Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Beat Hazard Followup

I've been tweeting a lot about Beat Hazard recently, being that I got the game for Christmas.  So naturally, with the full game in hand, it's time to revisit my old review of it.

Having made it all the way to the top rank (as determined by total score) and gotten all the Steam achievements, I can elaborate on a few things.  The type of music really does make a difference for the overall gameplay experience, but something I didn't really stress enough was how difficult some quiet parts of songs can be.  When you essentially can't deal damage to enemies and have to spend time dodging them as you wait for the song to pick up again, things get pretty hectic.  Or you could just fire off a bomb.  I often repeat the mantra of "bomb the transition".

The game's achievements are all pretty simple to get.  The ones that the fewest people on Steam have are the ones that take the longest to get, namely playing 100 songs and accumulating 10 hours of gameplay time.  The ones I thought would be the hard ones (killing a boss before it fires, not firing for 60 seconds, making it through a song without dying, and killing 8 bosses in a single song) happened to be pretty easy.  They're all either a matter of skill, luck, or choosing the right song to do it on.

Survival mode is pretty difficult, though I managed to last 25 minutes in my run for the Survival achievements (which top out at 20 minutes).  It turns up the visual intensity and difficulty on you, and you get three lives to last as long as you can.  There are no extra life powerups, no bonus lives at certain point values, etc. like other games might have.  You'll have to be at least somewhat decent to get longer survival times.

The game provides a way to check the leaderboards, so you won't have to exit or bring up the Steam overlay to see how well you're doing compared to other players.  It even has a friends section that just compares you to your friends on Steam.  Sadly only one of my friends has played more than a few minutes of the game, so I don't have a lot to compare myself to.  Also I overtook him on all the leaderboards, so... yeah.

The Beat Hazard "powerup" is simply your full power state.  Volume affects the amount of damage you deal and Power affects the spread of your weapons.  Once you reach the highest rank ("Elite"), you'll start in the Beat Hazard state, and this helps your scores a lot.  So once you reach Elite, go back and play the songs you played up until then over again to set a real score.

Sometimes the game spawns what I call "trash waves", where rather than enemy ships that fire at you, you get random lumps of junk that break apart after a few shots.  These can be tricky to handle if not done properly.  The key, as I've figured out, is to realize that the same piece of trash will leave one side of the screen and enter the opposite side, keeping its direction and speed.  So as long as you handle trash waves in a methodical manner, you shouldn't have any difficulty with them.

The only things that need to be unlocked in the game are two difficulty levels, Insane and Suicidal.  I forget what you have to do to unlock Insane, but Suicidal unlocks when you get the rank Elite 10.  After getting the rank Elite, the game will award you additional Elite ranks every 5 million points.  I'm currently at Elite 30.  The difficulty levels increase the visual intensity and number of enemies, as well as how much firepower it'll take to destroy enemies and bosses.  You may find yourself having to supplement your firepower with a bomb or two against bosses, especially on Suicidal.

Speaking of bombs, an important thing to note is that using a bomb gives you temporary invulnerability, in addition to clearing out the enemies onscreen.  You can use this to your advantage to grab powerups that a boss is camping on, get through the beam attacks they use to try and pin you down, etc.

As I mentioned before, the game unfortunately doesn't support APE audio.  Also, as I've noticed, it doesn't get along with FLAC+CUE at all.  It sees the FLAC file as one really long song, essentially ignoring the CUE file that defines where each track begins and ends.  It looks like I'll have to split all of my FLAC+CUE, which I was going to do anyway due to a weird metadata-related bug in foobar2000.

When closing the game it currently advertises an upcoming DLC pack that looks pretty awesome.  New enemies, new bosses, new powerups, and online multiplayer (both co-op and head to head).  All for $5.

Overall: Basically, if you enjoy twin stick shooters and like music, this is a good game for you.

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