One of Beatbuddy’s creators, Threak’s, has a co-founder named Wolf. Now that I have that fact out-of-the-way I can move on to talk about BeatBuddy, a game that has all the potential to be the next big indie hit on Steam, it’s the kind of game that I can see easily starting on Steam and working over to consoles and becoming a poster child in the same way Mike Bithell’s ‘Thomas was alone’ and Dennaton Games’ ‘Hotline Miami’ have become for the Playstation Network and indie games that have seen commercial success.
The game opens on a little blue thing, bobbing underwater, slowly but surely you find out that Symphonia is in trouble and only Beatbuddy can save the day. The game starts by introducing the player to the basic controls. swimming around in any direction is actually a lot more satisfying than I first felt it could be, there is a fluid motion to the controls and although there is a bit of slide to the finish of any movement you quickly get into the rhythm of the thing.
At first the only sounds you are treated to are the bubbles of water and current of the sea, it’s a relaxing atmosphere, but then like any quiet Sunday afternoon in the garden you are disturbed by the rhythm of a far off bass drum. Quickly you’ll realise that the bass drum is an interactive object, when swam into the drum bounces you through a previously impervious wall. Next you’ll experience som Hi-Hats in the form of pearls dropping from the ceiling, your timing must be right to get through these intermittently passable walls.
You’ll find more and more sea creature re-appropriated for musical uses throughout like crabs that produce cymbal sounds. Just wait for that gramophone to turn up, all these elements you’ve heard throughout the level come together to produce a track that is so awesome, it’s like you’ve walked into a 1920′s speakeasy that has a resident DJ set up in the corner.
Rhythm is the key to this game, and with the music even the most rhythmically challenged can find themselves getting into a flow. Knowing when to move past a block in your swimming route is generally passed by waiting for an audio clue from the constant soundtrack provided by the plant life and animals of the sea.
Rhianna Pratchett is a name that is becoming more and more familiar to gamers. With a career that has gone from graphic novels to the latest Tomb Raider reboot, Rhianna Pratchett is a name that has very quickly moved from a name a gamer might know to one even the mainstream are running with. Her inclusion in this game was a wonderful surprise, not only because this is a small studio producing an indie game, but also because her injection of surreal humour that we don’t often get to see in her works and it’s also something that pushes this game even further into a ‘must own territory’.
The levels have all been lovingly hand painted, the first couple of chapters feature a sultry blue cave system with the beat heavy speakeasy jazz providing the soundtrack and then a luscious green pond like area with various ethereal and heavy beated tracks providing momentum.
There have been a handful of Rhythm Games over the past few years, from Sound Shapes to Patapon there have been interesting uses of music to progress the puzzle/platformer genre. I have yet to see the music used in such an integral and innovative way before. The introduction of each of the instruments slowly over a level building it all together to give the player the experience of an ensemble climax is wonderful and gives a sense of satisfaction.
Unfortunately Beatbuddy isn’t a perfect game, the one blessing is that the problems aren’t anything that can’t be fixed by an update soon after release. On the third chapter, Ruins, a lot of the levels are based around the scenery blocking your path, the issue came with the falling rubble falling and blocking the correct, or sometimes, only path. I had to go back to main menu a load from the last checkpoint to get around this issue. Once or twice I would be ok with this happening, but when it happened five times in one chapter I was starting to get annoyed. Mainly because on the following chapters I would get stuck on a puzzle, and rather than question whether I was thinking the puzzle through correctly I just thought the game was glitching again. As I said however these are all issue that can be patched to sort, and when this is the only problem I had with the game, both in terms of programming, art, sound and gameplay it goes to show how awesome it is.
In all the levels there are pink diamond collectables, I’m not sure how, but these seem to equate to the extras option on the main menu. In here you are given a scrapbook history of the Thr3aks team and how the game came to be made. Years in the making with a comprehensive photo guide this extras menu gives you a fascinating insight into the game and its production life. Seeing what went into the production of the game is yet another reason I want it to do well. Not only is this a game that has been produced with a new style of art implemented it also features gameplay that feels, and essentially is, unique. I mentioned other rhythm games earlier in the review, but none implemented sound in this way, Beatbuddy is made to be played with headphones and with the volume loud. It features a love and ingenuity to it’s design that is refreshing in this age of re-hashing other people’s ideas. Rhianna Pratchett’s writing adds an element of humour and thanks to Tomb Raider’s recent success another chance for the masses to potentially pick up this little gem of a title. Beatbuddy is out now on Steam and if you consider yourself a gamer and someone who experiments with indie titles this is most definitely worth your time and money.
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is coming to Steam [PC/Mac/Linux] on August 6th 2013 and hopefully consoles not too long after.
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