Beatbuddy: Gameplay Impressions
Ragtime trip-hop? Jazzy electro-funk? Opera chillstep? You won't find those descriptions on your local radio station's manifesto, but you will find a good chunk of off-center, mixed-genre music in Threak's recently released music, puzzle-adventure game, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians.
Coming off the recent release of the soundtrack, I managed to put in just a bit more time with this colorful, indie title from some lovely German folk. These same folk were also kind enough to supply a review code so this impression piece could exist... because otherwise, I have to be honest, it wasn't like I was well aware of the existence of Beatbuddy.
Nevertheless, Beatbuddy is a game that's played with relative ease. Players will control their Beatbuddy by moving around with either the keyboard and mouse or a gamepad, and will interact with various objects by being able to pick up certain “keys” or operate some puzzle-oriented objects scattered throughout the levels. There's a dash button to help the Beatbuddy swim faster and an attack button that's used more for collecting health power-ups or activating/deactivating objects in the environment than actually fighting and attacking enemies.
The game has players using a mixture of objects, environmental placements and some rhythm-based timing to overcome some of the puzzles. The challenge isn't necessarily steep or unnerving like some hidden-puzzle titles out there where it's possible to get jammed in a single scenario for hours on end. Instead, the game's biggest challenge is exploring the areas, looking for the right combination of actions to progress to the next segment.
There is also a light use of a beat-based vehicle that only moves to the beat of the music. Once stationed inside, players can attack some enemies more effortlessly using the unlockable weapon on the machine as well as timing actions to the beat of the music to avoid being hit or losing life to some of the more dangerous entities floating around.
The inclusion of tying movements and actions to the flow of the beat is a beautiful design scheme, even if it's not even a new way to play the game. One of the things that really helps the game feel grounded and different is the fact that the music has such a vibrant and strong sense of identity tied to the overall experience. Each song starts off in a very basic form, usually just including base beats and some light percussion, but as players solve more puzzles and venture throughout the game world – encountering victrolas alone the way that expand the melody of each song – really helps give the game a sense of atmosphere.
Sometimes playing through the game and having all the instruments activated while floating or drifting to the beat of the song feels like being part of an old Disney music number. It's hard to put into words how uplifting it can be to see the entire game area light up as objects are pulsing and bouncing and moving to the eclectic selection of very fitting songs.
While Beatbuddy doesn't have a necessarily complex set of gameplay mechanics, or require a steep knowledge of a controller's layout to make progress in the game, the fact that it's all tied together so well in such a seamless and creatively engaging way, helps give the game some shelf life.
Beatbuddy is available right now for only $14.99 (or $3.99 if you grab it during the Steam sale). For more info feel free to visit the official website.
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