The first time I saw Beat Hazard nearly three years ago, I nearly had to avert my eyes because of the headache it was about to cause. A dual-stick shooter not unlike the fabulous Geometry Wars, Beat Hazard is one of a handful of games to feature levels generated by your music library. What sets Beat Hazard apart? The visual madness that starts cutting into your eyeballs as soon as your favorite song kicks into drive.
It starts out simple enough. Dig through the poorly-arranged folders of your music collection (admit it, they’re pretty bad) and find a track you’d like to play with. The level starts with your ship alone in a field crawling with asteroids. Do you dare make that first shot or wait for the Pacifism-style meter to fill as you dodge spawning enemies that begin to slowly build around you. You’ll notice the song is nearly muted, but as you begin to pick up Volume power-ups, the levels begin to crowd and color begins to slip into the backgrounds. Of course, your weapons are on the same metric: as the beat subsides, your ammunition sputters out of your vehicle of mass destruction like the last drops out of a clamped hose. You can’t do anything with that! You need to be strategic!
Survival is the key and the game generates larger and larger enemies based on the intensity of the song, allowing for some intense firefights (like the one above) as you spray vibrant ammo to disable different components of the enemy’s boss ships. The game can become incredibly difficult depending on the length and intensity of the song you pick. You could load a podcast into the game and play whatever twisted scenario that arises, but you’d never make it to the end in any of the non-Chill modes.
Beat Hazard is perfect in fits and squirts, but if you’re like me, the intensity can be just that after a while (you can bring it down, though). They’ve added a number of features to the game since I originally bought it all those years ago, but the most jarring (and awesome!) is a new 200% intensity mode that makes those chaotic scenes even more maddening. If I have one big request, it would be more dynamic levels, perhaps on the surface of a giant Death Star-ish battle station, or even larger enemies, just something more to mix up the action. Could you imagine Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” on some kind of Skywalker-famous trench run? I can. If I have another big request, it would be to somehow herd your music collection into a better grouping to make it easier to search your content. Oh, and maybe if your fire power didn’t drift through space so slowly, but maybe that would simply ruin the effect…
For super cheap – $9.99 – you can’t go wrong with Beat Hazard. It’s fast, fun, and gorgeous. I wish it had a little more to the game than a few clever game modes, but you haven’t played anything quite as visually intense as this.