Also known as "Oh god my eyes: the game"
The problem I have, like so many people nowadays, is that I have way too much music files on my computer, yet I find just plain old listening to music so boring. So thank goodness that games like Audiosurf and Beat Hazard have come around to put all those files too good use. However, even though there are times Beat Hazard excels where Audiosurf doesn't, there are times it feels like a glorified Media Player visualizer.
The main thing about Beat Hazard is that it's a dual joystick shooter with the "import your own music" twist. The controls are as you'd expect, I didn't try it out with the 360 controller but I'm pretty sure it'd use those dual joysticks. The game play feels as you'd expect, you can shoot, you have bombs that you can use to clear the screen when it gets too hectic, if you get hit you lose a life. Very standard fare for this genre. The twist is in the power-ups and the aforementioned "import your own music" aspect. Your imported music plays in the background to a visualizer, and when the song gets more intense, the more bullets your character shoots. You can collect two different power-ups to increase your strength. A weapon power power-up, that increase the damage done by the bullets, and a volume power-up, that increases the volume of your imported track. The louder the song the more the visualizer reacts to it, and ergo, more bullets. When both of these bars are maxed out you go into "Beat Hazard" mode, where you also shoot a beam. It's at this stage the game gets completely hectic. When you are shooting in Beat Hazard mode, it can be hard to tell where anything is, and the maxed out visualizer doesn't help things either. Due to this, it's very easy to not see any enemies hiding in the gaps of your bullet stream, heading straight at you, or a stray part of a boulder you confuse with enemy shrapnel, causing instant death and back to square one music and power. The inverse is also very true, when both powers are at minimum, the game can be very dull. Sure, this is intentional and I'm nit picking quite a bit here, but if you die 4 and a half minutes in a 5 minute song, there's no way you can build up that kind of power again in the last half minute, making the remaining time rather dull.
But in my mind, these kind of games live or die by how they use the songs you import, and this one falls into the middle ground between Audiosurf and, say, Infinity Gene. It isn't as blatant as Audiosurf that you can see every beat, yet not as subtle as Infinity Gene where you're not even sure it's doing anything at all. The most blatant part is the visualizer, which works as well as a visualizer should. As I said before this is where how many bullets you shoot come from. The enemies also spawn based on the music, as far as I can tell. I loaded up the same song three times and the enemy patterns were the same each time. There does seem to be a little bit of random element for when the big enemies appear, however, as they spawned earlier some runs of the same song than others, so either it's based on your performance as well, or I'm just going crazy.
There are a few technical issues with the game. There were some mp3s on my computer the game crashed trying to load up. The first 10 songs I tried to play, 2 of them caused the game to crash and throw me back to the desktop. I fixed this by re-saving the files, but I still have no idea why the game crashed trying to load it. You can set the game to just show the visualizer for the songs, which is pretty awesome, however, to select a song for the visualizer you have to click play, find the folder the song you want to play is it, hover over it until the game plays the preview, back all the way out to the main menu, and finally then set it to visualizer mode. The game does automatically play music in the same folder the last song you played is in when you start up the game, but it still seems weird you can't go into visualizer mode from any point in the menu.
This isn't to say I dislike the game, far from it. It's the moments when you play each song that make this game a lot of fun to play. My anecdote involves me playing Daft Punk's classic "One More Time", figuring I'd get a nice constant beat and lay waste to all the enemies. However, I forgot about the slow part at 2:22. The game did not, and decided to spawn two large ships just before this hit. With the beat gone and the visualizer practically black, my bullets did nothing. In fact, the only time I could shoot for that section was when the voice was singing. It took 90 seconds before I the beat started kicking in again and I could finally shoot at full power. I have to admit that that made it one of the more interesting songs to play in Beat Hazard, and I can't wait to start playing and finding more great song combinations.