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Released last October, and coming this April, Beat Hazard has become a sort of sleeper hit, and most likely it has floated under your radar.  That was the case with me, until a thread at Gamers With Jobs recommended it, and that was almost 7 months after the title was released!  You don't hear much about indie games, but sometimes they come out and surprise you.  Dishwasher: Dead Samurai and TwinBlades being two such titles.  And now, Beat Hazard does the same. The game challenges you to "defeat your music".  Defeat my music?  What the hell are they talking about?  Well, after burning some CDs to your 360 HDD or streaming some music from your PC, you'll quickly understand.  The CD I chose was Tool's 10000 Days, that may have been a mistake.




  The game is a twin mushroom shooter in the mold of Geometry Wars and Robotron, with a simple graphic scheme for your ship and your enemies (at least on SDtv).  Your gun is a piddling wimpy gun that shoots bullets that bounce off of some enemies.  They do eventually destroy what they hit, but it takes way too long to happen.  When the music kicks in, it's very low, and you think what's the big deal, the audio sucks!  Well, no.  No, it doesn't.  The music deliberately starts out low, and the volume is tracked on the bottom of the screen.  There are PowerUps that float from some destroyed enemies and enemy squadrons.  One of those PowerUps is for the Volume of the music.  The louder the volume, the more powerful your weapon becomes.  There are three total PowerUps, the other two are for your Bonus Multiplier and Weapon Spread.  The bigger the spread, the wider your broad brush of destruction becomes.  The higher the multiplier, the more you can build your score up to fairly high numbers.  



Soon enough, the screen is a huge mess of pulsating color (above), which reacts to the music, and exploding enemies throwing out floating bonuses.  The volume of the music is tracked on the left of the screen, the weapon power on the right.  The bar on the top of the screen tracks the musical tracks.  Anyhow, the track I chose to test Beat Hazard out with were Vicarous at over 7 minutes, and  The Pot, at just over 6 minutes.  If I could make it through a song, I would defeat that specific song, thus explaining "Can you defeat your favorite album?"- last the entire tracks of an album, and you have defeated it.  The songs have tons of changes and loud parts, which is good for heavy weaponry and lots of screen filling destruction, like this:



However, they have lots of volume changes and a couple of quieter areas of the song, turning your weapons smaller and weak.  When you complete that first track, you'll want to jump back in for another go, or try another track.  I can't blame you, the game play is that damn good, and at 400, or around $5, it's a bargain of a game, and much better than many full-priced titles.  If you enjoyed Geometry Wars, you owe it to yourself to download Beat Hazard from XBox Live Indie Games or the forthcoming PC version, which runs about $10, but STEAM has frequent sales, you could probably pick this on up for a, um.. for a song.  Now all I have to do is download some really, really long tracks onto my 360 so I can drive myself crazy, or allow the color strobe of the weapons hypnotize me, or cause me to throw up.  This game is highly recommended by the team at The World.


Beat Hazard on the PC, at least in my case, is much more detailed and frantic on the PC compared to the 360 version.  It does suffer from some slowdown, but that points to the power of my PC, not to the game itself.  It's great to leaf through my music on PC and choose whatever tracks, to play a Survival Mode, to complete albums, even to watch people on my Steam Friendlist have their status updated as to their rank, songs played, songs lost, and achievements unlocked in real-time.  Yes, I was surprised as well.. Steam has achievements!  They've become a mixed-blessing in gaming, those achievements, the XBox achievements, and the PlayStation trophies (which, if you ask me, is a lame name, but much better than the rumored "entitlements"). 


The control is the same, and since I use a 360 wired controller, it is virtually identical, save for the graphics and game modes available.  The PC version has the aforementioned Survival Mode, but there is also a Chill Out mode, where you can leisurely play the game without worrying about losing ships, losing the game, or scores.  Also in a recent update, they added a low-intensity visual mode, where the graphic flare is toned down, but your score also ranks at a 70% clip compared to regular visuals.  Beat Hazard is still highly recommended for the PC, along with the 360 version, just don't get pissed when you have trouble completing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or Missa Solemnus, or with Lizst's Hungarian Rhapsody on piano.  There's no getting around difficulty like that, and you may as well embrace it and love it!


Beat Hazard Ultra is out now on multiple platforms, currently working on a review of this new version!


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