I love music. I think that most people do. If you don’t, then I just don’t have any words for you. It is an art form that has lived for thousands upon thousands of years. In the here and now, the present, we are an extremely lucky people in regards to music. Making music or just sitting back and enjoying it has never been easier and we’ve never had so many options at our fingertips. Musical experiences are around every corner and this holds true for video games as well. Many game developers have set out to give us interactive music experiences and we’ve been fortunate in regards to those. From Parappa The Rapper to Rock Band, rhythm and music-based games have come a tremendous way. Some games, such as Rocksmith, can even teach you how to play a real instrument. Beat Hazard 2 (BH2), brought to us by Cold Beam Games, is here to offer you something completely different. It wants you to shoot shit in space, in levels that are built around the music you listen to. Oh, and it wants to give you one hell of a light show in the process. If you happen to be epileptic, consider this your warning. It’s a game that is definitely designed for the type of person that likes to watch lights of various colour fade into, and out of, existence to the beat of music (you know who you are and know I am one of you) and it might have been designed for fans of quality twin-stick shooters. If you fall into either category, then Beat Hazard 2 has something that will really whet your appetite.
It Moves to Your Beats
The basic premise of BH2 is simple; it’s a twin-stick shooter in which you pilot a spacecraft and attempt to survive wave after wave of enemy ships that have one purpose, to destroy you. If you’ve ever played Geometry Wars, then you should feel right at home and know exactly what to expect from the gameplay. If not, then let me shed some light on the matter.
You pilot your ship in a 2D arena with the left stick and you spray bullets in whatever direction you tilt the right stick. You can use super bombs whenever you have them, by pulling the right trigger, to decimate most of the enemies on screen. It’s pretty standard stuff for the genre. Where the Beat Hazard series stands out from the pack, is that it builds its levels (and light shows) based on the music you’re listening to while playing the game. The first Beat Hazard could use your local mp3s and later added support for iTunes. BH2 knocks down barriers and brings the series more in line with 2019 by adding support for Spotify, YouTube, and even features built-in internet radio. The game can pick up on pretty much anything you’re listening to on your PC via the new open mic feature. This adds two things to the experience; infinite replayability as well as plenty of room for experimentation with various audio sources. I’m pleased to report that this feature works splendidly and the song recognition software was able to identify nearly everything I threw at it. BH2 also adds procedurally generated bosses, a new boss rush mode to accompany them, and, of course, flashier graphics.
Three Modes of Play
There are three different modes to keep you busy in BH2. You have the game’s standard mode of play, which tasks you with surviving a single song. The survival mode sets out to test your endurance. How long can you last with only a handful of lives? I found this mode to be wonderful to play while listening to lengthy tracks and perfect for playlists – both of these modes were present in the first Beat Hazard. The new addition is BH2‘s boss rush mode. It’s a lot like survival except the only enemies you will face are the game’s bosses. Oh, and you’re on the clock during this mode. A new boss will teleport onto the battlefield every half a minute or so. You’ll want to be quick to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
All three modes are distinctive enough to warrant exploring and I found them all to be enjoyable. They catered to different moods during my time with the game. If I just wanted to play for a short spurt or if I wanted to experiment with single songs, I went to standard. I typically used survival to play along to my custom playlists and boss rush mode served as a nice distraction when I would want something a bit more intense.
Perks, oh glorious perks!
During my time with BH2, I collected a ton of in-game currency. What is this money used for, you ask? It is used in the perk system that has been put in place. Once bought and unlocked, you can use perks to alter several aspects of BH2‘s gameplay. You can give yourself extra firepower, lives, and even unlock more extreme difficulties. The perks can make up for your own flaws or just be used to spice things up. I found myself experimenting with them often and they also served as a goal – I wanted to unlock them all, whether I used them or not. New perks seem to be added regularly since I installed the game. After writing my initial draft of this I went back to find several awesome weapon perks had been added. All of a sudden I was able to spawn an indestructible copy of my ship onto the field among other things.
I can’t wait to see what comes next.
So, how is it???
After spending around 10 hours with the title I would say that Beat Hazard 2 is something special already, and it’s mechanically sound. The controls are responsive and work as expected. The light shows that are produced during gameplay are simply stunning to behold – they really help you get into your music and by extension the game itself. Every level that you play becomes a stage performance, a harmonious play where the actors consist of your music, light, colour, and a copious amount of explosions. You won’t find this experience anywhere else. It’s like having a personal music festival inside your PC and I absolutely loved my time with it.
Your ship’s bullets fire according to the beat of the song. The entire background, and several elements in the foreground, such as your lasers and power-ups, pulse to the beat you’re playing. I’m a bit of a metal addict, so it was fitting that BH2 played out like a mosh pit of light and colour while playing bands like Whitechapel and Slipknot. I also found that listening to things like “The Song of Storms” and various other video game tracks (or any other genre YOU listen to) offered some wonderfully varied levels. The open mic feature really allowed me the freedom to experiment with anything that produced sound and it never disappointed me.
In fact, the only fault that I can find with BH2 is that the amount of different enemy vessels and bosses seems rather small. I feel like I saw everything the game had to offer, in regards to enemy design, within just a few songs. The developer has already stated that this will be addressed during the game’s Early Access period that has already begun. If I were reviewing BH2 today, it would have already earned high praise. I’m not exactly a fan of twin-stick shooters, but this game, with its intense music hook, has me stepping to its beat. If Cold Beam Games adds just a few more enemies and lays down another layer of polish, this could wind up as something truly special for PC players – and maybe console gamers in the futre as well?