machofantastico's Beat Hazard (PC) review

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When Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved hit Xbox Live back in 2006, few could have guessed the floodgates it would open for competitors looking to tap into the same addictive source that made Bizarre Creations dual joystick-stick shooter so popular. Many have already tried, some succeeding better then others, but none have come anywhere near matching the thrills and visual spills of the original Geometry Wars and it's even popular sequel. That hasn't stopped developers trying, big or small. One such small developer is James Hunt whose own dual joystick-stick creation 'Beat Hazard' is currently available on Xbox Live Indie Games and for download on PC.  
Think Geometry Wars meets visualizer and you have Beat Hazard, throw in some Space Giraffe for added spark.  
Think Geometry Wars meets visualizer and you have Beat Hazard, throw in some Space Giraffe for added spark.  
'It’s a crazy Geometry Wars style shooter combined with an insane visualizer, that is completely music driven.' is exactly how Steve Hunt describes Beat Hazard, and it's very much the case. Controlled like any other dual joystick-stick shooter out there, Beat Hazard doesn't try to innovate in ways that affect the way you play. Instead it affects the way the game responds to you, through the music track you've chosen to create the level. Anyone whose spent time with Audiosurf will be familiar with how this works, though understandably it applies rather differently to Beat Hazard then it does to Audiosurf. Basically the music tempo and beat of the specified track will affect the fire power of your ship and the number of enemies that come your way. 
Other musically driven games have attempted and succeeded in employing this concept to a better degree, but there is potential in Beat Hazard. It's just frustrating that it generally suffers from a number of oddities that go a long way to bringing down the experience. One such oddity is the visual differences between the visualiser like background and the actual object and ships that make up a key part of the gameplay. The player alone looks like it's from a totally different game and when you come across the powerful larger ships the visual differences are even more striking. There's also the simple fact that the on screen action can simply become far to blinding to truly enjoy, often resulting in you losing track of your ships position or not fully noticing enemies bullets as they mingle to well into the background.  
For a game that relies so much on it's visual impact, it's worrying how much it affects the way you play. Put in a Pendulum track or some fast paced Prodigy and the game can become unplayable as your eyes bleed to death and you eventually become blind. Okay, maybe I'm over exaggerating a little, but it's a concern that one can only hope will be reworked in future updates. That said, the menu system as it's charm even with the overly slow song selection system at work. But back to the game for a second, like most dual joystick-stick shooters you can obtain power-ups that provide you with bonuses to your points tally and rather intriguingly you can also capture volume-ups which affect the overall volume of the track your playing and the amount of enemies that come a killing. It's an odd inclusion, but one that works better then you'd probably expect and offers something a little different.
 Beat Hazard's visualizer styled approach is both a blessing and a curse for the overall experience.
 Beat Hazard's visualizer styled approach is both a blessing and a curse for the overall experience.
It's obvious that Steve Hunt as taken inspiration from Dylan Fitterer's Audiosurf, and there's fewer games better to take inspiration from. After all continued updates and innovations as made Audiosurf into a fine game that puts the originally released version to shame. One can hope that future updates to Beat Hazard will fix and build upon the fundamentals already in place, because despite what flaws there are, it still as a strong ground work to build upon. The welcomed in-game status update feature isn't as well implemented as it should be, the song selection menus feel slow and some tweaks to the visual style of the game as a whole would make Beat Hazard a certain recommendation for any gamers collection.  
So while I have picked out it's numerous faults, one mustn't forget that it is a one man made game and for that Steve Hunt deserves credit. It's a fine starting point, that will hopefully see improvement over the coming months as player feedback recommends ideas for Steve to work upon. But for just £5, you're still getting a perfectly playable dual joystick-stick shooter that as the potential to be something rather special in a genre filled with copycats and repetition, it's an interesting idea. Just one that isn't as well executed as it could have been.  


Thanks for Reading.
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