Published On: Tue, Mar 4th, 2014 on 11:56 am

Games: First Look at BeatBlasters III

BeatBlasters III

You could easily be forgiven for having not caught BeatBlasters 1 and 2. This is mainly because they don’t exist. BeatBlasters III is the first title out of Canadian developer Chainsawesome Games and their choice to lead with a title numbered “three” is a little unconventional, but it definitely seems to set the tone for the game.

BeatBlasters III touts itself as a hybrid of a platforming game and a rhythm game. Whilst it’s certainly true there are elements of these genres in there, the product as a whole is decidedly stranger than the sum of it’s parts. You take on the role of either Joey or Gina, a young boy and girl, both fans of music, who arrive in the town of Acapella only to run into the town’s ruler, The Butcher, who promptly throws them both out on account of the town’s music prohibition laws. From here, it’s up to you to help them return to the city and overthrow the tyrant through a series of colourful and musical challenges.

The kids are armed with three abilities: the eponymous Beat Blaster – a bolt of energy they can fire forwards as a weapon, a magical shield bubble around them and a pair of nifty rocket boots that will offer a limited flight ability. The weapon can be upgraded as you progress through the game, allowing you to perhaps return to earlier levels you had trouble with for a better score.

The game itself plays out as a series of challenging minigames, requiring creative use of these three abilities in varying combinations. The simplest of these, the first level, sees you attempting to save a collection of peanuts from a band of thieves on behalf of a family of bugs. This is about as much context as you get in many levels. There’s no particular rhyme or reason to whatever your current challenge might be, you just have to go along with it.

Other challenges have you escorting a rocket-powered Viking longship full of Eskimo warriors across the snow to invade an ice castle ruled by a pirate, or attempting to traverse an obstacle course with a pile of penguins in order to return the spirit of the scientist Dr Penguinstein, trapped in said penguins, to his physical form. It’s all nonsense of the highest order, but the challenges themselves are well crafted, fun, and satisfying to complete.

The rhythm element of the game is used to recharge the three abilities, which otherwise all have a limited amount of power before you can no longer use them. An indicator at the top of the screen bounces along to the beat of the music, and by holding down a charge button and tapping the buttons for the abilities you wish to charge along with the beat you can top up the power.

This recharging will begin slowly at first, increasing faster if you can sustain a combo, hitting the beats correctly for long enough. Multiple abilities can be recharged at a time as part of the same combo, so a good sense of rhythm will see you always having the correct tools for the job, otherwise you could find yourself floundering to recharge in the middle of the action. It is worth noting at this stage, that this is all a little tricky to execute on a keyboard; if you don’t have some manner of gamepad plugged into your computer, you could find yourself struggling more so than otherwise.

For a game that features music as its principal theme, the rhythm elements are fairly weak, serving mainly to add balance and pacing to the challenges themselves. However, I feel like the challenges are good enough to stand on their own. There’s a lot of variety in them and they’re definitely creative, if frequently a little odd. They’ll provide a good challenge too, with 32 levels in total to play through, and by level 10 they will already be testing your skills at multitasking tackling the challenge at hand and maintaining enough power to be able to use your abilities. If you’re finding things too easy, there’s also a unlockable harder difficulty to better test you and you can step down to an easier difficulty if you find yourself stuck on a tough challenge.

Overall, BeatBlasters III is by no means without its flaws, but it’s a fun and innovative little title that you would do well to check out.

BeatBlasters III is out now for PC, Mac and Linux. For more information, please visit www.beatblastersiii.com.

About the Author

Jon Biggin

- Founder and Co-ordinator of Bradford-based video gaming collective, Button Mash.

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