Beat Hazard is the latest in a growing line of games with dynamically generated content based on the player; in this case, the player’s music collection. To quote the marketing guff: “Experience your music collection like never before with this intense music driven arcade shooter. Each of your songs will have its own unique ebb and flow based on the music. Power up your spaceship and watch as the music boosts your firepower. Unleash hell on the enemy ships when you max out with weapon pickups!”
Now, I own Audiosurf and while it’s not the kind of game to spend hours at a time with, it’s great fun in 20-30 minute chunks. With this in mind, I was hoping for a similar kind of experience with Beat Hazard but I was sadly disappointed…
The thing about Audiosurf is that it really does feel like the game you’re playing is heavily controlled by the track you’ve chosen to accompany it, whereas Beat Hazard just doesn’t; it’s really only a small step up from just listening to music while playing a shoot ’em up.
Part of the problem is that the music is directly responsible for the power of your weapons which means that unlike in Audiosurf, where a mellow section of a song lets you sit back and chill out, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a pitched battle with a wholly ineffective pea-shooter. The consequence of this is that picking anything laid back or quiet makes the game rather boring, as opposed to simply easier. In addition to all of this, you have to collect Volume power-ups to (oddly enough) increase the volume of the music, which means that you’re often left with the feeling that the music – which is supposed to be integral to the game – is being played a couple of rooms away.
It looks very pretty, but when you’re in the middle of a boss battle with a high-energy track playing, it often ends up looking like an explosion in a particle effects factory and it can be nigh-on impossible to tell the difference between enemies, enemy projectiles, debris and harmless visual fluff. On top of all this, the track-selection interface is really terrible if you have a large music collection, especially if it’s well organised, as the default view doesn’t even show folders and scrolling with the mouse wheel (as opposed to the keyboard) is a surefire way to wear out your mouse.
It may only be £6.99, but Audiosurf is only £5.99 on Steam and a hell of a lot better at making your music collection playable.