Threaks, the German Indie developer who unleashed Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardian to critical acclaim on PC back in 2013 have now re-imagined their initial release for the Xbox One. I got hands on to find out why, and if, it deserves the praise lavished upon it.
You play as Beatbuddy, one of three eternal, ethereal, slumbering beings; that according to legend dream music into existence on the world of Symphonia. You are awoken by your sister Melody, who informs you that the temple in which you now lie is being desecrated, and your other sibling, Harmony, has disappeared chasing down the culprits. You must venture out into the world of Symphonia, find your family, and put a stop to the nefarious Prince Maestro who is trying to take control of the music of Symphonia.
Being a puzzle adventure game, it carries with it some tropes that appear difficult to omit entirely. The world is an underwater playground with twists, turns, and dead ends; and hidden away in some of these are the atypical collectables. Throughout the six levels and 30 chapters are ensconced both beatpoints and Relics, which contribute towards unlocking extra content stored in the main menu.
The first thing that strikes you when you play is how synchronized the world appears. Very seldom have I encountered a game where the musical overtones and flowing score are so readily to the front of your mind, but with the flora and fauna of Symphonia acting as the source of the music itself, it is quite easy to just stop and enjoy the sound of the world as you pass through it. Even Clef, your wayward Symphonian companion narrates sections of the game with a vocal scratching, beatboxing style that is simultaneously grin-inducing and annoying in equal measure.
Gameplay and controls have rarely felt so refined, with Beatbuddy’s movement smooth and responsive throughout. Beatbuddy’s abilities are unlocked as you progress and allow the game to remain relatively fresh and engaging from start to finish. As mentioned above, there was obviously a focus on melding together the audio and gameplay into one cohesive experience and it has worked perfectly. TheBassDrum plants propel you around the map to the drop of the bass, snare stream’s bubbles damage or hinder you if you approach on an offbeat yet pop in phonic union to the tempo when hit in time, while HiHat Crabs conduct the pulsating deadly spike snails to the rhythm of the melody. Giving the crabs a whack will rest the snails and the tell-tale drum roll announces and punctuates the moment they re-emerge to threaten you once more. It is more than a little bit charming, endearing and captivating.
Stopping to admire the ensemble cast of plants and animals treats you to a beautiful idle animation that sees Beatbuddy nod, bounce, clap and dance to the music. It is utterly enchanting.
Graphically, I could most closely compare Beatbuddy to the highly regarded From Dust or Ori, with its hand drawn environments and cartoon-esque characters, and given its original release in 2013, it would seem that From Dust would be the more prominent source of influence.
At this point, I have to swap my emotive, (almost gushing), cap for the more critical cap required as, although Beatbuddy is a graphical and audible tour de force, the game is not without its flaws.
Game breaking bugs occurred infrequently, but the nature of the checkpoint system left me restarting the chapter entirely regardless of how close I was to the end. Enemies would lose all pathing, leaving me free to bypass them with ease, turning the living breathing ballad into a still life photograph. Interactive objects would become inert, with essential gateway switches and plugs becoming useless background items that trapped you in place.
In addition, some of the levels, the Hive in particular, are cramped and restricted with the utilization of foreground graphical assets actually blocking your character from view.
It is possible to complete the game in less than three hours, given that there is an achievement for doing just that, but on first run you will probably find a period of 5-7 hours is a fair approximation. This duration feels like a very good balance for the game, which is intrinsically linked to the audio across each level and stage. With such an intrinsic link between the gameplay and audio, it would have been easy for the developers to overcook one or the other, but to me it was balanced perfectly.
Flaws aside, this is a fantastic little title, that really excels in its auditory production and if you are a fan of games that have a harmonious balance of all its core elements, this is a game that should have you grinning from ear to ear.
Thanks to Xbox and Reverb Publishing for supporting TiX
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