Beat Hazard has a killer concept – a dual-stick shmup that creates levels based on your music tracks – and equally stellar presentation values with slick menus and rave-worthy graphics. At first, it’s quite enjoyable to shoot things while listening to your favorite tunes. Then, sadly, the flaws start to manifest themselves.
The first and biggest problem is that after one song, you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer. There aren’t very many different types of enemies – asteroids, spaceships, and boss spaceships – and though there are some minor varients within each of the three types, the game gets repetitive quickly. Sure, the enemy layout varies from song to song, but with so few enemy types and a general lack of intelligent AI all around, the game seems like it would become too easy quickly. Or it would, if the game let you see what you were doing. Most of the game’s difficulty arises from the special effects obscuring the screen so cheap deaths abound if you’re not careful. The game looks great, but I’d rather have lesser graphics & smoother gameplay.
Other problems abound. It’s a music-based game so starting the volume so low that you can scarcely hear the song just seems just cruel. Although the game clearly changes the level based on your song, it’s rather difficult to see a direct correlation between the rythm and beat and enemy appearances. Streaming music from an outside source doesn’t work very well – it takes a long time to load, needs to be reloaded if you add any music to the source and in some cases, didn’t match the names to the song correctly.
Still, despite my complaints, I had some fun with the game. The concept is great and there’s a lot of polish around the periphery (special goals, a ranking system with bonuses as you increase your total score, excellent menus, trippy graphics), it’s just that it’s surrounding fairly average gameplay. There’s definitely the seed for a fantastic game in here – just add some more interesting enemies, match the action more closely with the music, and tone down the effects so they don’t get in the way – but it’s just not quite there yet.