There’s seven days in a week. There’s now seven entries in Steam A to Z. There’s seven letters in ‘alphabet’, give or take one.

Coincidence, you say? Oh, you poor fools.

Let’s begin!

Beat Hazard

BeatHazardSo I’ll get to saying if this game’s any good in due course (it totally is) but first thing’s first, I’ve literally just got the name. It’s a rhythm shooter where asteroids and enemies are generated by the music you play. The beat… is the hazard! I’ve been an ignorant buffoon all this time. Well, anyway, let’s talk about Beat Hazard.

It’s really good. I think what I like most about it is–

Sorry, I really can’t get over the name. That’s genius. All this time I’ve been completely blind. Ah, gosh…

Right, so, the game! As I mentioned earlier, the game runs in concurrence with either its soundtrack, or your very own MP3s. You control a spaceship and, in a very Asteroids manner, you have to indiscriminately shoot to kill anything that dares to venture into your air space.

The power of your shots increases with the music, but so does the ferocity of the enemy onslaught. A level played against the backdrop of heavy metal will be far more hectic and stressful than a level played alongside smooth jazz – adding an interesting dynamic to difficulty settings.

It’s one of those bombastic arcade games that’s a treat to go back to every now and again, but you couldn’t play for hours straight. For one thing, you’d end up with a migraine before the first hour’s through because the visuals are so damn vibrant and endlessly flashing. As a PSA, if you suffer from photosensitive epilepsy do take care before playing this game.

That’s the correct time to offer that warning, right? Nestled away at the end of the piece where people might not see it? Cool.

Rating: The Hazard is the Beat… The Beat is the Hazard… / 10

 

Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians

BeatBuddyBefore I begin, allow me to point you towards a review for this very game on this very site. It’s more in depth than this, better written, and I pretty much agree with it all anyway.

Yet another diverting rhythm-based game, Beatbuddy is more story-oriented than Beat Hazard on accounts of it having a story. It does a great job of building a world where everything is intriciately connected to the soundtrack. Objects in the scenery, along with enemies, will shift and twist and jump to the beat of the music.

While I appreciated the environment and the atmosphere of it all, and the soundtrack is unsurprisingly a strong point, but there wasn’t enough here that really compelled me to actually finish the thing.

Rating: A game that requires thinking outside the box… Outside the beatbox… One of these days I’ll stumble upon a good pun, I swear. / 10

 

Before The Echo

BeforeTheEchoThankfully, I never did include a ‘game of the week’ tag in these columns. If I had, it’d be a horrendously tough call between Before The Echo and the next game coming up.

Weirdly, this is the third consecutive rhythm-based game, and is certainly the least conventional of the bunch. You play as Ky, an ever-so-slightly angsty and somewhat disinterested guy who wakes up in a strange tower. Your only communication, at least initially, is with a female voice emanating from some kind of ethereal intercom. Or possibly a normal intercom, that bit isn’t really expanded on.

The female voice belongs to Naia, and she guides Ky through the eldritch tower’s many foes while remaining less-than-forthcoming about why or how he’s ended up there.

What follows is an entirely unique form of RPG. In combat, you take control of three fields with descending arrows, similar to that you’d see in games like Dance Dance Revolution and its ilk. These fields represent your own spellset, your mana levels and the blocking of enemy attacks. In order to effectively battle, you need to switch between these fields at opportune times in order to minimise damage taken and maximise damage given. Each spell you learn has a unique ‘moveset’ of arrow combinations – some more tricky to master than others, and each having its own effect.

This, while taking a little time to get used to, works flawlessly when you get to grips with it. Not only mechanically is the game sound, however, but the writing is absolutely stellar. From the snarky and often hilarious dialogue, to the well-designed bosses, to the overarching plot of it all which kept me on tenterhooks throughout: I really can’t recommend Before The Echo enough, and it would be an easy candidate for game of the week were it not for the fact that a) That isn’t a thing, and b) This next game is hot on its tail…

Rating: This bit just completely ruined the build up I was trying to create between this and the next game. God damn you, ratings bit. / 10

 

The Beginner’s Guide

The Beginner's GuideI’ve talked about this game previously in a piece I wrote about Dr. Langeskov, and what I said there I’ll repeat here. The Beginner’s Guide is, at least for the amateurish likes of me, unreviewable. There are a few reasons for this; wanting to avoid spoilers for an experience best enjoyed blind isn’t inconsiderable among them.

There’s more to it, though. There’s something deeply moving, deeply visceral, and deeply personal about The Beginner’s Guide. Arguments are raging even now about whether this is a work of fiction, with each person’s answer heavily impacting on their view of the game, the motivations behind the game’s creation.

The Beginner’s Guide can only be described as success, if for no other reason than the vast amounts of discussion it’s created. It’s a testament to the possibilities of open-ended narrative in gameplay, and the power of ambiguity in stories. It isn’t game of the week, though. That’s still not a thing.

Rating: This didn’t even get a proper review, you seriously think it’s getting a number?! / 10

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