There is really no shortage of games that are able to be played with a group of like-minded friends, sat on your couch, eating your biscuits and drinking all the fizzy pop they can find. Well, now there is a new entry into this already bulging genre, with the release of Beat Me! by Red Limb Studio. On the face of it, it’s another brawler where you can compete with friends, either locally or over Xbox online services, but does it have any hidden depths; any strengths to play up to? Let’s cast off our strings and find out.
The string comment in the previous paragraph may have struck you as a little odd, but bear with me here. You see, in the intro, which acts as a kind of tutorial for Beat Me!, it appears that we are all puppets, and in the first act of the tutorial we have to literally break our bonds. After this, you are taken through the deep and complex fighting system, which involves pressing the X button. A lot. You also learn the joys of “physics based” platform traversal, which involves pressing the A button to jump, but crucially also allow you to perform a wall jump by pressing A again. Add in the fact that you can press B to block and the tutorial, such as it is, is complete. And we are ready to dive into the plethora of game modes that await!
By plethora, in this particular case, what I mean is three. The game is split into two halves, if you will, with local play or online play. Starting off in local play, with the hope of some kind of single player experience, I discovered that there are two options to play. Deathmatch requires more than one player, so as my nine year old co-reviewer was busy playing Immortals Fenyx Rising, I initially dived into the only mode that can be played alone, Wave mode. This puts you on a screen, and then sends waves of enemies at you, as you may have surmised from the name. Think of a horde mode, but in a side-on 2D view, and you’ll be close. Every time you complete a wave, you get an extra life, which is nice in theory but in practice means that you are forced to stay playing this mode for longer than is fun. For future reference, the time that I had fun in this mode is something around 30 seconds, after which the stupid controls started to put paid to any enjoyment.
Beat Me! apparently uses a “special physics based combat system” (a direct quote from the developers) and what this translates to is a combat system that rapidly devolves into “standing and mashing X until either the enemy dies or you do”. There is literally no point in trying to do anything clever, as the levels are full of traps, and the slightest touch is fatal. Unfortunately, the traversal mechanic is so rubbish that it’s nearly impossible to make your puppet go where you want them to, and as for avoiding projectiles, well I think a good rub of your lucky rabbit’s foot will be at least as effective as any input you can make on the controller.
Online mode is more of the same, with the notable exception that Wave mode is missing. After all, why would people want to team up online to play cooperatively? Surely people only want to destroy their friends, right? Well, we’ll leave that question open-ended, but that’s the feeling I get with Beat Me! as the only gameplay options available online are Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. The online community is however as dead as a dodo – if you don’t have friends willing to drop the cash required for a copy of Beat Me!, you may as well forget it. If you do manage to find someone through the netcode then all is well, as the game plays out exactly the same online as it does offline.
Whichever way you are playing, various power-ups fall from the sky, including health, a blue one that makes your character extra jumpy and floaty, a red one that reverses your controls and, most vitally of all, a yellow one that gives you a super attack, mapped to the Y button. Here a modicum of tactics come into play, with each player trying to get a super power-up, priming it to finish the other player. However, the jumping mechanic is the thing that will kill you the most, with it usually being a matter of time before a player will miss a jump and plummet to their doom.
Graphically and Beat Me! is very simple, with various characters to choose from, ranging from knights to golems, via wizards and even Geisha girls. Each character has a rating, with scores for health, attack and mobility, and after weighing up all the options, the golem is by far the most OP, able to kill most of the other characters in a couple of hits.
The audio is pretty minimal as well – swishes and grunts as attacks land, and the grinding of your opponent’s teeth over the headset as he falls off the stage again all present and correct.
A special mention has to be given to the stages however, as there are a large number of very different worlds to fight in, and all the imagination that is lacking for the rest of the game is clearly on display here. There are static levels, levels with moving platforms; even levels made of snow that you can make your own path through by attacking the blocks. Some levels move upwards or downwards at a steady pace, requiring you to move with them in order to stay in play, and these, given the limitations of the movements, are the most challenging.
In a world where Cake Bash exists to deliver a multiplayer treat, Beat Me on Xbox is an irrelevance. It’s okay in short bursts – and I mean short – and I imagine it would be fun with a group of drunken mates sat around the place, but as we all know, 2020 hasn’t been kind in that regard. That said, this is a game that is hamstrung by its own controls and combat system, and all the clever stages in the world aren’t enough to save it. If you want to play against friends online, there are a lot better games than this to do it with.