Beat Control System: Beat Hazard

By Kieron Gillen on April 21st, 2010 at 9:16 pm.

I didn't actually try Tily and the Wall with it though.

Quite a lot of you have been enjoying this, so I thought I’d have a quick crack. While originating on the not-PCs, Beat Hazard appeared on Steam recently. It’s basically a Robotron-esque (i.e. Geometry Wars) single-screen shooter with the Audiosurf-esque twist that each level is generated from a sound-file, with neat elements like how the music actually has a visible effect on your firepower’s intensity. And the graphics are intense – even on normal, you can easily work towards Space-Giraffe-esque overload with the right tracks. I wasn’t quite sure the actual syncing was that notable, until I dropped the Bad Seed’s cover of Black Betty onto it, which nailed it. My other reservation is that at least on my PC, the changing of directories is far slower than I’d be used to on a browser. While there’s no demo, it’s a fiver at the moment so very much in that impulse purchase area. And – er -a trailer follows.

I’m sorry. Brain failing. Need to eat something.

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53 Comments »

  1. DJ Phantoon says:

    Eat something? Like brains? Oh no!

    Gillen’s been struck by the mutations! Mutations isn’t a game mode, it just means each week, a games journalist will mutate into a monster!

    RUN!

    • JonSolo says:

      Now there’s an idea! Have a game like Plants Vs. Zombies but with more fast action where the waves of zombies are triggered by the music! You get big hulking ones for big thumping bass, little snotlings when there’s a tapping of a high hat, etc.

  2. Dextro says:

    I’ve been wondering if this game was any good since a friend of mine pointed me to it a few days ago.

  3. Dan (WR) says:

    I bought this on an impulse last night. I just finished playing this for the first time, and my first impression is that it’s distinctly ‘meh’. I tried out a few wildy different tracks and couldn’t see any kind of sync with the music at all. And yeah, it was taking too long to change directories.

    • John Peat says:

      The entire structure of the game is influenced by the music – when enemies appear, which enemies appear, when ‘boss’ enemies appear (often all of those at once!) is determined entirely from your music.

      The intensity of the music at any point also influences your firepower which means you need to know when to attack and when just just evade – and you gain multiplier for NOT firing which adds a bit of strategy…

      It is slow at reading BIG directories (it has to read all the ID3 stuff – takes time) – it’s no hardship to put your fave tracks into a directory and use that tho – quicker, easier, MORE ELECTRIC DEATH!

  4. Army_of_None says:

    Absolutely love this game! picked it up a few days ago. I do note that the changing of directories was painfully slow, but aside from that, the game is amazing. Downing a boss just as the crescendo hits and your little ship erupts with amazing lights and firepower is just spectacular. Highly recommended.

  5. LMN8R says:

    This game really is amazing, but like Audiosurf, if you don’t enjoy purely listening to music, then you probably won’t enjoy Beat Hazard too much. The gameplay is fairly simplistic without much variety, so you definitely get the most out of the game when you’re enjoying listening to your music first and foremost.

    I sat playing it for a few hours last night getting my face melted by Devin Townsend and heart swooned by Porcupine Tree, both of which are fantastic matches to this game thanks to their incredible variations between highs and lows and uncompressed dynamic range that allows for the biggest changes in intensity the game allows.

    Really nothing quite like having a song start off so strong that a boss is spawned, only to proceed into a quieter section for the next 2 minutes, making your weapons useless against the big bad boss – though despite the difficulty it never proved to be impossible to survive long enough to the next climax where my weapons started working again.

    Brilliant little game

    • John Peat says:

      Absolutely – think of this as a way of adding intensity and focus to your music/enjoying it in new ways.

      Don’t think of this as an amazing shooter/game you can play whilst not caring much about the music – you’ll lose interest really fast.

      It’s one thing to score massively against the built-in tunes – it’s another thing to scour your collection for tracks which will get you higher scores/further up the highscore tables (which are bracketted by song length).

