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Beat Hazard

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Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Cold Beam Games' Beat Hazard has been turning beautiful music into twin-stick bullet hell for over two years. It went Ultra via DLC in June 2011, and has slowly made its way across several platforms, from PC to PS3. Shockingly, Beat Hazard had yet to make the leap to handheld devices. Fortunately for iOS owners, that's no longer the case. Beat Hazard Ultra is now available for iOS and the transition couldn't have gone any smoother.

For those new to the game, Beat Hazard Ultra is a twin-stick space shooter played atop an isometric playing field. Obstacles and enemy ships are generated based on the tracks in your own personal music library. It's a concept that feels like it was made for a portable music player. The only concern I had was whether the shooting mechanics would work with the iOS touch screen.

Beat Hazard Ultra allows for two control methods â€" single-stick and twin-stick. Twin-stick controls offer a more traditional control scheme, using the bottom corners of the touch screen to move the ship and shoot in any direction. The touch controls are responsive and carry over the PC/console experience seamlessly to the iOS platform.

iPad owners looking for a traditional Beat Hazard experience will love the twin-stick controls, but they can be problematic for iPhone users. Players' thumbs can obstruct parts of the screen on the smaller iPhone/iPod Touch screen. The single-stick controls help alleviate this issue slightly by requiring only a single thumb for movement, while the player's ship shoots automatically. This solves the visibility problem and the auto-shooting mechanic works more often than not, with only a few instances of my ship shooting away from my intended target.

Ideally, Beat Hazard Ultra works best as a pick-up-and-play title. Quick Play sessions last only the length of a song and will likely be the way most people experience the game, because of the portable nature of the iOS platform. I also had a blast with the game's extended game modes, like Survival and Boss Rush. Boss Rush changed things up from the other game modes by using the Horde-style wave system. It felt like Boss Rush was less dependent on my music, but I enjoyed the structure of the time-based wave system. I particularly liked that later waves would arrive, whether I cleared out the previous wave or not.

What makes Beat Hazard Ultra feel unique is that the atmosphere changes based on your own music. I had different enemies spawn in depending on whether I played The Beatles, Iron Maiden, or Jay-Z, with some songs ushering in boss ships as their beats changed. The game even compelled me to hit the iTunes app and buy new songs just to see how they would fit the Beat Hazard experience. One issue I've noticed, however, is that there's no way to filter the random song setting. I have an eclectic music collection and it's a little jarring for the game to transition from Mastodon to Bruno Mars. I tried getting around this by using the Internet Radio feature, but those songs varied wildly in quality. A playlist feature would have been ideal in this instance.

As much as I enjoyed Beat Hazard Ultra on PC and PSN, there's no better way to experience it than on iOS. With a personal music library at your fingertips, there's plenty of reason to grab a good shooter to go along with it. Beat Hazard Ultra will fit whatever musical mood you're in, whether you’re on-the-go or looking to plunge into a whole album.

Shacknews - Jeff Mattas

In last week's picks, I included a trailer for the indie adventure game TRAUMA (see top image) by Krystian Majewski. It's an adventure title that garnered several award nominations at various indie festivals in 2010, but has just recently been released for public consumption. It's a refreshingly adult experience that takes place inside the dreams of a woman recuperating from a car crash. Each "chapter" of the game is a surreal micro-story that informs the larger narrative and character development. All of this is presented in an intuitive interface that allows players to navigate the game's 2D photos--its primary art assets--in 3D space.

TRAUMA

I enjoyed my experience with TRAUMA quite a lot. Despite being about navigating complex emotional landscapes, the actual playing of the game is surprisingly intuitive. It's one of those titles you could sit a non-gamer friend in front of and set them loose without much guidance. We'll also be discussing the game on the Weekend Confirmed podcast the week after PAX.

You can read my full review on Indie Games Channel, and the game itself can is available on Steam ($6.99) or the developer's website (5 euros). If you want to give it a test run, there's also a free (lower fidelity) browser-based version playable on the official site.

I've also got a couple of great indie interviews with developers Young Horses (Octodad 2) and Cold Beam Games (Beat Hazard) about their upcoming titles:

With the Indie Games Summer Uprising kicking off on XBLIG beginning this Monday, August 22, I figured it's only appropriate to share another trailer from one of the more interesting looking entries, SpeedRunner HD. Developed by Doubledutch games, SpeedRunner began its life as a Flash title, but the XBLIG rendition will include some crazy looking local competitive multiplayer for up to four players (starts around the 0:52 second mark). SpeedRunner HD will run 240 Microsoft Points ($3), and will be out on XBLIG before the Uprising ends on September 2.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Your favourite song can be quite scary when it's launching legions of spaceships to blow you apart. Fear not, Beat Hazard players! Come next month you'll be able to get a friend to help you beat back the invading hordes from Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music,' when multiplayer finally arrives as downloadable content.

Launching via Steam on June 27 for $5, the 'Ultra' DLC will add co-op and competitive online multiplayer modes to the arena shooter. Beat Hazard, don't you know, generates its levels based upon music you feed it--Audiosurf with guns. Beyond mere multiplayer, Ultra's a fairly hefty overhaul complete with new enemies, bosses, power-ups, and modes, plus a new perk and upgrade system.

A PlayStation 3 edition of Beat Hazard are slated to launch some time this year. One would imagine that these will come with Ultra's features built in, considering how much it's changing. Ultra won't make it to the Xbox 360 version, as it was released via Xbox Live Indie Games--which doesn't support DLC. However, developer Cold Beam Games is running a petition to raise publisher interest in an Xbox Live Arcade release of Ultra.

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