I want to admit something now, in front of you all, and that is, I have no rhythm whatsoever. I am a terrible dancer and wannabe musician. I just don’t understand the beat. In gaming terms I have avoided all the Guitar Hero/Rock band/DJ hero type clones knowing fully well that I would suck at them.
So it is with great trepidation that I stumble into what I thought was one of the above type of games. I was very wrong; it’s something else completely and that something is very good. Music is still the main ingredient and inspiration for the game, but it’s used in such an interesting way that even a two left-footed, tone-deaf idiot like myself can play it.
Now the story isn’t the main focus here, but it’s a fun narrative that doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’re Beatbuddy, a kind of headphone wearing mascot who journeys through the colorful underwater depths of Symphonia on a quest to save your companions and his immortality. There are six levels and the universe breathes and shapes itself to the soundtrack playing alongside it. It’s a mixture of puzzle solving and action playing, reminding me a little of Badland – but that’s a stretch because this little game is very unique.
The world itself looks great with colourful textures and Donkey Kong Country type level design. The main character flows and interacts brilliantly with the flawlessly designed environment and everything you see will bring a smile to your face.
This game, however, is all about the music and the beat. The game has been designed to co-exist with the rhythm of the music. For example you can get through certain sections in a ship by pressing the boost button in time with the beat. Now, even me with my lack of percussive abilities could just about manage this. You also have moments when you have to unlock puzzles by working with the environment and the music in tandem. The actual music itself, in the six beautiful worlds, has its own amazing soundtrack composed by industry legends such as Austin Wintory, Parov Stelar, chiptune-genius Sabrepulse and the La Rochelle Band . The way the designers have integrated the beats and the flows of these tracks with the game is a pleasure to behold. A section where you have to press B to find a hidden melody is a masterclass in sound design. While I was playing the game for this review, anyone happening to be passing by would be drawn in for a bit to watch the game simply because of the draw of the music.
The gameplay runs to around 4 to 5 hours of playing . It consists of your little guy swimming around the water of Symphonia unlocking pathways and solving puzzles. These range from the simple to the ‘how am I going to do this I’ve tried every possible angle, and I haven’t eaten for two days, wait how did I miss that?’. It’s difficult at times but thankfully the game never becomes too frustrating. You get to travel in an underwater submarine for big chunks of the game as well, which to be honest wasn’t my favourite part of the game, as after the free flowing sections in the water it felt really clunky and hard to control. There are a healthy bunch of saves points throughout Beatbuddy in case you die and I never grew bored.
However I did have a bit of a problem. The game can be a bit buggy.
An example of this was when I opened a pathway for the sub that was being driven by another character to go through. However he just didn’t move and I tried every possible combination to make him shift his bum, but in the end, had to restart the level. When I got back to that point again, he moved. Then later on I got past level 4 but the next day it had put me back to level 3. The game is good enough that I didn’t mind repeating that half an hour of game, but still found it a little bit disappointing and very annoying.
The developers who made the game, THREAKS based in Hamburg, have a very interesting story as well. They came up with the concept of the game in 2009 at college, slowly developing it while gaining a bit of funding here are there, before finally launching it in 2013 on Steam. The game has won a bunch of awards since its launch and now has sprung onto the console market. If you collect enough little gems throughout the game you unlock a sort of Pintrest type story of how the developers made the game from the beginning. This is a really nice feature, well made with warmth and cheek.
There is no online mode or co-op in this game which I can’t decide whether is a bad or a good thing. You’ll never miss what you never tasted right? Overall I found Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians to be a well-made romp and a wholly original experience. The music is incredible and made me want to buy some of the tracks (which you can do) and the gameplay is entertaining. The bugs that seem to pop up now and again tarnish the experience to what could have been a perfect score here. I am forgiving in this way, but I know loads of gamers who wouldn’t be. It’s also a reasonable price for an Xbox One game of this size and type at £7.99.
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians has helped me on the road to recovery for my fear of music and rhythm games. I have to thank the developers for that and maybe, just maybe, I might get up on that dance floor one more time.