  6. Heliosicle says:

    Hmm, I don’t know if I like the look of the 2D shapes on the cool background, I love audiosurf though, so I’ll probably buy this.

  7. Brumisator says:

    I hate music-based procedurally-generated games :(

    Probably mostly because I mainly listen to Jazz and classical music and the “beats” really don’t add up to gameplay.

  8. FunkyLlama says:

    @Brumisator
    Yeah, Audiosurf was absolutely dire for classical – it seemed to interpret all of it as a gentle, uphill ride. Although as of a patch, if you append ‘[as-steep]‘ to the title of a track, it’ll make the level steeper.

    • John Peat says:

      This really doesn’t work with music where the intensity doesn’t vary a lot.

      Classical typically has long periods of softness and then periods of intensity and then long periods of softness – and that translates into “boss appears – weapons downgraded to peashooters for 1 min – death”.

      Ambient/Electronica works better – and some classical isn’t too bad but ideally you need music which varies in intensity quite a bit (Dance, Metal, Pop).

    • Devan says:

      Cool, thanks for the ‘[as-steep]‘ tip. My music is almost exclusively european trance like ATB or Above & Beyond. It doesn’t seem like sedate music to me, but Audiosurf seems to think so based on the steady, boring tracks it generates.

  9. Dave says:

    I’m going to have to try this just to see if Prometheus Burning spawns two bosses per second.

    • John Peat says:

      It’s weird which tracks can dump real madness on you. In Flames, Machine Head et al often aren’t that tough and then something like Sexy Boy by Air chains bosses into your world :)

  10. Vinraith says:

    This looks interesting. It’s $10 on D2D, DRM-free or $7.50 Steamed. I think I’ll probably wait for a discount on the DRM-free version.

    • LMN8R says:

      The DRM-free version doesn’t have any sorts of leaderboards or any other community-oriented features like news feeds. For people who have a good group of Steam Friends, the Steam version is the obviously superior version of the game because of how it ties friends together for this. It adds a ton to have leaderboards.

    • Vinraith says:

      @LMN8R

      To each their own. I couldn’t care less about leaderboards and achievements, they’re certainly not worth the trade-off.

    • archonsod says:

      Gamer’s Gate have it for £5.21

    • Vinraith says:

      @archonsod

      Yeah, I’d noticed that. Still, much as I like GG, nothing’s better than a totally DRM-free copy.

    • Shadowcat says:

      I was looking on the developer’s site to verify the DRM-free aspect (that would trump everything else for me, too), but couldn’t see it mentioned anywhere, and searching didn’t help.

      Can anyone point me at some confirmation?

    • Vinraith says:

      @Shadowcat
      Go to the Direct2Drive sale page and you’ll see it’s clearly marked DRM free, at least the US version is. Weirdly enough the Gamersgate version lists itself as having SecuROM.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Thanks Vinraith. I should have clarified that I meant the purchase-direct-from-the-developer option, though (see http://www.coldbeamgames.com/ )

      If that’s DRM-free, then that’s where I want to buy it from — all other things being equal (or at least similarly-priced) I prefer to give my pennies directly to the people who created the game.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Shadowcat

      Ah, sorry, didn’t even realize that was an option. I agree that direct-from-dev is always the best alternative if it’s DRM-free, but I can’t tell whether that’s the case either.

  11. John Peat says:

    I’ve been playing this avidly all weekend and I love it to bits…

    The visuals are astonishing – I can’t remember seeing anything quite like this before, it’s not for those people affected by flashing lights, that’s for sure. It must be truly amazing on a 40-50″ screen :)

    It does read your music well and everything about the game is keyed around it (weapon power, enemy waves) – even track is different and the scores you can get vary enormously.

    It does hate huge directories full of music – it also hates networked drives and the author is stuck without a way of accessing MP4/AAC (iTunes/iPod) content without shelling out for a licence but to his eternal credit he’s already added FLAC and other formats (since Friday!!) and he’s still working on other stuff.

