By Guy Rainey / March 3rd, 2014
|Release Date||Feb 21, 2014|
|Genre||Platformer, Puzzle and Rhythm Game|
BeatBlasters III bills itself as a “platformer, puzzle and rhythm game all wrapped into one.” While that may sound like HarmoKnight, BeatBlasters III is nothing like that. In fact, I dare say there’s nothing like it on the market, with the possible exceptions of the previous games (which I have not played, so I can’t comment on). However, just because it’s new, that doesn’t make it a classic.
Be forewarned, BeatBlasters III practically requires a controller. Now, I haven’t played without a controller (I’ve owned a wired Xbox 360 controller for years), but I can see why they say that. The controls are designed around a controller. The game is designed to use four face buttons and a shoulder button. You have four basic skills: a blaster shot, a shield, rocket boots, and a jump. Every skill, except the jump (which is practically useless), is limited. These limits are very low; they last about 10 seconds with constant use. You can refill your skills by holding the shoulder button and pressing the corresponding skill button in time with the meter. If this sounds complex, it sometimes is, but there’s a tutorial mission that teaches you how everything works pretty well.
Here’s the plot: two kids travel to a certain town, and they get kicked out for listening to music though their headphones. Now, they are making their way through forests, the Arctic, and a desert to get back to town to get revenge, I guess? I don’t know, I’m not clear on what’s motivating these characters. Yes, it’s very simple, but so are Mario plots and I love Mario. With a plot like that, you’d better expect the game to be about the gameplay. And it is; there’s a lot that happens for the sole purpose of level design.
The game goes something like this: in a level, you’ll often need to protect something. How you do that varies from level to level. You may simply have to shoot oncoming waves, you may have to run around protecting more than one thing, or you may need to follow the object to make sure nothing falls on it. Sometimes, you may even have to push the object around to get it to do something.
With a name like BeatBlasters III, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the game is very music-based. The game is trying to have dynamic music; every time use use or refill a skill, music will begin playing. Now, there are games that have used a dynamic score to great effect, but this isn’t one of them. It’s like hearing the first few notes of what sounds like a really good song over and over again. When you stop doing anything, the music stops, as well, for the most part. The pieces of music just really don’t flow together well. And that’s a shame, since the menus show that the composer has decent skills; they just don’t come through well. At least the game looks nice; I ran it at 720p without problems on my laptop.
I have some issues with the gameplay. For instance, the Blaster Shot doesn’t fire right after you press the button, so, if you need to fire quickly, you’re out of luck. The Rocket Boots have two different kinds of flight: one flies you higher, the other maintains your altitude for quick movement. Which one it does depends on whether you are in the air or not. The system is confusing, and will probably mess you up more than once. I’d much rather have altitude controlled by the control stick (though, to be fair, since this is a PC game, they couldn’t count on the user having an analogue control stick). The shield is rarely used to block enemy shots; its main purpose is to push things around via a physics system. This physics in this game are somewhat unpredictable. It’s too easy to send an object you’re pushing too far.
The game also demands that the player constantly refill their skills, since they run out so fast. However, the game doesn’t always give a break in the action at a convenient time to refill. If you run out of a skill, and can’t refill it, you may as well restart the level. If you fall behind at all, you’ll never catch up.
Worst of all, the game is often tedious. The image above shows a level where a scientist’s experiment has gone wrong and, somehow, split his body into little penguins. He needs you gather the penguins, and push them into a tube so that he can put himself back together. As bizarre and off-the-wall as that sounds, this game makes it really dull. The problem is, with the physics the way they are, you can really only take three or four penguins at a time, so that means lots of trips back and forth to get enough of them to complete the level. Not every level is like that one. In fact, there’s a lot of variety in the level objectives, and every level is designed uniquely. I simply found the levels (even with all their diversity) incredibly dull.
This was a hard review to write. Even with all my complaints, I couldn’t bring myself to hate the game. I struggled to put those complaints into words. The game isn’t broken in some horrendous, easily identifiable way; it’s just not well-designed. Even when I quit out of frustration, after I took a break and gave myself a few minutes, I was able to come back and finish what gave me trouble. I spent about five hours earning three stars on every mission I’ve unlocked (there seem to be more, but, since I’ve gotten the best possible rank on every mission I have, I haven’t the foggiest idea of what I’m supposed to do now). All in all, this is a mediocre game. It’s $9.99 on Steam, and that seems way too expensive.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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