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Rhythm games have seen a huge resurgence in the last couple of years, with innovative titles flowing out from every direction in an effort to get people shaking to the beat. But what happens when you throw this melodic gameplay into a boiling pot of different genres? Well, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians attempts to find out.
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians
- Developer: THREAKS
- Release Date: August 6, 2013
- Platform: PC/Mac/Linux [Steam]
- Price: $14.99/14.99€/£11.99
- Completion time: 6 Hours
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is a unique blend of action and platforming, with a superb soundtrack drizzled on top to give it that extra funky flavour. Gameplay will see you navigate a series of platforming puzzles, steadily increasing in difficulty and complexity across the 6 game worlds.
Almost every element of the game, including the enemies, will in some way react to the overlaying music that’s playing on each level. Jump pads will create a heavy drum noise every time they pulse, electric snails will play a guitar strum when they attempt to shoot you down and even the movement of buddy himself will cause a rhythmic beat. What’s interesting is that some aspects require you to synchronise to the beats in order to progress. For example, there is a section of musical parasites travelling in a conga line, and the only way to make it to the other side is by finding a gap in their trail, and moving when they move so as to not get hurt. Since they all move to the sound of a beat, you can listen to the music and match your movements to the percussive beats in order to stay in a safe area. This shifts the gameplay to more than just a visual experience, bringing the games audio into the challenge itself as a core mechanic.
Gameplay is divided into two aspects, one with Buddy himself and one where Buddy is in control of a vehicle armed with its very own machine gun. The contrast between the two styles is vastly different, where Buddy’s sections are slow paced and more precise in nature, the vehicle sections have a much faster tempo to them, demanding speed and reaction time over logic and precision. Most of the games memorable moments will come from inside your ride, especially if you are afraid of being eaten by giant pink fish or being crushed by a collapsing ceiling. These moments are few and far between though, making the gameplay between these points seem a bit more like a chore than an ‘action-adventure’, which is a shame as the chase scenes can get pretty tense and challenging.
The story – penned by Rhianna Pratchett of Tomb Raider & Mirror’s Edge fame – is a light and humours narrative following the tale of Buddy, one of three sleeping guardians who dream music into the aquatic soundscape known as Symphonia. As the hero of the story, it’s your job to thwart the evil Prince Maestro, who has awoken the guardians with his destructive plot to control the music of the world. As colourful as all this seems, the story feels more like a loose scenario to make the world plausible rather than an engaging narrative. With that being said, some of the best moments in the game occur when Buddy is talking with loveable wingman Clef, an elderly Symphonian who likes to nap during daring rescues and fix most of his problems with string.
The visuals are perfectly matched for the games setting and tone, consisting of hand drawn 2D artwork that’s layered in both the foreground and background to make things seem more alive. There’s no doubting the art style is unique, and the vivid colours and smooth animations go a long way to compliment the games stunning soundtrack. However, those pretty foregrounds can obscure your view, sometimes at the worst possible opportunity, which can see you hurled back 10 paces to the last checkpoint. This problem isn’t consistent throughout the entire game, but it can get frustrating when it does happen.
Collectors and completionists out there will be happy to know that there is a series of concept artwork to unlock by gathering the various pink crystals scattered throughout each world. These concept extras show you a 'behind-the-scenes' look into the design process of how the game was made, with annotations describing each slide. It would have been nice to see some sort of song player included for the various songs in the game, but I guess artwork is good too.
Beatbuddy certainly delivered on its promise of merging rhythm and ‘action-adventure’ into a unique hybrid, and my time spent in Symphonia was accompanied by a tapping of my feet for most of my journey, however the fun parts of the game are somewhat obscured by the slower paced intervals placed in-between the vehicular joyrides. The games soundtrack and art style are its saving grace, but the overall story was a little lacklustre, albeit comical at times.
A review copy was provided by the game developers for the sake of this review.