Yeah, you could end up hating your music by the end...
Reviewing a game like Beat Hazard presents an interesting problem. It’s a dual stick shooter where the gameplay is influenced by the music on your hard drive. Now, you might be wondering how that works, well it’s very simple; the pace and beats of your music has a direct link to how fast you can shoot and how fast the enemies spawn. The faster/higher tempo of a track, the more insane the shooting gets, and I do mean insane... on the highest mode you’ll have to keep track of 40+ enemies on screen at once while still managing to spot that blip that is your ship
Beat Hazard has a very potent visual style; your bullets are bright streams of lights that shoot out in front of your ship across the entire level. The actual background is full of pulsating neon light colours and the very minimal HUD look like bolts of lightning when you collect enough power ups. This style of presentation will take a little getting used to, I found myself having to take a break after just a couple of songs because you literally get a headache keeping track of the game in this intense visual style.
However, once your brain is wired to deal with the intensity of the game; Beat Hazard is just extremely fun. The idea of using your own music to (literally) run a game is put to perfect use and essentially, turns every single one of your songs into a level. I couldn’t quite figure out how the game spawns bosses into a level, every now and then a huge space ship with a impressive arsenal will come into play. A very specific strategy is required to take them down efficiently and they can be very tough when the game is in full swing. Due to the fact that you never know for sure when they will spawn, it really keeps you on your toes.
Beat Hazard doesn’t get truly insane until you put in a little time; I’m only taking a couple of hours. The reason for this is that there is a progressive levelling up system. As you complete songs you’ll earn points, the higher the difficulty the more points you’ll earn. Once you get to around the middle ranks you’ll start out with more super bombs (just think of a nuke) and a higher score multiplier. The latter is really where the addiction can be begin, once you start out with the biggest one you’ll automatically want to play all the other songs again to increase your score. And once you reach the highest rank, that desire will return again and again because the highest difficulties are locked until you rank up. It’s a great system that when combined with the possibility of infinite levels adds a tremendous amount of replay value to the game.
Beat Hazard has an undeniable retro feel to it; however, the presentation along the how the game actually plays makes it feel very new and unique. Make no mistake, once you start playing above the hardcore setting, the game does get very difficult (especially if you listen to a lot of rock or dance music like me) but the biggest appeal of the game is the way in which it actually turns something you enjoy into something better. Having your entire music library turned into a game is simply amazing, and truth be told, even if this was a basic dual stick shooter that did the same thing without your music; the core experience is too much fun to pass up.
Of course there is the danger of this game causing you to hate your entire music collection if you don’t get the hang of it...