I was unfamiliar with BeatBlasters 1 or 2 (in reality I can’t actually find anything on these games at all) when I was invited to check out the third instalment of the franchise by Chainsawesome Games.
Describing itself as a “rhythm/action-platformer” game I was a little bewildered as to what to expect. Was it Super Mario Bros. game with Guitar Hero elements? No. With BeatBlasters III it’s not that simple.
Story wise you play either Joey or Gina (choosing either appears to have no value other than cosmetically) a musically inclined pair as they, for reasons not explained, decide to visit a town called ‘Accepella’ which in true Footloose-esq fasion has banned ‘groovy tunes’ (possibly not all music is outlawed I suspect, maybe it’s just the dubstep ‘beats’ the pair produce which would be quite understandable). The ‘ruler’ of the town promptly sends the pair packing and thus begins a strange journey to return to the town and, err I guess, you know, free the town? Again it’s not very well explained. Each level is inhabited by, but again not explained; quite random occupants (butterfly cows, pirates, ghosts, monkeys, penguins – both good and evil, robots etc.).
So how does it play? As blurbed it’s a platformer for one so your character has to navigate a 2D side-scroller world both protecting and defeating the surreal world inhabitants with your abilities, of which you posses three: attack, a shield and a rocket jump. Often the levels have you using these powers frequently so management is essential - which is where the ‘beat’ element comes in. When not shooting, protecting or jumping you need to replenish each power. This is achieved by putting yourself into a recharge mode (holding down a button) and then rhythmically tapping that ability button to an electronica tempo matching a swinging metronome. Having to recharging keeps you busy and being good at doing so, especially when under pressure, can be difficult to do. Once successfully recharged all of your skills you’ll also unlock the ability to for a short time let loose an infinite energy burst of all powers at once. The better you tap in time, the faster you can recharge and the better you score. Thus in turn the better you play the more stars you earn at the end of each level to upgrade your abilities. Because of the three powers plus recharge button it’s nay impossible to play with a keyboard. A controller is definitely recommended.
Graphically the game is easy on the eye with a Rayman gloss that looks good and animations for the most part are quite well done (although the characters jumping movement doesn’t look quite right). It’s vibrant and colourful with its own art style making it stand out. As with in-game graphics, the presentation is solid with good clear menus, options and features well laid out. To be expected from a game that relies on rhythm the audio is of a good high standard however does lack some diversity with each level only giving a slight variation on a theme.
Its shtick is that it’s certainly unique. I’ve never come across this type of game in my years of playing and in some ways it reminds me of a modified tower defence or Plants vs. Zombies type game. Some levels (only 16 in total!) are more puzzle geared while others have you require more platform dexterity. I found the escorting character missions to be very tedious and boring and only wishing to scrape by (getting one star by allowing only one of my party to survive) just to progress to the next level. Naturally doing better scores you more points to spend on upgrades, but had little inclination to do so.
Certainly unique and ‘niche’ I found at times I had fun, but oh so often I was left asking myself “Why am I playing this?” Although novel with a innovative mechanic I found the game slow, tedious and offer little in the way of longevity/replayability. Yes the game is budget (£6.99) but I just didn’t get enough out of BeatBlasters III to enjoy it. Maybe I was expecting it to be a little more casual, but instead found it too slow and at times challenging – even frustrating in moments. The pace is all over the shop and its gimmick didn’t hold my attention. Perhaps if the game had some charm and humour I would have been more enamoured. Failing that if they had given each level a different musical genre with its own tempo or, dare I say, even use a licensed or recognisable track (classical or a parody of a known song could avoid licensing costs) may have made the game more fun.
I’m going to wait for BeatBlasters VI to see if they make it more enjoyable and maybe have that X-Factor (pun intended).