A World on a Beat
Music and sound play a pivotal role in world-building and ambiance because a soundtrack can make or break immersion. In Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, the soundtrack absolutely makes the game. It delivers catchy tunes around every corner and will charm every player as they progress through this bite-sized, arcade puzzle adventure.
The world of Symphonia spins to a beat. Its tides and denizens sway to a never-ending tempo – that is at least until the symphony is obstructed and threatened. The elusive Prince Maestro sets out to capture all artifacts of Symphonia and make the world dance to his song. Through his excavations, Symphonia becomes plagued with parasites and it’s up to the player to set the world back on track. Players will take control of Beat, the silent protagonist of the game and one of the three ethereal beings destined to protect Symphonia.
Beatbuddy, at its core, is a puzzle adventure game. Players will bounce off bass drums, swim through crevices for secret beatpoints and and punch their way through plenty of puzzles and hi-hat crabs. During some portions of the game, players must adventure on a Bubblebuggy, the Beatbuddy equivalent to a car. While the Bubblebuggy is only a means of faster transportation through early levels, these segments transform into arcade shooters when the buggy is upgraded with a minigun attachment. These buggy levels are some of the better points in the game. The music picks up volume and players shuffle their way through Frogger-like rhythmic sections. Beatbuddy also lacks real boss battles. There are several chase sequences sprinkled throughout, but they have little impact and hold no tension because players can swim far off to the side, easily avoiding the boss. On its gameplay elements alone, the game is far from intuitive. But with such a big emphasis on the game and music supplementing one another, Beatbuddy becomes something special, and watching the rhythm of Symphonia pass you by is as fun as going through the adventure itself.
Beatbuddy is a simple game. The puzzles can be solved without too much thinking involved. In fact, as long as players continue forward they are more than likely to progress. Players looking for a challenge need to look elsewhere: Beatbuddy doesn’t include any other difficulty levels besides the default setting. Save for collecting every beatpoint to unlock extras, there is little incentive to go through the game a second time. Additionally, Beatbuddy is a short game. An average playthrough may clock in at about five or so hours.
As players first take control of Beat, a soft hymnal voice lingers through the air. But, very soon the bass drum kicks in and a pounding snare follows closely by. The rhythm is set. Immediately, the vibrancy of the world will ready players for a quirky, melodic adventure. Threaks, the indie studio behind Beatbuddy, cleverly disguises music cues in the environment. The thumping bass drums are plant-like trampolines that Beat can use to bounce into objects, and the dangerous hi-hat crabs emanate loose tic-tac cymbal sounds throughout a level. Through elements like these, Beatbuddy does a fantastic job melding its music with its levels, creating a rich and pleasing atmosphere.
The music and sound design of Beatbuddy is superb not only in choice, but in its implementation. Everything in Symphonia syncs with the rhythm. Snare jumpers, one form of giant parasites plaguing Symphonia, only move on the downbeat of a song, living plants called “The In” and “The Out” bellow bass notes with every breath they take and fire snails beam bolts of quick guitar riffs in between bars. Even character voice overs are unique. Instead of spoken dialogue, the other Symphonians beat box. Beatbuddy’s sound design and soundtrack is extremely unique and refreshing because the in-game world doesn’t rely on its music, but rather exists because of it.
The music plays such an important role, one could argue Beatbuddy is also a rhythm game. In many ways, the latter is true because Beatbuddy doesn’t hide how important music is to its lore and universe. Each level is built around a specific song, sound and tempo, giving each chapter its own feel. The jazzy upbeat “Beatbuddy Swing” of the first level sets a great precedent for a strong soundtrack. Beatbuddy’s six song list doesn’t stretch too many musical genres, but each track compliments its respective level perfectly. Prepare for plenty of head-bobbing and toe-tapping.
Each hand-drawn level, from vast jungles to crumbling ruins, is warm, yet mysteriously aquatic. Symphonia is a maze of bright colors and vibrant environments. Even the parasites and wildlife of Beatbuddy are unique. The world draws in players through its minimalist charms, but the wondrous backgrounds and vivid levels will keep players in awe. It’s easy to say the 2D visuals of this game, like the music, are top notch.
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, while not unique in its gameplay, is very special in terms of presentation. The world of Symphonia is a vibrant, mysterious record, always turning and thumping to a secret rhythm. The graphic design and soundtrack are both excellent and fit Beatbuddy genuinely. The story is very simple and doesn’t accomplish anything exciting, but exploring the music, sounds and bright world are worth trekking through from beginning to end. Beatbuddy is a unique adventure game with a fantastic soundtrack.