Beatbuddy is kind of a silly game. It’s fun, it’s not too difficult, and it has a good sense of humor. There…kind of, isn’t a lot to it, but what it has is pretty good. Um, I’m speaking in broad generalizations because I can’t really figure out how to present this game, but let’s just jump in and maybe I’ll figure it out by the end.
So, Beatbuddy is a game about music and sound on every level, including the story. Symphonia is an underwater world of music, and that music is created from the dreams of three powerful celestial beings known as “the Buddies”: Melody, Harmony, and Beat. They slept peacefully in their temple, until one day Prince Maestro (a little blue mustachioed dude with a weird haircut and a strange penchant for stars) dug into the temple and started pulling out the shiny bits, which had the unfortunate effect of, 1: waking up the Buddies, which would eventually cause all music in the ocean to cease, effectively ending the world; and 2: causing a bunch of pale parasitic creatures to start popping out of the ocean floor. So, since Maestro has no intentions of returning the all-important temple parts you, as the third Buddy to awaken, Beat (Beatbuddy, get it?) must travel around the ocean searching for them with the aid of your sisters and the strange old man, Clef, who has a penchant for guns and explosives instead of stars. It’s a weird but charming little tale.
As to the game itself, well, it actually isn’t very complicated. You move Beat by clicking on the screen, and he swims the that location. Left click is for normal speed, while right click dashes, and if you hold down the right mouse button you will swim at increased speed. Therefore, the challenge of the game is mostly avoiding obstacles and moving with proper timing.
That “proper timing” bit ends up being very important, though. You see, each level in the game is set to a single looping song; and everything in the environment, neutral or hostile, pulses to the beat of that song. Conversely, you can only hear the instrumental tracks of the song based on what interactable objects are around you; for instance, the bassdrum, which appropriately introduces a bass drum track, or the snarestreams, which have a sound like a snare drum. If you head into an area with no objects at all, the music will fade out almost entirely…which is pretty cool. And occasionally you will enter an area where you can actually hear the melody, which is even more cool.
Anyway, the objects don’t just make sounds, but are also the challenges of the game. The bassdrum, for example, will send you shooting off (on the beat, of course) with enough force to break fragile walls. Snarestreams are obstacles, creating streams of bubbles that can only be popped on the beat. Fortunately for me and my poor sense of rhythm, most of these challenges are either simple or can be brute forced by just crashing through; only a handful of damaging hazards exist, and rocks with health recovery hearts are fairly plentiful as well. Still, sometimes Beat will get hung up on an edge or something and then fatally penetrated by spiky snails, which is annoying, but the game is fairly generous with checkpoints, fortunately.
I did have one obnoxious error related to checkpointing, mind you. In a certain challenge where you had to recover two highly unstable power sources to power up an organ so you can drive your Bubblebuggy deeper (oh yeah, forgot to mention, vehicle sections are a thing too). Well, I got the first one into place, and then died while trying to recover the second; whereupon respawning, Clef started shouting about how I had fixed up the organ and to quickly get back in the Bubblebuggy…meanwhile, I hadn’t even reached the target power source yet, and I had to grab it to make it back to the organ anyway. I died several times, and the cutscene played each time… It was quite annoying.
Other than that? Great game. Simple, but amusing and fun, and the sound work is definitely great. I advise headphones.
Time played: 2.2 hours.
Pros: Beautiful artwork; playful and comical; has a great beat, buddy.
Cons: Pretty easy, with a few exceptions; seems to be designed as a mobile game (and is, in fact, available on Android; so yeah).
Worth playing: Definitely fun to play.
Worth the price: $10 is a lot for such a short game, especially one that is available on Google Play for $5.
Random observation: The Bubblebuggy is more difficult to control than Beat, being bigger and literally bouncing to the beat of the sound track; but at the very least, it has regenerating health, so as long as you aren’t running away from a giant fish (note: a thing that happens) you can always stop for a moment and recover. Which is nice. 🙂
Arbitrary grade: B-
And now, for a game that was apparently a classic but I never managed to discover until it showed up for free on GOG: Beneath a Steel Sky, by Revolution Software. Just goes to show how sheltered I am, apparently.