Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, the innovative and fun puzzle platformer by German developer Threaks, is finally here. We’ve been talking about it since PAX East, when we first fell in love with it. The developers have worked closely with famous musicians to create one-of-a-kind levels in which the in-game animations sync up with each part of the music. As you progress your way through the levels, opening up more of the environment, the song grows more complex, adding in another part of the song with each environmental queue. The game’s difficulty increases as well, with the puzzles getting more complicated and the platforming testing your reflexes. Add in the beautiful, hand-drawn levels and characters that are painfully adorable, and you’ve got yourself a perfect little game with lots to offer.
Publisher: Reverb Publishing
Genre: Head-Boppin’ Puzzle Platformer
Release Date: August 6, 2013
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Beatbuddy is one of the Guardians, musical creatures who make sure that their lovely musical ecosystem remains in harmony. But the Prince of Symphonia’s love of music has begun to change their ecosystem, which introduces parasites into their world. This awakens Beatbuddy and the other Guardians, who then go to work restoring the balance – though both the parasites and the Prince stop them at every turn.
The game begins with simple mechanics and gradually increases in difficulty with enough time to let you get used to the challenge. At first, you’re doing simple things, like bouncing off plants to crash through walls, and hitting crabs to make snails duck into their shells. But as the game gets harder, you have to set up reflectors to bounce off of from the plants to the walls, fiddling with them until you get them all just right. There are also little streams of bubbles that change with the beat, going from blue (safe) to red (damage-dealing). You have to go through on the beat, which I usually did by using the dash function, just to make sure I made it through.
The controls are very simple without being overly simplistic. I’m not a huge PC gamer, but the game ran very smoothly thanks to the Xbox 360 controller attached to my PC. The left analog stick controlled Beatbuddy, and the A button allowed him to dash, while X was his melee attack. Other than that, the only other button I really used frequently was the Right Trigger, which picks items up. More options get unlocked later, but I don’t want to spoil the mysteries you need to unravel later in the game.
There’s also a vehicle that you get to ride in every once in a while. At these points, the scale of the game changes slightly, and the entire songs can be heard in their entirety. You move to the beat, but now you have a gun attachment, so you can shoot in addition to your dash, which gives you a much more powerful attack. However, the monsters are much larger, and you have less agility, so you have to shuffle up your tactics a bit.
The best part about Beatbuddy: Take of the Guardians is, obviously, the music. Designed to be in sync with the gameplay, it worked beautifully and drew me in more than I expected, even after adoring the game at PAX East. As you explore the world, the music comes together in small pieces, culminating in the scenes when you’re in your vehicle. I found myself bopping along to the music, especially when there were moments that I needed to perform something in time with the music. I would hold my breath and start counting and then move myself in time with the beat as I pulled off whatever move I needed to do. Successes felt so sweet when they also culminated in the perfect timing of the snare drum.
Not to mention the list of musicians is quite impressive. There’s Europa Deep, Curtis Newton, La Rochelle Band, Parov Stelar, Sabrepulse, and my personal favorite of the bunch, Austin Wintory. Best known for his emotional work on thatgamecompany’s Journey, Wintory’s level, “Stingin’ Swing,” was my favorite in the game. Much different than his haunting tracks from Journey, Wintory’s music here is very catchy, fast-paced, and energetic, giving even more flavor to an already incredible gaming experience.
The artwork of the game is also breathtaking, with a whimsical style that goes well with the score. Everything on the screen seems to be alive as it flows, pulses, sways, and bumps with the music. The game is vibrant in both audio and video, stimulating all the senses. This alone makes for a lovely experience, but when you add in the gameplay, it creates something wholly unique and fun. The puzzles and platforming are challenging yet incrementally so, with each level building towards the next. There are moments of frustration, as there are in all games like it, but that feeling that you can get it right with just one more try is coupled with the desire to succeed at making the music work perfectly as well.
There’s only one negative thing I can say about Beatbuddy: it’s too short. I beat the game in just seven hours. This is great for a downloadable game, but I’m not sure if it fits the $14.99 price tag. In fact, if anything, I would say that I wanted more of the game when it was over – I wanted at least another chapter or two. The experience was very enjoyable, and I could have spent just a little more time with my new buddy. If you’re a completionist, there are plenty of collectibles to round up, and hunting up those Steam Achievements will also add to the play time. Once you’ve beaten a chapter, you can choose it from the start menu, allowing you to replay any section you want.
Everything about Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is fun and fresh. It’s out on Steam for Linux, Mac, and PC, giving everyone a chance to play. With six robust levels filled with unique music and fun gameplay, you’ll definitely feel that you’re getting your money’s worth. There are plenty of collectibles hidden throughout the levels, so once you’ve beaten the game, you can go back and hunt them all out. The developers at Threaks have outdone themselves on this, their first game, and I hope that they continue to grow and innovate in the video game industry.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians was provided by Threaks for the purposes of this review.