It has been almost two years since I covered a music game. The last time was Audiosurf and The Polynomial as part of CPCG in September of 2011 and I haven’t found any music-based games worth covering ever since. It’s a genre that doesn’t really get too many entries outside of dancing and/or plastic peripheral-using rhythm games, so I’m quite happy to have found Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians.
The game sees you enter the world of Symphonia, where all life is sustained by harmony, melody and beat. The denizens of Symphonia tend to believe that music is naturally occurring, but it is in fact dreamt into the world by three ethereal beings known as The Buddies.
The player takes control of Beat, a cute little guy who happens to be one of the three Buddies. You’re awoken from your slumber by Melody, and told that Symphonia is in peril and must be saved. The story/dialogue is written by Rhianna Pratchett, who you may know from her involvement in Tomb Raider, Mirror’s Edge, and Heavenly Sword.[drop2]As a musical action-adventure from a side-on perspective, Beatbuddy differentiates itself from the previously mentioned musical games immediately.
Beatbuddy is a puzzle-platformer of sorts that features music and, specifically, beat as its unique mechanic; you’ll have a much easier time swimming your way through the levels if you can keep a beat.
You don’t need to be Chopin or Slash but if you have no rhythm and can’t tap your foot along to a beat you’ll probably struggle.
The music itself is superb, consisting of everything from thumping bass drums to jazzy trumpets. Each level is a song and as you move through them that song will change.
The first level, The Caves, features swing brass sections in some areas along with the pervasive bass drums and hi-hats and it’s a tune that I simply can not get out of my head – the music in Beatbuddy is genuinely exceptional to the point where I found myself dancing in my seat as I was playing.
This works to my advantage in the game but I’m glad there was nobody watching me. Keeping rhythm and timing your movements are sometimes key to passing obstacles in the game, but there are other things to traverse that will affect the music as you deal with them.
Take hi-hat crabs, for example. These crabs tap their little legs to the beat of the bass drum and the snails that are inevitably found nearby seem to get a bit excited as they play along with their spiky tentacles blocking the way forward.
If you hit the crab with a tap of the X button (on the 360 controller) the crab will retreat into its shell and the snails will stop playing, receding their spikes and giving you space to get through without getting hurt. The crab will only stay in its shell for a few seconds though, so don’t hang around.
Snails aren’t the only hazard you’ll need to avoid as you’re swimming your way around the level: there are the typical spikes to avoid, often with a current pushing you towards them; streams of blobs that can only be dashed (with the A button) through on every other beat; and even strange floating eye things whose charge you must avoid and then attack them from behind while they recover.[drop]Other parts of the environment are helpful and must be used to progress. Bass drum plants thump strongly all around the levels and can be used to propel yourself into things, most notably the coral-like substance that often blocks the path forward. You can also find drums that you can use to redirect these bounces to get to those blockages that are just out of the way otherwise.
There are also plants like the red plant, which sucks you into it, and the green plant, that spits you out after you’re sucked into the red one. A combination of these and more are used to create a very animated world that never ceases to be interesting, even as you puzzle your way through to the next area.
Graphically, Beatbuddy is just breathtaking. Consisting of six huge hand-painted levels that are simply astounding to behold, the aesthetic is painted and heavily outlined. This is further bolstered by some superb effects, such as depth of field blurs on the environment in the fore and background so only the plane you’re playing on is in sharp, crisp focus.
It genuinely is a beautiful looking game, with some areas actually making me stop for a moment just to take it in, which isn’t something that often happens with 2D sprite-based games.
Bringing together lush visuals, superb music and rhythm-based gameplay and puzzle solving, Beatbuddy is a game that came out of nowhere and managed to shock with its quality immediately. It’s unique and genuinely something special, so I heartily recommend a purchase when it releases come August 6th on Steam (Windows, OSx and Linux.
Eventually it should also hit consoles, though there are no dates yet) for £11.99, $14.99 and €14.99. Keep an eye on its official website for a link to buy the game upon release.