I’ve always been a bit of an advocate of the old saying ‘you get what you pay for’. And with Bullet Beat on Xbox One, that is certainly true. See, £4.19 is nothing in monetary terms, especially in the games industry, and that low price point most certainly translates into a game that delivers a mere smattering of decent content.
Bullet Beat from Ternox and Xitilon is sold on the back of being a shoot ‘em up in which the music and audio play a huge part in proceedings. And whilst I can’t for one minute debate that the gameplay within is dictated by the sounds thrust towards your ears, I do sit here with second thoughts on the shooting aspect itself.
Bright, full of colour and running without a hitch, Bullet Beat plays on the bullet-hell shoot ‘em up scene with ease. Taking your small ship and steering it through, past, and around all manner of enemies and their fire is your sole goal in Bullet Beat. It does this with style, as you swoop and glide around the screen, shooting back at anything that moves… and anything that doesn’t.
Spread over eight stages in which the enemy opposition fast ramp up in numbers, the problem with Bullet Beat is not that it is too easy to complete – although it is – but it’s that occasionally it forgets that it is meant to be a shoot ‘em up. Taking down thousands of foes should be the main draw here, but instead you can easily make your way through a stage with a low score, a lower combo, and an even lower sense of achievement, ducking, diving and dodging as you go. Hell, there are times when you can just sit in one place and let the chaos around you kick off, safe in the knowledge that you’ll be fine to the end of the stage. Granted, there are times when you’ll have so many foes available you won’t know which one to hit first – and the achievements for 500 and 1000 combos are certainly within easy reach – but at other times you’ll be left holding your fire button without a care in the world, just hoping it’ll all come to an end sooner rather than later.
When it does work properly though, it works well, with each stage filled to the brim with variously shaped foes. Whilst there is nothing of real detail in hand, and the vast majority of enemies come in the form of simple coloured squares of various sizes that split on impact, and spinning shapes galore, this allows for Bullet Beat to instead concentrate on what is needed in a good SHMUP – fluidity and precision. And it brings that too, with near perfect movement of your ship, dancing and swinging its way through the barrage ahead.
As you go about your destruction of enemies, you’ll also get the chance to fly over and pick up a whole host of point additions and ship power-ups. These come in the form of additional health, more powerful weaponry and screen-clearing smart bombs. They are nothing we haven’t seen in the genre for years past, and the sheer number of them make this already simple playthrough even simpler, with little test of any gaming skills needed. Of course, this is unless you ramp things up to the prime difficulties, and what seems to be an increase in enemy firepower. But why you’d ever want to do that is beyond me.
Casual, Normal and Hard difficulty levels all sit in place, but if I’m honest once you’ve played through the eight initial stages (upped to 10 with the final one strangely broken down into three parts), there is little reason to go back. Hell, other than to satisfy a bit of curiosity and nail down some easy Gamerscore collection, there is little reason to play the game at all. In my eyes SHMUPs are built on high-score attainability and the building of those numbers – this can be hugely satisfying in Bullet Beat. But then, as soon as a level is over and you’re shown how well you have done, that’s it, with everything seemingly forgotten forever more. There are no leaderboards – either private, local, or online – and that means there is absolutely zero reason to head back in again.
That is unless you really like the dubstep tunes that bring everything about Bullet Beat together. While these don’t dictate how the gameplay handles, it’s great to be able to feel the rhythm as you shoot, flexing in and out with every last beat. Credit to the development team for including such an exciting, powerful soundtrack which manages to keep you at one with the game.
But then, just as you begin to get immersed with Bullet Beat, it’s all over. Yes, an Endless mode is a decent little timewaster, but sheer repetition and ease of play means this once again just turns into a trigger-holding affair, leaving you with little care for why you are bothering to move through tens of stages and thousands of enemies.
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for in life, and with Bullet Beat on Xbox One costing very little it is just a tiny amount of gaming satisfaction that you will discover in return. There is nothing wrong with it per se, except for the fact that things are over fairly swiftly; there is absolutely no reason to go back in for a second, third or twentieth attempt. Unless all you are bothered about in life is picking up sweet Gamerscore and hearing the ping of an achievement, you could do much much better with multiple other shoot ‘em ups.