Beat Hazard (PC) Review

Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/s/beat_hazard/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Beat Hazard is a shoot-em-up fueled by music. The game launched late last year on Xbox LIVE Arcade, but managed to slip under our radar (why didn't you tell us!). Anyway, it's on PC now, so we gave it a shot.

The premise and design of the game are absurdly simple, but it's precisely this simplicity that makes it so great. Essentially, you're a small ship in a fixed arena with tons of baddies (and asteroids) after you pretty much at all times. The game comes with a soundtrack of its own, but the real fun is putting your own music to it.

Naturally, the music is linked to the game -- the more intense it is, the more intense your fire. Likewise, the more enemies are on screen. There are tons of other "behind the scenes" triggers going on, too, so for the most part, you really feel tied to the music as much as the gameplay. Note tracks play the same each time, so you can master each while also having a virtually infinite number of "levels."

Modifiers kick up the volume and your fire a notch each time you grab one. There's also multipliers, which can be increased further by not firing for five seconds, and for every 30 seconds you survive. The level ends when the song is over, though Survival Mode will play the track folder you select indefinitely, which opens up the game further for music nuts that want to create compilations (fans are already suggesting tracks in our forums).

Bosses show up, as you'd expect, which really puts the pressure on. These are a blast, and you really feel satisfied when you take one out, all the while avoiding fire from multiple enemies.

Some particularly thrilling sessions occur when a song drops out entirely or almost so for a second or a few -- at this point your ammo is essentially useless, and you've got to decide whether to dodge like crazy or whip out a smart bomb.

The key to doing well is spinning while shooting (we used the mouse and keyboard, but the Xbox 360 controller is supported too), accomplished by moving the mouse in circles while navigating with the WASD or arrow keys. This requires some decent coordination skills; improving them is half the fun. Of course, there are occasions where you'll want to concentrate your fire, too, and knowing exactly when is another avenue for improvement. Hardcore and Insane difficulties provide further challenge, and ranks and achievements provide further incentive.

Besides that, there's not a ton to say about Beat Hazard; it's just a really, really fun game just about everyone should have in their collection, especially for the $10 asking price. It lends itself well as a party game, too. Note heavy and/or upbeat music is more or less required for proper enjoyment, so if you're the crooner music type, stay away. For the rest of us, it's a gem.

Beat Hazard is available now on GamersGate and Steam, and will be soon on Impulse.

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