Friday, 6 January 2012

Beat Hazard

Developer / Publisher: Cold Beam Games
Released: April 15 2010

Beat Hazard, like AudioSurf, is a game that generates custom levels based on your music. Unlike AudioSurf, Beat Hazard is a top-down arcade shoot-em-up in space.

Critical reception was not great, averaging out to around 70%. Most critics said it was fun, but ultimately lacked depth and replayability.

That changed as the game updated, especially considering the Ultra DLC, which adds multiple new enemy types and mechanics, new bosses, and new player perks and abilities.

Beat Hazard's visuals border on the absurd. It's like Cold Beam said "Would you like an epileptic seizure? Because we can make that happen for you." The insane colours and flashing lights are actually a part of the game's difficulty -- dialing it down to easy mode reduces the game effects, and increasing the difficulty increases the effects. The flashing lights can easily distract and obscure from enemy ships and missiles. In my opinion the normal mode visuals are just crazy enough to look intense and awesome without being overwhelming. Fortunately, I don't have any family history of epilepsy or seizures. But if you do, you should seriously consider playing a different game, or have someone nearby to keep an eye on you.

In Beat Hazard's original state, I would probably agree that it didn't have enough depth to keep me coming back. In fact, you can partially see that effect by comparing my play time in AudioSurf to that of Beat Hazard. But during Steam's Christmas sale I picked up the Ultra DLC, and wow, what a change! Instead of just a few ship types that shoot at you and some asteroids, there are tons of additions like attractor / repulsor ships (which deal no damage but move your ship around), ships with disabling missiles that block you from firing, some kind of crazy mine things, and asteroids that actually follow your ship. Bosses are improved as well: an even bigger, badder ship; some smaller ships that spawn even smaller ships; and crazy space centipede and starfish things. There are a lot more fun perks too, like missile swarms, an ultra beam, deflector shield, and various risk/reward point boosters.

There are several game types. Default mode is single-track play, that awards you with completion percentage and a high score for each track. You can also play survival mode, where you pick a track to start off, and the game is continuous until you die, playing the next track in the folder when one finishes. There's also boss rush mode -- all bosses, all the time! Boss rush is the best for racking up points quickly, but surprisingly it can often feel less intense than survival mode -- likely due to the focus on only one enemy at a time.

Beat Hazard is $10 on Steam, and the Ultra DLC is $5. I absolutely recommend the DLC, so much so that I would probably not recommend the base game without it. Like AudioSurf, it's really a no-brainer if you like music and arcade games.

If you've played Beat Hazard, I'd like to hear how you feel about the DLC: is it a must-buy, or is it optional?

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