BPM: Bullets Per Minute from Awe Interactive takes the new fad for fusing together genres of games that have absolutely no relationship with each other. Billed by the developers as “a rhythm-action FPS rogue-like”, a sentence that I didn’t anticipate typing any time soon, is this a fusion too far, or can it be made to work? And more importantly, is the resulting mash up any fun? Well, let us head to a world of heavily armed angels and even heavier metal music…
The story of BPM is the usual kind of throwaway nonsense that you would expect from something of this type. You are a Valkyrie, and instead of just singing and carrying warriors off to Valhalla, you’ve been handed a firearm and told to defend Asgard from the invading forces of the Underworld. And what better way to make sure that the enemies are defeated than by making sure that you shoot them on the beat, eh? Well, it’s here that the rhythm action part of the game comes in, with every enemy and every action that you perform having a rhythm to it; shooting, reloading and even jumping and dodging on the beat is the name of the game. This sounds like a really cool idea, and so with my appetite well and truly whetted, I was ready to take on the evil scum of the nether realm.
First off, let’s examine the presentation of BPM: Bullets Per Minute. The music is the big takeaway here and as I am a bit of an old rocker, the soundtrack is right up my alley. I spent years at University with hair down to my backside, wearing a tatty leather jacket, great big clompy para boots and a variety of heavy metal t-shirts. I’m still partial to a bit of rocking out these days too. On paper at least BPM should therefore be great, with the best metal soundtrack since Brutal Legend in place, and then the ability to shoot monsters to the beat; it sounds like it should be a good game.
The graphics are passable as well, even if there is nothing on display here that would make an Xbox 360 break a sweat. The monsters that are invading are a pretty simple bunch, with such evil beasts as Baby Bats, Worms and many more to take on. There’s a weird kind of sheen to everything too, and if you get too close to a light source, it becomes blinding, making the rest of the game a little harder than it needs to be. The animation of the enemies is also a bit jerky, a bit staccato to use a musical phrase, and shooting them can be a little harder than it needs to be, especially with the smaller enemies.
So, onto the actual gameplay – the important bit. How well has the idea of fighting and shooting to the beat been implemented? Well, in general, pretty well. It takes a certain amount of time to unlearn everything you’ve ever learned about an FPS, and the new way of shooting to the beat is a weird idea to get your head around – but it works. You see, in the centre of the screen, your aiming reticle can have indicators on it (if you so choose) and these indicate when you should perform an action; be that shooting or reloading, jumping or dodging. Once you suss out the beat, then the next issue is trying to make your trigger finger regulate itself to firing, not as fast as possible as in every other game ever, but when the sight dictates.
Add to this the fact that a lot of enemies also have patterns tied to the beat, then sometimes not shooting and instead spending time observing to see what is happening, is the wisest course. The bosses in particular have definite patterns to overcome, and with this being a roguelike, you have only one life before you have to start the run again.
As for the difficulty, and well, BPM is pretty brutal. Even on practice difficulty it is all too easy to get destroyed by the forces of evil, and on the higher difficulties you need to be absolutely spot on with all your actions to even stand a chance of surviving, otherwise you may as well forget it!
It’s tricky to learn the patterns of any enemy, but that’s not to say it isn’t doable. However, as every run is randomly generated, learning the levels is absolutely impossible. There are chambers full of enemies, which you have to slay before moving on, after which clearing a chamber will reward you with a chest, which may contain money, or if you are really lucky, a new weapon. Unless of course that weapon is the shotgun, which is hands down the worst gun I have ever used in a video game ever. You have to fire, start to reload, then finish the reload, not only on the beat, but every single time you pull the trigger. Using this gun in a room full of enemies can only end one way, and it isn’t with the sweet taste of victory. Give me a Gnasher any day!
Other weapons are available, but the issue I have is that because the rooms are randomly organised, you quite often find the boss before you discover either the shopkeeper (a chicken with a halo, who sells health potions) or the blacksmith (who seems to be a dinosaur with a halo) to buy a new weapon. And did I mention the difficulty?
I have to be honest and say that BPM: Bullets Per Minute hasn’t really worked for me. I don’t mind a challenge, but the difficulty is mind-blowing, the mechanics are hard to get used to, and BPM: Bullets Per Minute is just so unforgiving, both in terms of rhythm and combat, that it’s hard to find much enjoyment. That said, the concept is great yet whilst the idea seems like a good one, in execution it’s tougher to sell. The music is awesome – a proper rock opera – but it feels like there are just one too many genres being attempted for my taste. Yes, there’s a good amount to find, including other Valkyries, but personally BPM has been a little underwhelming.
Get down to the rhythm of the beat with BPM: Bullets Per Minute from the Xbox Store