    It’s really not a massive hardship to copy a fistful of tracks you like into a directory on your HDD and use those – it’s quick and it means you spend more time killing and less time sifting through your Barry Manilow and Kylie crap :)

    It’s a million times better than Audiosurf in attempting to make a game from your music for sure – much as I like Audiosurf, it really does just become a block dodging game with a custom soundtrack at times wheras every single track is a totally different game here.

  12. Pamplemousse says:

    You could use something like Beethoven’s symphony No. 5.

    Quite a lot of classical music has some quite triumphant sections.

    Frankly, things like audiosurf need to have changes in the tracks for other stuff rather than just vocals and beats.

    • Pamplemousse says:

      Buggery,

      This was meant as a reply to Funky Lama’s post further up the page.

    • Brumisator says:

      Probably as a reply to me originally too.

      You see, Beethoven’s 5th isn’t just the 15 second overture that everyone knows, it’s a long and complex piece, and just looping the well known “ta da da daaaaa, tadada daaaa!” parts really don’t cut it musically.

      These games are clearly created in the spirit of electronic music, and that’s by no means a bad thing, just not my cup of tea.

      Somewhat on-topic, I prefer the likes of Space invaders extreme, where the music and beats are generated by how you play, and not the other way around.

  13. trjp says:

    Vinraith said:
    @LMN8R

    To each their own. I couldn’t care less about leaderboards and achievements, they’re certainly not worth the trade-off.

    What trade-off?? You can either compete/track your achievements and scores against friends or you can live in the 19th century, on your own – erm…

    You make it sound like you’re being asked to install kiddieporn…

    • Vinraith says:

      What trade-off??

      Moderately invasive DRM with leaderboards and community features vs. neither, obviously. I suspect you already knew that, though.

  14. trjp says:

    I have to ask – what is invasive about Steam exactly? I don’t get this nerdy obsession with “no DRM” at all (and I don’t even consider Steam DRM).

    If Steam caused problems on your PC – disabled your DVD Writer or whatever I might understand better but this idea that you don’t want some code on your computer – code which offers many benefits, especially in terms of community building etc. – is beyond me.

    Maybe you should unplug your PC from the Internet entirely and we’ll send you floppy discs over by pigeon? :)

    • archonsod says:

      It doesn’t offer any benefits for community building I didn’t already have with X Fire, and as you’d expect from a dedicated program X Fire tends to do it better.

      Thing I don’t get is why it should be acceptable to have some compulsory client running which has nothing to do with the game you’re playing. Particularly if the game itself has no online feature.

    • bwion says:

      @trip:

      Well, it’s certainly a little disquieting that Valve could, on a whim, completely divest you of every game you’ve purchased through Steam, and you’d have little recourse. (Not that this is likely.) Or that they could up and vanish tomorrow, and you’d be left with a bunch of games that won’t launch. (This is even less likely). Or that you could lose internet connectivity and Offline Mode would completely fail to work. (This is rather more likely, though they’ve allegedly fixed it.)

      I have quite a lot of games purchased from Steam, and I don’t regret any of them. The only regular problems I had with it were in my dialup days and those are, thank heavens, long gone. I’m also pretty far from being an anti-DRM zealot, mind; I think it’s an unbelievably stupid business practice, but I’m not morally opposed to it to the point of avoiding games I would otherwise like. (Certain *forms* of DRM, yes. DRM in general, no.)

      But I can totally see why someone might consider Steam a little too good to be true, especially if the only thing one gains by purchasing through Steam is access to features in which one has no real interest. And while I would never say that one *shouldn’t* be interested in leaderboards/community features/whatever, I would be hard-pressed to say why anyone *should* be so interested, either. It’s completely a matter of taste.

    • trjp says:

      I’m no high-score madman but I do like seeing my scores online – seeing what tracks other people are playing to better them and all that.

      BH has fairly minimal in-game score keeping (it keeps your score on the highest diff. only – per track).

      Also – achievements do keep you plugging away at a game a BIT longer – again I’m not obsessed but I think they’re a nice addition.

