Beat Hazard 2

Having relived my days as a student by replaying the original Beat Hazard, I found myself looking forward to last month’s Humble Monthly containing its sequel. Its predecessor was a game I much-enjoyed, but how much could this sequel realistically add to a game that was so simplistic at its core. Better code for translating your music into gameplay? Seems like a lot of effort for something that already worked so well.

Rest assured that Beat Hazard 2 does that and so much more. It’s a worthy follow-up to the original, worth owning regardless of whether or not you already played the first.

For those not familiar with Beat Hazard: it was a space-combat game where you controlled a little ship and everything from the enemies to the size of your projectiles was determined by a complicated algorithm that uses your music as input. You put CDs or music files into the game and it’d generate an action-packed, flashy level where you fend off waves of enemies and powerful bosses until the song is over.

Naturally, this same idea lies at the core of Beat Hazard 2, but it has expanded and modernized itself nicely. Besides using discs and local files on your computer, the game now also has integration for online radio broadcasts, as well as a mode it calls “Open Mic!”. While it doesn’t connect directly to your Spotify or YouTube account, in Open Mic! you start up a song on your desktop and the game will translate that into gameplay on-the-fly. You can even make it truly open mic by switching input from your audio driver to the microphone.

This alone is a great addition to the game and, while it would occasionally misidentify a song and ads can get in the way, it generally worked incredibly well and with little delay. The original game came out in 2010 and it may hold up well, but I for one don’t have a CD drive anymore and getting your music in .mp3 tends to involve a little bit of piracy that is now no longer required.

The base gameplay is also improved with enemies that are much more fun to fight and more diverse gameplay in general. There are way more power-ups to experiment with and the difficulty has been increased a bunch on the higher settings.

New to the game are ships that are randomly generated after each completed song. You can try these out and buy them if you like using them, but they also have 4 random challenges attached to them that will unlock an extra module you can add to any ship. Each manufacturer has a different style, from the fast and agile Mosquitos to the overwhelmingly powerful Brute Inc. tanks. It’s a cool feature, but also a tad underwhelming.

I get that it’s meant to encourage you to experiment and switch ships frequently, but the bonuses the modules give are so minuscule and the stats of each ship aren’t exactly easy to compare or even that apparent during gameplay. I honestly don’t notice when a ship has 0.10 points more in acceleration. I ended up getting a fantastic ship from my first round in the game, but felt obligated to try out others and experiment a bit, which I constantly ended up regretting.

Even then, it’s an inoffensive inclusion that players who love optimizing builds can indulge in, and it’s cool to constantly see new ship designs that might catch your eye.

There are a bunch of smaller improvements to the game, such as a revamped perk system with more options and a cool score tracker that shows how your current score relates to your previous best and that of anybody else who has played the same song. Of course, most popular tracks will see somebody rack up millions of points per second and take the #1 spot with an insurmountable lead, but it’s nice to track the progression of your own skill level.

If you’re into the idea of turning your songs into gameplay, then Beat Hazard 2 is a game I fully recommend. Its the modern update to the genre that we needed, upgrading the gameplay of the original and giving us a ton of options for playing the game, regardless of how we listen to our music.

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