I really, REALLY wanted to love Beatbuddy. Games that incorporate music into their gameplay are kind of my thing, and to the game's credit it does start out VERY strong. The first half hour or so is incredibly fun and inventive as you experience how the game layers beats on top of each other to create the main song of the level, and discovering each new creature and how it interacts with the soundtrack and Beatbuddy gameplay wise is incredibly novel. Sadly the gameplay fails to stay fresh for very long, relying on the same bounce pad and reflector tile gameplay for the majority of the game, which is pretty disappointing for a game that's only 3 hours long.
The first thing you'll notice are how floaty the controls feel. The game (appears) to be set underwater, so that point can be somewhat forgiven, but if you're playing with a keyboard and mouse the poor controls are really put front and center. The majority of the game is based upon interacting with your environment, using keys in locks, hitting things to the beat, etc. However this quickly becomes INFURIATING when Beatbuddy simply refuses to pick up an object or swim a certain direction, ESPECIALLY in time sensitive situations. I can count on one hand the times during my playthrough that Beatbuddy picked up or placed an object where I wanted to the first time without having to click the mouse repeatedly. Another totally bizarre control issue is that Beatbuddy will occasionally just stop listening to your commands altogether and swim in completely random directions, sometimes coinciding with your mouse being over the foreground art but sometimes due to nothing at all. All this leads to a very obnoxious gameplay experience at best, and a potentially maddening one at worst. Eventually you get used to it (about 30 minutes before the end, unfortunately) but when the game throws handfuls of enemies at you at once and you're being helplessly knocked around while the game ignores mouse input, or given a time sensitive puzzle and Beatbuddy flat out REFUSES to pick up an essential piece of the puzzle in a timely manner, you can't help but feel let down.
Thankfully Beatbuddy is forgiven some of its gameplay missteps with a very charming art style, which is a 3D character model on top of very beautiful layered 2D art, although for a musically driven game the soundtrack is surprisingly mediocre, save for a few standouts. While the first level is designed extremely well in regards to introducing not only the layers of song throughout the level in a gradual and fun way, but also the creatures of the world and how they interact with you and the song, that detail seems to go out the window past the first few levels. The soundtrack becomes just the backdrop as the game progresses instead of a major gameplay element, with a few exceptions of course. The fact that the game forgoes a lot of these fun ways to introduce the song of the level compounded with the hit or miss controls and the fact that you see most of what the gameplay has to offer very early on makes the Beatbuddy segments seem like filler until you get to the next vehicle sequence, which is when you get to hear the level's song in its entirety (or as much as they were allowed to play, as the "level's song in its entirety" actually only ever ends up being maybe a 15 second loop of a chunk of the chorus). It began to feel like I was just chugging through the same old bounce pad, reflector tile and collect the gems sequences as Beatbuddy until I got to play the next vehicle segment, which turned out to be the game I ACTUALLY wanted to play.
As for the story, it serves its purpose. For a 3 hour game it does its job. The characters are all very likeable and cute, too. Their designs are pretty unique and fit the world well, and they all speak in their own style of beatbox which is pretty endearing. The game has some decent humor in the way of your companion, Clef, dismissing the very clearly falling apart vehicle you both ride in and the Prince character doing some very tongue-in-cheek villain things. Slight spoiler alert here, but the ending seems to happen all at once and with very little fanfare which is very disappointing. For a big, boisterous music game I was expecting a large boss battle with some rousing music, but the ending really comes out of nowhere and happens very quietly. For a short little music game like this I suppose it's fine, I was just hoping for more.
Even with all that being said, there's still something about Beatbuddy. I'd be totally lying if I said a few of the songs weren't still stuck in my head, and I beat it in one sitting and didn't want to stop, which is saying a lot nowadays. Maybe it was because I wanted to see what the next level was going to look like, or what new mechanic they would introduce, or maybe I just wanted to hear what the next song would be. Unfortunately with the gameplay flaws and short gametime Beatbuddy comes off as less of a good videogame and more of a really enjoyable interactive music video. If that's fine to you, by all means pick up this game. If you're really pining for a new music game, pick up this game. For everyone else I'd say maybe avoid this one. Pick up some of the greats (Audiosurf, Beat Hazard, etc.) or maybe get it on sale.