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Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians Review – Can’t Stop Moving to the Beat
A hand-painted landscape and an interesting narrator given to beatboxing mid-word greet you as you embark on the story mode for Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians. Developed by the 10-man Germany-based studio THREAKS, Beatbuddy takes places on a world fueled by music instead of something stupid like entropic energies. Symphonia, as we are informed by our beatboxing narrator, is powered by music which springs forth from the dreams of the sleeping guardians. The problem starts when a greedy prince of the Symphonians, Prince Maestro, desecrates the three guardians’ temple and makes off with a piece of it. This wakes up you and your two sisters, more than a little miffed. Not just because the good Prince interrupted your naps but his interference has caused a host of new, parasitic baddies to begin infesting the world of Symphonia.
From the very first moments that the interlacing notes and beats hit my ears, I was greatly reminded of Bit.Trip Runner, another music-themed video game, and not just because the titles share the same first letter. Bit.Trip Runner was as “platformer” as it gets while Beatbuddy is described as an action-adventure platformer (and has the feel of a puzzle game) but the souls of the two games are very similar. In Beatbuddy, as in Bit.Trip Runner, the ambient music informs the gameplay to such a degree that, if you want to get the best times you can get for each level, you’ll need to pay as much attention to the music as you do to what’s occurring on screen. On some level, this is tragedy because what’s on screen as pretty easy on the eyes. Hand-painted 2D sprites animate in the various levels of fore- and background that provide an interesting sense of depth to the environments. And each of the levels, which took me about 25 minutes on average to complete, had a unique aesthetic and a new style of music that the puzzles would intertwine with. Everything in the level combined into an insulated package that made it a little bit more recognizable. I’d imagine identifying songs will be as easy as describing the level it was featured in. The level design, though, is deceptively linear, despite the side objectives the game presents you in collecting pink shards dispersed about the level in order to unlock extra content. The only trouble in progressing won’t be in knowing where to go as often as it will be managing the precise procession of movements necessary to make it through the acrobatic puzzles Beatbuddy pits against you.
There were few quibbles to be had: occasionally, I was hit by frame drops that don’t correspond to any particular action, intense or otherwise. And I had originally thought to include the fact that there was only a single slider for volume but, in the context of this game, it makes sense. Everything is blended into a single sound sample: the music. The notes of the songs are the sound effects of enemies, even the movements of the Bubble-buggy, a vehicle in game, are inexorably tied to the beat of the song being played. The other control options (purely keyboard and hybrid mouse and keyboard controls) are suitable but everything is best suited to using a controller. Mostly because the overall lack of mouse control in most menu screens got me so flustered that I stuck to using a controller in hopes that I would forget about it. I didn’t.
For $15 on Steam, you could do much worse with your hard-earned money. But, in my experience, I stayed more to hear what the next level’s music would sound like rather than a desire to beat the puzzles that tried to bar my way. A timer that records how long it takes you to beat each level and the hidden shards that unlock extras are about the extent of the replayability. If you’re not a fan of puzzle games, this won’t provide you the burning desire to toss the cash that is burning a hole in your pocket. You’d be better served waiting for them to release the original soundtrack. But overall, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is a fun game.