Your music becomes the enemy.
Dual-stick shooters are nothing new, there have been many ranging from mainstream addiction to artistic displays. Cold Beam Games's Beat Hazard has been on the 360's Indie Games service since October of last year, but recently came to Steam.
Like a lot of dual-stick shooters, you have your power-ups (Volume power-ups boost your damage, Power increases your rate of fire) and bombs. There are asteroids that float around and various different types of enemies that try to take you out. It has your normal mode where you can play one song at a time or a survival mode.
Beat Hazard uses your music (or one of their supplied tracks) to create the settings for the stage (much like Audiosurf). Since it uses certain guidelines, the same song will play the same way over multiple playthroughs. The slower the song, the less enemies and obstacles you will face, but your firepower will be extremely weakened. Fast-paced songs will lead to pure insanity on the screen, but your firepower will increase as well.
The system works for the most part, and can lead to some pretty intense scenarios. I played everything from video game songs to anime theme songs to hard rock to country. Each with its own little quirks.
Some of the best scenarios were when a boss ship (they randomly show up based on the song, preceded by a warning siren) would show up, and right in the middle of the fight, the song would hit a quiet part, reducing my firepower to garbage. The battle would become a pure defensive struggle, then the solo would kick in and I would turn the tide of the battle. Moments like that are amazing and words cannot do them justice.
However, it works the other way as well, there would be certain songs where in the middle of the most intense part, there would be NOTHING going on. I would just be sitting around raising my daredevil bonus (a bar slowly fills up when you don't shoot, adding to your multiplier when it fills up. It's kinda disappointing when the song is going on all cylinders, and there is nothing for you to shoot.
The leveling system is an excellent part of this game. Your score for each level becomes experience, and you rank up with it. Whenever you level up, you gain bonuses such as "Daredevil multiplier +2" so you add 3 to your multiplier, meaning more points and a easier time leveling up. But there are also bonuses that affect actual gameplay, such as starting with more lives and starting off with a volume or power bonus. This game starts off hard, and if you aren't used to shooters of this nature, you will get your ass kicked fast and hard. You get the more useful bonuses pretty far down the road, so it may turn off casual players. But if you stick with it, you are rewarded well.
The visuals in this game are excellent, as the song picks up, the visuals pick up too. This is a double-edged sword. It looks amazing, but there is a good chance that you will get lost, on normal or higher difficulty, any fast songs will become a flashing epileptic rave. There were many times where I would lose track of my ship due to all the flashing lights and swirling effects. In addition, the visuals aren't really easy on the eyes, if you aren't playing on easy, don't expect to play this game in long sessions.
As of right now, this game is $7.49 on Steam. If you have a controller, it is highly recommended that you use it. You have enough to worry about on screen to have it complicated by using a mouse and keyboard. There are Steam achievements with this game.
If you are a fan of dual-stick shooters or a fan of Audiosurf, you owe it to yourself to check this game out. A demo went live today so you can check it out for free. A cheap fun game with a cool premise, but minor execution flaws hurt the experience.