Synesthetic: Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians

The Hi--Hat crab is the best of things.
I was sent a trailer and preview code for Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians. The trailer was so awful that I nearly skipped the whole game: it’s accompanied by a faux bad narration that manages to be genuinely bad. So painful is the VO that I missed the point of the trailer, which doesn’t really do a good job of showing the game off anyway. I had to play it to find out what the hell was going on. Having done so, I can almost sympathise with the team: it’s not an easy game to describe, but my limited time with this strange, musical 2D adventure game was utterly brilliant.

Music suffuses the world of Beatbuddy, an underwater world mixing sea-life with a game where the soundtrack forms part of the world. At the beginning of the first level, a rising thump thudded along. I thought was just an obnoxiously loud part of the soundtrack, but as I floated along I discovered a throbbing Bass Drum, in the guise of a sea anemone, that was producing it. I touched the drum and Beat was fired off in the direction it was facing. It’s the most basic puzzle element, allowing me to bash through walls and dodge danger. But it’s also the first thump of a soundtrack that I have to remix in order to continue. Happily, the music is wonderful.

Beat’s a nimble, beautifully animated little creature: leave him alone and he’ll dance to the music, die and his headphones will sink sadly to the bottom of the sea. He can punch things, he can dash, there’s not a lot there that you’ve not experienced in other games. But other games don’t have the Hi-hat Crab. He pops up, adding his tsssh to the world’s throb. He’s also a puzzle element, sitting in front of a line of snails that block your path until you whack the crab: he’ll stop making music, roll up, the others will fold away, and you’ll have a few seconds to pass. You’ll know when they’re about to return because a drum-roll will start, and on the ending tsssh the crab will reemerge with his posse, returning his pleasant percussion to the soundtrack, and slapping a huge smile across your face.

Another puzzle element, a Snare Stream, uses bubbles that pop with the fizz of a snare drum. They throb between painful and painless states, so vertically, they’re timing puzzle, forcing you to time a dash when they’re safe. But there’s one puzzle where they’re aligned horizontally, which required me to pop the bubbles then time my movement with the gap I made.

All the elements remixes together beautifully, dashing around the levels with the bassy boost, punching the crabs, popping snares. The hour I spent with it has left me gasping for more. I can’t wait to see what other animals will bring to the soundtrack. I’ve kept that trailer till now. Have a look, but the game is honestly way much better than this.

It’s out August 6 on Steam, and you should definitely add it to a wishlist.


  1. Doghaus says:

    It reminds me Aquaria (it’s meant to be underwater right? Like you’re a little jellyfish thing and there’s submarines and stuff?). The VO was doubly annoying because for a game based around music, I’d quite like to hear what the music sounds like and he just talked all over it.

    Edit: of course it’s underwater, it says so in the words.

  2. hap says:

    I recall playing some sort of concept demo of this maybe a year ago, and liked it. Looking forward to the release.

  3. Bracknellexile says:

    The problem I find with pretty much any (non-guitar-hero-style) music-based game is that, no matter how wonderful or original the game mechanic, the music they choose is so far removed from the genres I like that after 20 seconds or so I just want to put knitting needles in my ears. The whole “to like our game you have to share our music tastes” thing is horribly limiting.

    The game concept looks great from the article, credit to the developers for bringing something (mostly) new to the table, but if the music in the trailer is anything to go by, I’d do what I do with most games that have irritating repetitive soundtracks and mute it, which kinda defeats the object.

    One of these days I’d love to see a game that I can just plug my collection in to and have it interpret it and let me play based on feeding it some prog, Scandinavian black metal, acoustic folk-rock or NWOBHM rather than being force-fed yet another generic dance track.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      Good luck programming for 7/8 5/4 and 11/16 time signatures for your Black Metal music game.

    • jrodman says:

      There’s a few of that game already. For example, Audiosurf.

      I don’t much like the results this procedural approach gives you but.. they exist.

    • bglamb says:

      I played it a Rezzed. The first track was pretty jazzy. I chatted a bit to the creator and he said the music was in a completely different style every level.

      As a music lover, I can attest that the music I heard was nice.

    • GameCat says:

      “being force-fed yet another generic dance track.”
      Yeah, like metal isn’t generic either*. If someone would do similiar thing with {genre} you would say that “omg it’s another generic {genre} track”.
      I don’t know what do you want from music that is generated/modified in fly by your ingame actions.

      *As a musican I find 95% of metal funny, generic, and overhyped (“OMG {random word}core metal is awesome, because the band play so fast and technical!”) pieces of music. And no, metal isn’t “classical music of our generation” (just in case of someone who will want to imply this bullshit).

      • jrodman says:

        Have you played Frequency? That felt the most like “playing the music” to me outside of games where they give you instrument mockups, which always felt .. I dunno, the instrument mockups just never worked for me.

        I guess I’m saying that I thought Frequency very much rode the line between “making music” and “game” in a way that nothing has for me since.

      • Pich says:

        As another musician, metal isn’t at all generic, mostly because there are tons of subgenre. it’s like calling “electronic” music generic.

      • Sharza says:

        I often suspect that if I find a whole genre generic then I just don’t know enough about it (as also Pich has hinted). To me a lot of rock, metal, rap… tracks sound all too generic and boring. On the other hand I’m deeply into (the creation of) electronical music and am often confronted with remarks about it carrying too much sameness within while I am able to notice and enjoy all the subtle differences.

    • Berzee says:

      I’ve often said that if someone were to release, say, Mandolin Hero, I’d buy that game SO MUCH. (Banjo Hero would be good too, or really any instrument that has a good chance of excluding the various genres I dislike). Piano Hero would be good but A) Piano is already just pushing buttons, so I’m not sure how much further you could abstract it without seeming silly and B) I already know how to play the piano so I don’t feel a great need for a game of it. =P

  4. Berzee says:

    Here is a gameplay trailer (alas, a year old) that shows some of the music stuff. Looks good! Also looks like the kind of game I would never finish (aside from VVVVVV, I don’t know if I’ve finished any game of this general sort since I was, ohh, 10 years old? and then I feel sure I only would have done it with a Game Genie =P)

    • Illessa says:

      Wow, the look has evolved a fair bit, there’s much more motion and colour going on in the level they showed at Rezzed. There’s several chunks of footage in this interview (the longest gameplay section starts at 16:30 if you want to skip to the meat, but it’s a pretty interesting interview).

      As bglamb said above, the music in that level was pretty jazzy. I’m really interested to hear what Austin Wintory has contributed, dude has shown some serious range over the past couple of years so it could be pretty much anything.