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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.

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Craig Pearson

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