Music is a fundamental aspect of game design and I’d go as far as to say that the wrong musical choices can ruin scenes or even a whole whole game if the direction is off the mark. It is however usually something that happens in the background helping to set the tone rather than being the main theme. Not so with Beatbuddy: Tale Of The Guardian, where music is given centre stage.
Beatbuddy’s plot is based on three deities, Melody, Harmony and our hero of the game, Beat, who together dream up all the music in the world. Prince Maestro, the villain here, wants to control the people of Symphonia and control the music himself, and so he kidnaps Melody. It’s your job as Beat to rescue your stricken sister from Maestro’s clutches.
When you commence Beatbuddy you’re instantly introduced to the importance of music in the game world, with an array of NPC characters who create their own unique sounds and who also help or hinder you, such as anemones who provide the driving drum beat that propels each level along or tiny crabs and their spiny, damaging, friends nearby who play a hi hat sound, or jellyfish that hurt you on contact. Sometimes you need to move to the beat in order to pass through a barrier and progress, taking damage instead if you hit the wall off beat.
In terms of genre, Beatbuddy:Tale Of The Guardian is is best described as a puzzle game. As Beat, you must navigate through six quite huge levels, discovering how to progress past various enemies and obstacles in your path. The majority of the time this will see you moving bouncepads in order to catapult yourself off at high speed in a particular direction, or using the plugs (which act as keys) to open gates in order to move into the next area. The game does throw variation in as your progress through, for example occasionally giving you access to a small submarine with a machine gun on the front, or using wall mounted creatures that suck you in at one place and fire you out at another.
Despite only being six stages long, each is five chapters long will take you around 45 minutes, if not longer, to complete, plus additional time if you wish to pick up all of the collectibles throughout the level. The more intrepid amongst us who wish to locate all these are treated to items such as concept art.
Each stage has it’s own unique theme song, created by notable composers such as Austin Wintory, who was Grammy nominated for his work on Journey for the PlayStation 3. There’s a great range of genres at play here, with tracks taking influence from electro pop, swing, dancey pop, ambient, operatic vocals, and one that sounds just like Prince.
While the sound takes headline billing, the graphic design also needs mention. Throughout the game the lush, hand drawn environments and characters are a joy to behold. Despite only being a 2D platformer, the beautifully drawn backgrounds employ parallax scrolling to give a real sense of depth to proceedings. Each stage feels thematically different to the rest, with different obstacles, backgrounds, colour schemes and the regular introduction of new creatures. Pictures don’t really do the title justice, I’d strongly watching the video to fully appreciate the work that’s gone in this game.
Sadly, despite the positives, there are a few downsides here. The downside to the long level length is the nagging feeling that the music becomes somewhat repetitive. Because each stage is in essence built around a specific beat, hearing it for 45 minutes plus can leave you feeling like you’re trapped in a nightclub with a DJ who forgot all but one of his tracks.
Beatbuddy defaults to keyboard controls and I found to game very difficult with this method. The combination of slightly lacking precision (due to the game’s underwater settings) and keys make certain sections, such as when being chased or avoiding debris, nigh on impossible. I’d strongly suggest switching to a gamepad to save yourself any frustration.
More seriously, the game is unfortunately laden with a fair few bugs, most noticeably affecting me during the third stage, The Ruins. The problems always seem to centre around the next required action, such as a gate opening, not triggering, leaving you unable to progress further. While the majority of the time rebooting the game and returning to the previous checkout will remedy this, on occasional I’ve had to completely restart the level. Again, the length of the levels can make this a sizable issue, it’s no funto have to restart a stage when over thirty minutes in.
All considered, Beatbuddy: Tale Of The Guardians is a charming little title, worthy of the admission price of £11.99 for the beautiful art and music alone. While it does have it’s flaws, it’s well worth looking past these and giving it a chance.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Format: PC Release Date: 06/08/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardian for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 3 days on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.