Beatbuddy (PC) Preview
Beatbuddy doesn’t particularly lend itself all that well to anything other than a hands-on experience. I can tell you that it’s a music-based 2D platformer from German-based developer Threaks. I can tell you that the script was re-written by Rhianna Pratchett (a refreshing change of pace for the writer of AAA projects like the recent Tomb Raider reboot), that the music was produced by Sabrepulse (of Chime fame) and Austin Wintory (the Grammy-nominated composer of Journey), I can even throw up a trailer (with some hilariously poor voice-over) but none of it does the game any particular justice. I feel for Threaks and Reverb Publishing, I truly do, because I know how hard it is to demo this type of game and not confuse your audience further, but I do feel like Beatbuddy is something that’s worth keeping your eyes on when it releases on Steam in early August.
The eponymous hero of Beatbuddy is a blob of a creature, outfitted with oversized doe-eyes and DJ headphones, though he swims with a surprising amount of grace in the demo Ted Lange, a representative of Reverb Publishing, walked me through recently. Mr. Buddy is called upon to save Symphonia from the iron fist of the arrogant Prince Maestro. Naturally, Beatbuddy must traverse through all walks of obstacles and platforms to bring peace to a soon-to-be-oppressed nation (I assume Symphonia could be considered a “nation”, though perhaps not a “nation state”, but I digress).
The six worlds accessed in the game all have a specific theme- musically, artistically and mechanically speaking. One world might seem industrial in scope, another apes the style of an underwater jungle with lots of mechanics tied to bouncing or swinging around obstacles. While Beatbuddy moves freely, the obstacles in the world are bound to the rhythm of that world’s theme song, bouncing or moving along in step accordingly.
Each obstacle can (and most likely will) be manipulated in order to progress; Beatbuddy might have to adjust bouncepads and sync at the right moment in order to launch through coral blocking the next path, for example. Or you might have to use your dash maneuver to blast through bubble blowers at the best possible second. There are even tank sequences where Beatbuddy drives around in a “Beatbuggy” (natch), though unlike Buddy, Buggy has a turret and can only move in-time to the beat, making dodging stray boulders, venomous plants and wild creatures. There were instances of more traditional puzzle gameplay- dragging an item to activate a switch was a common one- but having an ear for the beat (and a pair of solid headphones) is a must to complete some of the tougher obstacles Beatbuddy has in store.
As Beatbuddy further progresses in the world, new objects are discovered and the environment evolves into something else entirely. Each hand-drawn environment is remarkably detailed, depicting a lavish, colorful society with an excellent use of foreground to emphasize the scope and scale of a level; that one artist is responsible for the entire look and feel of Beatbuddy is remarkable. As the world evolves, the music too grows into its own. What might initially start as a bass-only track slowly grows into a symphonic treat, filled with hand-claps, drum taps, keyboard, synthesizers, the works. There’s a fun meta-game for the player might involve interacting with certain objects in order to “remix” the song, as each object is tied to a specific piece of the track- sea crabs are tied to hi-hats on a track, so punching them removes that sound from the song for a few seconds. The player will not experience the world and the music it produces in the same way twice.
Through plagued by unfortunate technical issues (which seemed to be the fault of the gaming rig used to run the demo), Beatbuddy still stood out as an inventive, often captivating platformer with a neat hook (and cheeky dialogue). It’ll be interesting to see if the full game capitalizes on the potential seen in the first two levels, though we won’t have to wait long to find out. Beatbuddy will be available for $15 on Steam on August 6th.