Beat Hazard
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

If you are tired of boring licensed tracks by bands you’ve never heard of and dull brown shooters then Beat Hazard is a revelation. The ability to play to your own music collection is nice and the visuals, while over the top, are certainly colorful. It’s not something you are going to be constantly playing, but you will find yourself coming back to it.

Gameplay: As long as you have music you’ll have fun.

Graphics: Retina searing bursts of color.

Sound: Depending on your taste this is obviously the best part of the game

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Beat Hazard

Developer: Cold Beam Games | Publisher: Cold Beam Games | Release Date: 2010 | Genre: Action / Casual / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

When I first laid eyes on Beat Hazard it looked like some glorified amalgamation of Asteroids and Geometry Wars. Its gimmick of generating enemy patterns and firepower according to whatever song is playing sounded intriguing and the price reasonable so I decided to give this Indie title a shot.

Firstly those folks that are prone to seizures better heed the warning at the start of the game. This game takes full screen strobing effects to new levels and after playing for a while it will feel like you’ve been stabbed in the eyes with a rainbow. At times there’s so much color and activity onscreen that it is virtually impossible to see what is going on. The game is a single screen shooter with swirling smoke and sparkling nebulas in the background while your ship mows down waves of foes through the power of music. Your weapon intensity (and enemy density) is linked to the song playing in the background so this is your excuse to break out some loud music. Slow, mellow songs will work too, but you are just making life harder for yourself. The game has online leaderboards that record your score along with the song you got it on so if you are hell bent on playing at insane difficulty to the soothing strains of pan flutes it will be immortalized for other players to envy. For the sad few individuals that somehow have no audio ripped to their PC there is a few pack in tracks to play with.

What I like about Beat Hazard is that each track is unique but not random. Playing the same song again will result in the same experience so you can actually practice tracks and get better at them. A progress bar at the top of the screen shows the song length and you need to stay alive for its duration while racking up a highscore. Destroyed enemies drop power-ups like score multipliers, “volume” and weapon power. You’ll also rank up while playing (according to your score) and these ranks are persistent along with their benefits so you’ll have a reason to keep coming back for more. Survival mode lets you try your hand at playing through an entire album, which is no mean feat considering you won’t get any extra lives while playing. A limited amount of super bombs are your friend as triggering these will clear the screen of foes giving you some breathing room. While these replenish it is still a good idea to save them for desperate situations.

To make life even harder for you is the big motherships that sometimes make an appearance. They take a beating and can fill the screen with projectiles and laser beams, but the bounty of power-ups revealed when you split them open like a piñata makes them welcome targets. Another nuisance is the junk asteroids floating around as they will break apart into millions of little pieces that further clutter up the screen. Enemy projectiles can also sometimes become lost in the psychedelic mess which further decreases your chances of survival.

If all of this sounds too exhausting you can always try the “Chillout” mode that gives you unlimited lives but don’t expect to make it to the leaderboards. There’s even a two player mode if you want a friend to join in on the carnage. If simply beating your own scores or making it to the leaderboards isn’t enough there’s a few Steam achievements to aim for as well.

Beat Hazard is perfectly playable with a keyboard and mouse, but those that want the true “twin stick” shooter experience can play with a Xbox360 or compatible controller. Regardless of your preference everything controls very smoothly. The limited amount of enemy ship designs can lead to a feeling of repetitiveness and there’s only a handful of mothership types as well. Until you reach high enough ranks where you start with full “volume” power-ups songs start out very soft and requires pickups to boost. This can be a bit annoying if you want to listen to your tunes at full blast.

The music is obviously the highlight of the game and only limited to your collection. The way the songs are analyzed and interpreted looked like it works perfectly to me and the action onscreen always matched what was coming through the speakers. You’ll will come to dread the sudden lulls in loud songs, especially if you hear the warning klaxon signifying the eminent appearance of a mothership (or two!)

I know some people are probably going to take one look at this game and declare it unplayable but it will be their loss. Beat Hazard is a challenging and addictive shooter albeit one that’s a little punishing on the eyes. For the price it’s being sold at, you can’t go wrong either.

*Review originally published in 2010.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7
  • Processor: 2.0GHz processor
  • Memory: 512+MB of RAM
  • Hard Drive: 40+MB of free hard drive space
  • Graphics: 256MB of video memory
  • Sound: DirectX-compatible sound
  • DirectX®: 9 or later
  • OS: OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later.
  • Processor: Intel
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 250mb HD space
  • OS: Ubuntu Linux 12.04 LTS or equivalent
  • Processor: x86 1.5 GHz
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 250mb HD space

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