By: Justin Redmon
There are certain games that make you smile, whether by casual enjoyment or simple ingenuity. That’s one of the things I love most about gaming; how something that seems exceedingly simple on the surface can be turned around and create a “Gotcha!” moment of cleverness. Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, from developer Threaks, does just this, create a living and breathing world that thumps to the pace of its own tune, all the while enticing you to do the same. It doesn’t take long before you’re hooked, and thankfully it’s a pretty smooth ride, for the most part.
When it comes to controls, Beatbuddy almost has it down pat. You’re not really moving around so much as you’re swimming, so it takes a while to get used to the floaty feeling of the controls. There’s a dash paddle and a few other ways to interact with the environments, but it’s all a pretty simple process. As well as being fairly basic, the controls are completely remappable with your choice of using a keyboard, mouse or gamepad setup. My only real complaint with the controls is entrenched in how Beatbuddy is essentially an underwater level stretched into an entire game, and certain segments that require quick and precise movements often result in death.
In look and feel, Beatbuddy gets top marks. Every environment is a hand-painted wonder, lush with detail and crisp visuals. Beatbuddy himself is nothing more than an ethereal blue blob, but even with its simplistic design Threaks managed to add some personality — for example, how idling during gameplay lets Beatbuddy dance back and forth bobbing his head to the music.
Beatbuddy‘s home world of Symphonia is brought to life in much the same way, and the entire game pulses with a certain energy that just makes it a treat to experience. You’ll quickly come to appreciate both the visuals and amazing soundtrack. Considering how much you listen to the tracks in this game, each is surprisingly mind-numbingly addictive. Seriously, any time spent with Beatbuddy will have you tapping along to the beat, so much so that I’d recommend you search out and pick up the soundtrack for the game. It’s that good.
The story of Beatbuddy centers around the planet of Symphonia, which unlike other planets, exists solely on the energy of music. With music being the sole resource that powers everything, one especially keen individual decides to capture all the power of the world’s music for himself. It’s a pretty cut and dry story, but thankfully that isn’t really a focus of the game and mostly serves as a backseat to add meat to the experience and occasionally some humor.
Gameplay itself follows much in the form of a puzzle platformer with shades of a music rhythm game thrown in to the overall mixture. Moving through the environments requires a lot of focus on timing, but the timing, and most gameplay functions, focus entirely on the beat of the music. This is actually where the game gets pretty interesting, as the music isn’t just playing constantly in the background with objects synched up. Instead, enemies and objects in the environment are actively creating the music you experience.
Though songs may be made up of things like cymbals, snare and bass, your proximity to objects in the environment and interacting with them will actively influence the soundtrack, taking away tracks or making certain segments more pronounced depending on your input. Hitting an enemy to open a path may not seem like much, but when doing so suddenly quiets the dancing hi-hat of a track, or creates a booming snare when you hit a launcher, it creates a feedback loop making you feel more like a part of the world than just experiencing it.
Beginning puzzles may not utilize this to great effect, but later on they become multi-tiered affairs, hinging on both your attention to the beat of the song and timing to progress. You never really get tired of it either, as Beatbuddy constantly changes it up. One moment you’ll be careening between launchers to smash down walls, and the next you’re bouncing along in a submarine-type vehicle, timing button presses on bass beats for extra boosts. Beatbuddy is so charmingly unique that any small issues start to bleed away, and you’ll start humming along to the music, bouncing to the beat and enjoying every second of what it has to offer.
Music and video games go hand in hand, and while most trip over themselves trying to match the two together, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians creates a symphony by making them one and the same.