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Beat Hazard screen

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The Xbox Live Indie Games service is full of clones of more popular titles.  “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so they say.  Sadly, the imitator is rarely as good as the original.

Beat Hazard is, in essence, a Geometry Wars clone.  However, it is one of those rare titles that not only meets the expectations set by its predecessor, but exceeds them.  It is perhaps the single finest Indie Game on the entire service.

Dual-stick shooters are probably the most overused genre on the Xbox 360 Marketplace.  If one wants to set itself apart, it has to do something drastically different while, at the same time, still sticking to the addictive mechanics of the first dual-stick hit (from the original Xbox, no less!), Geometry WarsBeat Hazard uses music as its gimmick.

A “level” in BH is one song long.  You can choose from the ten pre-set techno songs that come included with the game, which are all fairly solid, or you can use tunes from your own media library.

You are a spaceship.  You shoot asteroids and enemy spaceships.  There’s a power bomb that destroys all the enemies on the screen.  La de da.  Same old song and dance.

There are three power-ups to collect from fallen enemies.  There’s the standard “+1 multiplier”, but there’s also a “volume up”, and a “power up”.  You see, each song/level starts you off at a low song volume with a weak ship laser.  As the volume increases, your guns do more damage, and “Power ups” make your weapons stronger.

Beat Hazard 2

Max out both volume and power, and you become a “beat hazard,” a one-ship killing machine with a mega-laser.  If you die, then you’ll start back at square one.  If you manage to evade the baddies and blast away, you’ll rack up huge points.

A cool part is how the music links into the gameplay.  When the bass is thumping and the music is pumping, the entire game acts as a trippy visualizer.  Your laser’s strength and the intensity of the visual effects build with the intensity of the music.  Likewise, quiet songs mean a weak laser.  It’s quite a sight and an interesting mechanic.

With so much going on, it may feel like you could lose your ship amongst all the explosive action.  But as the nucleus for all the destruction, you will rarely feel lost.  This is a good thing.

Beat Hazard also borrows from Geometry Wars in a few other aspects.  If you don’t shoot for a while, you’ll earn multiplier bonuses – it’s called a “dare devil bonus”, as opposed to GW‘s “pacifist”.  Also, the score multipliers you build here can reach into the hundreds.  Beating one level poorly may net you 50,000 points.  Do it well, and you can surpass a million.

There are also challenges (read: achievements) to attain, and any points you earn are added to an overall score pool.  At set point amounts, you’ll level up and get bonuses to help you reach even higher scores.

Beat Hazard 3

There are three difficulty levels, and higher levels reward you with more enemies and even more mind-expanding visuals.  Normal provides a good challenge while still letting you win.  Hardcore will make you feel like a god.

I’m not sure how many people have actually used the personalized playlist feature on the 360, but this game will have you installing music to your hard drive that you don’t even like, in the hope that linking it with asteroid blasting will produce an even greater mental addiction to the beats.  Believe me, it will.

Techno seems the obvious choice, but how about some old Johnny Cash?  White Stripes?  Bach?  Hanson?  Band Hero‘s Taylor Swift?  You are limited only by your extensive music library.  Each song is a new audio/visual experience.

Although, there are a few things holding the game back: local multiplayer only (no online), no online leaderboards (not even for the ten in-game songs), and the fact that there is no way to tell which difficulty you attained your high score for each song.

However, once Last.fm makes its Xbox debut, a Cold Beam Games patch to include Internet radio compatibility on Beat Hazard would mean this is the last game you’d ever have to buy.

As it is, Beat Hazard is the best 400 Microsoft points you can spend in the Indie Games library.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a more addictive downloadable title in the entirety of the Xbox Marketplace.

Pop in some tunes and charge up your lasers, this is one musical experience you won’t soon forget.

Score: 9.5/10

  1. Dang! This sounds crazy! Dang!

  2. avatar Trample

    So… if you were to compare this to an elephant, which would be more longterm?

  3. If I took drugs, I’m sure this would be one of my favorite games.

  4. If I owned an Xbox, I’d play Miley Cirus to this game.

  5. This game looks really trippy. I have to admit I am intrigued.

  6. At least download the trial. You only get to play about the first minute of a song (any song, even one of yours), so you don’t get to see the cool bosses and the REALLY hard parts of the levels, but the prettiness alone should be enough to sway you to part with your $5.

    May I recommend a song that starts softly then keeps building in intensity, like “Handlebars” by Flobots? Blues music also gives the game a unique vibe, but it gets tough when it gets quiet, because your lasers pretty much die.

  7. avatar shawnuf

    Bought the game today, and it is different on every song played. One album that is fun to play is the String Quartet tribute to Rush’ 2112. Songs that rise and fall in volume and tempo are interestingly challenging!

  8. Gah! why can’t this be on PS3?

  9. @ Ferahtsu

    Seriously, this is one title I’m wishing more and more each day that was on the PS3. Lucky 360ers.

  10. avatar Ferahtsu

    Indeed. I’ve tried Beats and Audiosurf, but this looks far more…..well, awesome.

  11. avatar mooseman

    u dont have to be high as a kite to enjoy this game.

  12. avatar Atanacius

    I’m french player and i would say i’ve got this game for 400 MSP.
    This game is really exciting with challenge, boss, strategy, levelup and explosives amazing beautiful effects. I love this game.
    Thanks to ShadowRage for making my dream a reality !
    I hope a Beat Hazard 2 for next year !

  13. avatar jacdad82

    To the guys who made this game, “THANK YOU”!! It has taken me out of the “daily grind” of playing Halo. This game KICKS A**!! Awesome visual effects and great sound! I’ve found that Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” to be one of my favorites. Extreme, fast pace with many bosses. A definate winner in my book, thanks again ShadowRage for an outstanding game!
    My wife is the 1% who gets seizures from just watching!! LOL

  14. avatar omganame

    awwww. This game is just like Beat trip Beat on the Wii. THat game is so trippy and this game will probably be the same. Best Game Ever: Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: All-Stars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Buy It Now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. avatar beatlesfan1990

    Songs by Queen are really fun to play to as the intensity is always changing!

  16. avatar Justin

    hahah @Simon Jones
    for sure, believe me it gets even better on drugs =)

  17. avatar Guile21

    Try NOFX – The decline. It will blow your mind

  18. avatar UFO Tofu

    This game rules!!! Check out my review on my new blog at http://cheatsreviewsandmore.blogspot.com/

  19. avatar SeekerDRahl

    In Beat Hazard
    Rap is for nOObs
    Pop is for sissys
    Techno is average
    And Heavy Metal is for bad asses

  20. avatar Cracko Kane

    There are only 2 flaws in this game that I hope will get addressed either with a patch or in a sequel: You can’t restart the song during the game, you have to back out and go back to your long list of albums/track and start over…this takes at least a minute to accomplish, not a huge deal, but it gets annoying when you’re trying to pull off a perfect game and mess up. The 2nd flaw is there is no online multiplayer, I don’t really much care about leaderboards, but I would love to be able to invite someone to a game. If both people have the same tracks, tagged/hashed the same way, I don’t see why it would be an issue…otherwise an inclusion of Last FM support would also make it possible.

  21. avatar Dills

    At the end of a song, you can hit replay

  22. avatar Pity

    big flaw … if you dont have a HD in your xbox and play off flash drives like i do you cant play this game =(

  23. avatar Anonymous

    It’s only 80 msp now

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