      Add to this that my friends can see what I’m playing – I can see what they’re playing – we can compare scores and cheevos – it’s all good for me.

      Oh – I also get spammed with RPS invites to games I don’t own – but hey!

  15. trjp says:

    p.s. Valve could pull the plug on Steam in the same way (and about as likely as) Microsoft could on Windows XP – or even Vista – or even DirectX 9 or nVidia could stop supporting their cards or…

    It’s not worth even considering things like that – you could buy the original disc and stand on it/scratch it – or your house could burn down – same deal.

    In fact I love that Steam is house-fire safe – and PC meltdown safe – and PC upgrade safe…

    • Thants says:

      Well, Microsoft couldn’t just make all copies of Windows XP stop working. And it doesn’t seem that unlikely that a game company could fall on hard times and be bought out by someone who doesn’t care about supporting its old customers.

      Being responsible for not letting something you own get destroyed is different than being reliant on the good will of a company to let you keep using it. It’s not unreasonable to want to have control over the things you own.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Thants

      And then there’s the “Steam mistakenly bans you from your account for a few weeks” scenario, which certainly happens. Just ask Bhazor.

  16. kitchendon says:

    Looks like Steam now offers a demo version.

  17. poop says:

    this is fun except for that stupid boss that shoots machineguns at you are are completely invisible with a billion particle effects on screen so you end up lamely circlestrafing the boss while the most intense parts of a song go past because they take fucking ages to kill :/

  18. mcnostril says:

    It’s rather fun in that geometry wars kinda way, but I find the aesthetic to be really lacking.
    A lot of the fun comes from things exploding everywhere and not knowing where the hell you are, but the explosions here don’t look all that great and things kinda blend into each other in a bad way. Compared to a geometry wars or squid harder, this definitely lacks a lot of oomph.

  19. Renzatic says:

    I’m so close to loving this game. The graphics, the music (even the packed-in selections), the action, the craziness, it’s all top notch stuff. The only problem is the aforementioned craziness can get a little too crazy at times, and it’s hard to pick out projectiles amongst all the flashing strobing pulsing rioting colors. It sucks when you get killed off not because you…well…suck, but because you couldn’t tell what the hell you just bashed your little ship into.

    Like the guy above me said, it all blends together. And in a very bad way.

    Eh, it’s just 8 bucks. I might go ahead and pick it up anyway. Maybe I’ll get used to it.

  20. viscion says:

    @Dave:

    Good choice! :)

  21. jsdn says:

    I played the demo in the dark. Now all I see are flashy lights everywhere.
    Blindingly intense effects, to the point where I couldn’t see enemy fire or my cursor. The only reason I had any idea where my ship was was because a strobing disco lightshow was excreting from it.
    I’d call this a reckless disregard for epilepsy.

  22. JonSolo says:

    I really wanted to like this game, but the strobe effects (which it does warn you about), plus not being able to point it at a directory and have it recurse all the subfolders just annoyed me. Perhaps a step up in fun from Audiosurf, but this genre still has a ways to go yet.

  23. Pamplemousse says:

    Aye, but I suppose playing a piece like the 5th would be better than playing something that barely even registers on things like audiosurf.

    But yeah, the game is built for more modern music.

    I wonder how something like ‘take 5′ the jazz piece would work…

  24. XM says:

    If you have a Steam account, you like music and shooting this is a must buy. The developer is one of the nicest guys on the Steam forums. His attitude to helping customers puts big devs to shame. There have already been updates that the community requested and Beat Hazard went to version 1.3 in a matter of days.

    The moment when the screen is full of enemies only to find the song get to a slow part is priceless. You have guns that would not scare a cat and all these enemies trying to kill you. Only your flying skill will win the battle until the song kicks in again. This moment is when all your guns get back to full power and you feel unstoppable.

