tmthomsen's Beat Hazard (PC) review

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A New and Fresh Experience

Beat Hazard is a game best described as " Geometry Wars meets Audiosurf". Both of those games are great, so it is not without reason that Beat Hazard is great as well.

Either with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard, you control a spaceship with only one objective: shoot everything that moves. The game floods the screen with hostile spaceships, asteroids and a boss here and there while you concentrate on avoiding enemy fire and grabbing power-ups. The power-ups consist of score multipliers, weapon upgrades, bombs and volume upgrades. The volume upgrades does nothing other than increasing the volume of the song, which is kind of weird since you really want to be able to hear the song fully all the time. You start with 3 lives in each song and have no ability to gain more. Once you collide with an object or get hit by incoming fire, you lose a life and respawn.

   The visuals change according to what you  hear
 The visuals change according to what you hear
Like in Audiosurf, the game uses your music to create the levels. Everything from the background colours to the rate at which enemies spawns, are in time with the current song. This doesn't necessarily mean that songs with a faster tempo are harder, because your spaceship's rate of fire also changes in time with the song's tempo and rhythm. In fact, songs with a slower tempo tends to be harder since you will have a harder time acquiring power-ups to be able to handle the enemies and possible boss spawns.

The bosses spawn when there is a big rhythmic change in the song. They slowly enter the screen from any of the sides and starts firing their several weapons. While the boss battle is on, no other enemies enters the screen for some time, which grants you enough time to focus on bringing it down. I found that the most effective strategy against them is circle-strafing while focusing my fire on the boss' weapons. The boss battles is a neat addition to the gameplay and keeps the game from getting too repetitive.

   The game pops in a boss every now and then
 The game pops in a boss every now and then
The game also features notifications from your friends that also happens to own the game, but there is no way to interact with them as of this writing. You're able to see "Friend X has completed song Y and gained 51.111 points!" and other status updates at the bottom of the screen, but it would also be nice to be able to send out challenges or compare song stats. The game is also equipped with a levelling-system that let's you rise in ranks as you complete more songs. The level ranks grant you small bonuses that helps you to gain a higher score, but it will not make you better at surviving.

The first you see when you start a game is a warning for people with light sensitivity, and that is not without reason. The game can easily turn your screen into a mess of different colours that all flash and change in time with the music. This greatly enhances the experience of playing the game, however, it can sometimes become too much. When your spaceship is fully powered up and you're at a furiously fast part in a song, your shots can easily cover half of the screen which makes it kind of hard to avoid colliding into smaller objects. This only really becomes a problem when you die, since the game automatically respawns you in the middle of the screen without any indication of where you are. This can often lead to a frustrating death-streak which often means Game Over.

   Heavy Metal can make your spaceship  incredibly powerful
 Heavy Metal can make your spaceship incredibly powerful
So far I've really had fun with the game and intend to spend a lot of more time with it. My biggest problem with the game is that it starts the songs at a very low volume and wants you to grab Volume pick-ups to increase it. I fail to see the reason behind it and it actually really annoys me. I think that being able to play your own music is the biggest selling point of this game, so why may I not hear the song? Also, if you're fully powered up and lose a live, the volume will get lowered again. I personally find this super frustrating and hope it will get addressed sometime. Another problem is the game's menu; it loads the song list excruciatingly slow. It can easily become frustrating to wait 10-20 seconds for the game to load a folder with 300 songs, and I certainly hope that this issue will be addressed in a patch as well. However, these two issues are the only real flaws I can find in this game, and ultimately the one things stopping it from getting 5 stars. 
In short: This game is great and you should at least consider trying it.

The game is currently available on Steam for $9.95 or €6.99 and as an Xbox Live Indie game for 400 MS Points. 

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