The ability to combine visuals and music within games has been around for a while and has already seen the likes of Groov, a game which made use of the Indie Games channel to further experiments within the genre. Now, Cold Beam Games add their take on fusing music and visuals with their release, Beat Hazard.
The premise will be more than a little familiar to veterans of twin stick shooters; move the ship with the left stick, as the right stick fires in whatever direction it`s pushed in, all the while dodging enemy bullets and missiles. Around now the stifling of yawns will be almost deafening and initially most would be forgiven for being quite smug in that assumption. But Beat Hazard`s take on things, fusing music with its twin stick aesthetic, makes perfect sense once the games mechanics are revealed.
The initial, dampened music and visuals are ramped up as power-ups are collected by destroying on-screen enemies. Volume Up is obvious, as are the likes of the weapons, super bomb and score multiplier. It`s not until you combine a mixture of these that the game hits its stride, as vivid particle effects swim across the screen, bathing it in a kaleidoscopic riot of colour. And when the final power up, the titular Beat Hazard, is engaged (after volume and weapon power are maxed out) it’s fair to say that it ramps up the colour and volume into an all out assault. Those with photosensitivity will naturally want to stay away from Beat Hazard, as it`s pretty full on before you even get to this stage.
The visuals arent just confined to pretty colours either as the players ship, right through to enemy characters, are all well rendered while they are arguably generic, they posses a robustness to them not usually seen in a XBIG title.
Each time a song is completed (or perhaps survived would be a more accurate description), the player is rewarded with a score which in turn helps them rank up, unlocking extras for use in the game. Abilities like being awarded a Volume Up or Multiplier at the very start are most welcome, creating a hook on which to come back and play some more, going after the next rank and unlockable.
While it comes with a commendable selection of music (the Beat Hazard soundtrack isnt half bad in a generic way), the real test comes when you put your own music into the game. Given the recalcitrant nature of how the 360 handles music (i.e. not allowing direct file transfer), the best method of importing MP3 files is to have your PC / Laptop connected up to the console via Media Centre. Once it scans the contents for the shared music, you are free to use whatever tunes you wish, and it’s when the real fun begins.
Hand Beat Hazard a song like Dance Area`s AA 24/7 and once it’s finished you`ll struggle to remember what it was like to have your retinas intact, as it sears the screen with flashes and pulses in rapid succession. By equal measure, load up something like Electric Coconuts seminal hit Popcorn, and it`ll react just as crazy to reflect the eccentric manner of the song. In rather random fashion, feeding it Marvin Gaye`s woozy 70`s freak out, Christmas in the City, and the results are erratic to say the very least. One shudders to think what would happen if the game was given a particularly robust Gabba or Happy Hardcore track to play with