Now (and forever?) Playing: Beat Hazard (PC)

So you say you’ve got a collection of digital music, eh? And you like twin stick shooters too? Well, have you ever wondered if you might be prone to a “photosensitive seizure” from playing games? Then Beat Hazard is the game for you no matter what it costs right now on Steam! You can even write it off as a health exam.

Originally launched as an Xbox Live Indie Game, Beat Hazard gets a whole lot more worthwhile when it sits on the same computer as your music collection. That’s because it uses an algorithm just as complicated as the ones that power its graphic visualizers to turn your music into a twin stick shooter. I coldn’t even begin to explain how it works but I can report that it incorporates each song into its gameplay more meaningfully than any other your-music-is-the-game game that I’ve played.

I do admit it’s a little odd to have the music start out quiet but as you pick up volume power-ups it really draws you into the action and the music. Weapon power is increased by grabbing a separate set of power-ups and if you stick and move as well as you shoot you’ll eventually max out the two and become a Beat Hazard. Sure, it pumps up your attack power but it also pushes the game’s visuals over the top. Everything that moves (aside from you) is governed by the music in one way or another and doles out spastic, color-cycling visualizations as weapon fire. Enemy attacks are timed to beats and their formations are based on specific parts of the music.

What really ties the game to the music, though, is your own ship’s attacks. Again, I don’t know how it works but your stream of bullets seems to be tied more closely to the melodies, vocals, and tinny drum tracks of your chosen song. As things ramp up you’ll see your base stream of bullets increase in rate of fire and visual intensity but think ahead to the next verse or chorus because right when the song breaks down you’ll usually run into a boss. Huge 2D ships with numerous cannons blast away as asteroids and smaller craft continue flooding the screen, all the while your song is driving the visuals back up for the final crescendo. It’s madness and there are definitely some cheap shots that get lost in the chaos but it’s all in good fun. Even with the faux-RSS feed that calls out top scores and broken records I don’t ever feel like I was robbed from some epic win, I just get to play a great song over again!

Unlike AudioSurf or Beats, I really feel like Beat Hazard is turning each individual song into its own little game. Knowing that my rate of fire is linked to the lyrics or melody gives me an advantage as I know exactly when I’ll have enough firepower to hit that slowly circling boss ship or tear through a stream of pesky asteroids. It’s not a game that I’ll play for hours at a time and it’s potentially endless as long as I keep listening to music so this may be the last I post about it for a while. So let me finish with my wholehearted ‘Thumbs Up’ and point you directly to Steam! There is a demo that gives you a few packed-in tracks to play but you might as well just buy it straightaway because playing the music you know and love lets Beat Hazard really shine.

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