    Adding to this just like Audiosurf the game is as long as your music collection. But Beat Hazard has one more trick up it’s sleeve the game tells you which track you have completed and at what difficulty. So in my book I’ve only completed the game when all my tracks are completed on insanity difficulty. And this will take me decades even if I don’t buy any more music today.

    The main problem for some is the intensity of the flashing graphics but already the developer is working on a way to help photosensitive customers but keeping the game fair for all.

    Best indie game so far for music fans.

  25. Wilson says:

    I just tried the demo on steam and found it surprisingly good. I’m tempted to buy it, we’ll see. I expect you do need a certain type of music to get the best from it though, but it can be quite funny when the game interprets a song totally differently to how you expected it to be (as someone said above I believe).

  26. Dan says:

    There’s no way I’m not buying this for eight quid. Shame I’ve only got around to playing Plain Sight for about two hours so far.

  27. Misato says:

    I am like a lot of other people who have made reviews about this game. After reading about a few dozen reviews on this game, I can say that I am not the only person who thinks that the music doesn’t change anything in the game, and that all of the effects and playability are just randomly generated by the program, and not by the music, and that you are just suppose to think or believe that the music is having some kind of effect on the game.

    For one thing, the bosses are a pain in the ass to try and kill, no matter what song you are playing. Another thing is that things seem to get more intense as the game progress, just like in almost every other typical shoot e’m up, no matter what music you play. I have played this with many different tunes, and different styles and classes of music, and I have never seen the game start off real intense and the get easier with some songs, like a couple of people have said. It is always start off slow, then get harder as time goes by. Which is like I said, is this way with every shootem up game.

    The flying sucks also. When you go to move, your ship automatically starts spinning around while you move. So what’s up with this? It makes it almost impossible to get where you want and end up facing the direction you want when you get there. This game is kind of similair to asteroids, and I don’t remember asteroids being like this. You moved with one set of control buttons and turned your ship with another set of buttons. Your ship didn’t spin while you where moving unless you made it spin while you were moving. The quality control and game testers for this game must have all been absent from work during this game’s production, is all I can say.

    In short, it is a very unplayable game with no indication what-so-ever that the music you play has any effect at all on the game.

  28. Marc says:

    I thought this was neat. I like metal and electronica so I figured I’d be gold.

    HOW DO YOU SHOOT?
    Pressing the mouse button appears to fire…oh, if it feels like it, roughly once every nine or ten times I hit the button. Shooting when you press the ‘shoot’ button is a pretty basic element of shooters. Otherwise, it’s just a kind of annoying visualization. I had to drop out and make sure my mouse worked…yep, still selecting files.

    Pretty, though.

  29. boot says:

    I can see the appeal of this game, and I really wanted to like it, but as a game, I feel it fails on just about every level. The mouse and keyboard controls are really floaty feeling, and things simply becomes so overloaded with (admittedly awesome looking) effects and strobes that, at points, I may as well have just taken my hands away from the controls.

    It gets repetitive extremely quickly because of a bewildering lack of enemy diversity, and nothing is more frustrating than being unable to damage one of the games horrible boss encounters because of a lull in the song.

    Version 1.5 adding the Chillout Mode is a move in the right direction, but with every death still dropping the music volume and your weapon power down to base, it still doesn’t address the core problem that the game can quickly become unplayable on the higher difficulty levels. If Chillout Mode had the option to just make you completely invincible, I think that would fix a lot of the issues. With a game like this, I’m not looking for white knuckle difficulty anyway–it’s more of a playable visualizer.

    I really want to love this game. I like bullet-hell style shooters, I love music games, and I even think the soundtrack that comes with the game works really well, and has some cool tracks, but as it is, it just feels inexcusably sloppy and amateur. That said, it does seem like the developer is really working hard to please the fans, and I genuinely look forward to seeing where the game goes in the future, but as it stands, I don’t think I would really recommend it to anybody looking for a fun GAME to play.

    As a side note, I wish somebody would make a game like this, except make it a 2D platformer/shooter, in the Contra vein. I’d snatch that up in a heartbeat.