deep problems.

My humble recommendation: Try the demo or check if someone did a video with one of your favourite songs.

Where can one find this most beguiling game?

On PC please?

OOOH 2oo posts. Yay me!

RaphaelsRedemption:
Where can one find this most beguiling game?

On PC please?

OOOH 2oo posts. Yay me!

Steam, Direct-2-Drive, Gamersgate and Green Man Gaming. Take yer pick. Price around $10. Xbox 360 version also available in the Indie Games section.

 

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