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BeatBeat – Early Access Review

Long time readers and viewers will know rhythm action games are part of my main gaming staples. I actively try to find music based games that try something new. BeatBeat, currently well into its Early Access path at the time of writing, mixes up rhythm action with 2D platforming. Rhythm Meat Boy anyone?

The UI is big, bold and cluttered.

BeatBeat places you as a cube inside various one screen platforming levels. You can move and jump and your cube is very sticky. That allows you to wall jump and also hug the wall and slide very slowly down it. This is key because as you move around, you’ll be chasing arrows that appear within circles around each level. You’ll need to keep moving, get inside the circle at the right time and press the correct face button on your controller in time with the lining up of an outer and inner circle. Get it right and on time, you keep going. Miss time or miss it altogether and your health meter depletes. You need to clear the level with minimal mistakes for a maximum rating out of 100 and songs have a few checkpoints for if you fail. What seems sedate and rhythm in the tutorial, gets very quickly overwhelming though – BeatBeat wants to be hardcore.

After the initial two or three levels, BeatBeat shows its true colours by throwing loads of arrows you to run and jump to in quick succession. They often involve holding down buttons to be levitated across rays and sometimes they take you to your next arrow, sometimes they push you further away. It very quickly became clear that you have to master the ability to work off beat and then rejoin the beat again to perform the arrow actions and it takes a lot of getting used to. In some ways, this works really well if you have an internal rhythm in your body. For example, often arrows require you to jump and then hit the arrow, so the jump will be on the 3rd beat of a bar to hit the 4th beat for the arrow. You have to do this innately which I enjoyed. When combined with running, wall jumping and wall sliding though, you don’t have a rhythmic beat to flow to as the patterns aren’t set up like that. I found the first 20 minutes really quite unintuitive and a real barrier to entry if I’m honest. Things didn’t flow well and I struggled with the inconsistent platforming. After a while, it did start to gel though and I was able to breeze through the early levels with ease, albeit still fighting a bit with the floaty jumping and wall jump mechanics.

Levels get more platform based and the arrows trickier to navigate to as the difficulty rises.

Then I hit a wall. As you reach the more difficult tracks, the user interface telling you of the arrows you need to hit becomes very cluttered and messy. It all overlaps itself and as giant circles are flying in to tell you when to hit the right button, sometimes I simply couldn’t tell what the timing order was for things. This isn’t helped by the vaporwave feel of the game which gives everything a vibrant but pixelated palette. The problem is that whilst you are trying to figure out what’s coming (and memorise patterns which is fine) you are also wrestling with the wonky platforming. I felt like the jump had a strange arc, a slight delay and also a momentum based modifier that I couldn’t quite get to grips with. Add to that your sticky wall problems where you’d not quite be able to slide down a wall at varying speeds to catch the arrows as you go and BeatBeat feels like its a bit janky rather than being hardcore but refined.

That might sound a bit damning but the game has already seen huge improvements over its early access route so far. It runs better, has more songs and lots of aesthetic differences. I also admire the soundtrack, which has an array of genres in it. The actual rhythm charts themselves are quite good too and they do flow with the songs rhythm. It is just that the bit of the game I have the biggest beef with – the jumping – hasn’t changed much at all. When I play a rhythm game, I want to feel like there is a flow/zen state to it and that cannot happen whilst you are wrestling with the controls. It is a quirky oddity but only recommended for a niche audience of rhythm action gamers wanting something vastly different. A level editor is also included but was going through a rebuild at the time of review so I’ve not included it here but that will be a great addition to the game when completed.

BeatBeat
Final Thoughts
A nice idea that has some control issues holding it back from being an enjoyable title. Work in progress though.
Positives
For the rhythm hardcore crowd, this will scratch an itch.
Soundtrack variety.
Negatives
Cluttered UI is a headache.
There is something off about the jump and wall slide mechanics that I just couldn't get to grips with.
6
Fine
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