Reviews
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians

By Jorge Figueiredo - September 22nd, 2013

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For me (and most people, really), music is a very important part of any videogame. Some people could really care less about game music (which makes me cry inside), but I have always appreciated the role of music in the gaming sphere. Music is a mood setter; it’s a pace maker; and in some games (like Sound Shapes), it forms the backbone of the game, making it an integral part of the game-play. In Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, a gem of a PC title from Hamburg, Germany’s THREAKS, music takes a pivotal role; and surrendering to the beat can lead to a victory dance, even if your playlist is limited.

Beatbuddy is a puzzle-based adventure game in which you play the role of Beatbuddy, a guardian (a sort of musical deity) of the land of Symphonia who is on a quest to save his sister (Melody) from the chaos that is Prince Maestro. The world that you reside in lives and breathes music; and while every creature marches to the beat of a different drum, they are all in the same orchestra. Maestro threatens the sanctity of life’s rhythm because of his selfish desire to make everyone follow his rules – but he’s not much of a musician.

Having practically every “living” part of a game world moving to the same beat is an interesting concept. Everything bops to the beat set by the game’s soundtrack, and each creature adds its own music to the overall tune, making the world feel organic and alive. In fact, you feel like you are part of a greater whole, almost as if you are one of the many organisms that makes up a larger one. Once you get into it, the music can show you the way to reach your goals. Paths become clear as the rhythm reveals patterns all around you that you can take advantage of. Even dialogue is part of the fun, as all of the characters speak in a musical way (sort of like beat-boxing), making it hard not to really get into the spirit of the game.

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Be quick. The word “Allegro” comes to mind.

Game-play is mostly puzzle-driven, with some combat and platforming elements. Levels are full of hazards and barriers that you must overcome by using either keys or timing (and sometimes both!) to make your way through to the next area. Fighting enemies, whether unarmed or in a vehicle, is always a matter of keeping time and performing your attack on the beat (or on the second beat) for maximum impact. It’s a clever system that actually serves to engage the player in a different way than a usual platformer would. In fact, I found that the controls for this game were easy to pick up, and the various ways that Beat can deal with the environment were actually fairly intuitive.

The visuals are well done. The world of Symphonia has an underwater vibe, and the animations do well to emphasize that. The environments really draw your attention to the action, as the edges of the screen are relatively plain and the foreground is full of pulsating -almost electric- movement. The animated creatures are all bright and colourful, almost looking like some of the brilliant undersea life shown on nature shows. While the visuals are stunning, the audio is really where it’s at. Every level has its own ear candy, giving you a slightly different experience depending on where you are. A fantastic six-song soundtrack carries you along with it, with the beginning of each level being relatively subtle building up to a lot more action further on in the level. Sound effects blend with the music, again serving to highlight the importance of the music.

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Nothing like stomping things to the beat.

Beatbuddy is nothing but fun – but it is not without some negatives. Given that the paths through levels are usually fairly well established, there are moments where it is unclear as to how to proceed. I’m not sure if these are carefully placed tough spots to control the pace, or if they are glitches in level design. I noticed a few moments where the game did some weird things, causing me to die for no reason (or move in a way that I didn’t anticipate); luckily, there is a generous checkpoint system, so these weird bits didn’t really hold me back. Finally, as cool as the premise of the game is, the story is somewhat thin. To be honest, I really stopped caring about the story about twenty minutes in, as I was busy exploring and tapping my feet to the beat.

Beatbuddy is an entertaining, musical romp. It might not be for everyone; I know that there are those of you out there with little patience for repetitive gimmicks (and this game can be quite repetitive); but if you enjoy great music and a simple premise, then Beatbuddy might be in your future.

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