I don’t think I’ve ever played a good swimming section in a game. They’re all awful. Chiefly comprised of stodgey, clumsy, foreheaded controls that make trying to move less fun than drinking a puddle, and complete with controller-eatingly infuriating timing restrictions that will have you crying into your nearest sleeve within moments. Perhaps. We don’t do that. But, you know. You might.
Similarly, rhythm games serve only to remind me that whilst I do indeed play in a ‘band’, I have the technical musical competency of a week old apricot that’s rolled behind the sofa, ready to attract a small army of rodents. As such then, I met Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, a game that takes place entirely underwater and as you might gather from its name, probably has something to do with rhythm, with a suspicious, narrowed-eyed squint that would undoubtedly make it feel uncomfortable in its own home. Like how I greet people at parties. Fortunately, Beatbuddy, is less of what I expected, and more of what I couldn’t put down.
To get things straight, Beatbuddy is primarily a platformer; a puzzley platformer with delightful hand-drawn, layered visuals and of course, an emphasis on music. You play as the Beatbuddy, a bubble with headphones that looks sort of like a Ministry of Sound marketing cast-off from the late 90’s.
As you swim through the game’s cavernous underwater levels, Beatbuddy melds the undeniably foot-coercing soundtrack intrinsically into the world, hooking up the bass drum, for example, to a pulsing bit of flora that you can bounce off of, breaking parts of the environment, thus allowing you to progress. There are hi-hat crabs that you must strike to momentarily rid your path of snail-based danger, halting the corresponding sections of the music as you do so. There are snare streams that only allow you to pass through if you do so right on the beat. There’re vehicle sections in which you pilot the perpetually, rhythmically bouncing BeatBuggy, and as a result can’t seem to stop yourself jigging along with the damned thing, much to the annoyance and concern of those in the adjoining room.
Without a doubt, it’s a harmonious musical collusion, and when that first full song kicks in, anyone with even an involuntarily partiality to the influential waves of a good beat will be scuppered into sinking the next few hours into developer THREAKS’ carefully constructed melodious mayhem.
The narrative is a playfully twirling string that ensures the game tows along gently, keeping you in the loop enough to hold your attention between the varied and in some cases charming puzzles – the inarguable star of the show. The highlight of the writing is undoubtedly in the conversations and exchanges purveyed infrequently by the other inhabitants of Symphonia, the game’s world. Indeed, it feels as though there’s a missed opportunity here for more humour as subtly placed back-and-forths between NPCs.
The layered visuals are stunning in places and make for a diverse and satisfying aesthetic across the range of colourful levels. That said, having bits of scenery awkwardly obscuring your view like the overly keen attention-seeking antics of the Microsoft Paperclip doesn’t so much feel like the game is adding an extra challenge to the proceedings, but is instead supplying you with the digital equivalent of having a fly fornicate intermittently with your ear. Fortunately these moments are few and far between, though the layers can also create more frequent confusion when quickly ascertaining what scenery can and can’t be touched or swam through.
The controls are, for the most part, a smooth and confluent joy to use, though undoubtedly you’ll fall victim to the throes of being a water-dwelling, um, bubble, at one point or another. As you zip back and forth, you occasionally need more accuracy than you’re granted from the sticks. Eventually, this actually becomes part of the charm, so don’t let a few early instances in which you decide to form sensual relations with a nearby piece of scenery instead of swimming away from danger put you off.
Ultimately, I’m nitpicking for faults. I sank a good seven hours into Beatbuddy according to Steam, without locating all the hidden Extras, and felt that my single playthrough could easily be duplicated with a similar level of blind, rhythmic fun. The musical highs that keep the whole thing well paced and interesting are worth coming back for, and for the inarguable price of £11.99, Respawn reckon Beatbuddy has nailed that singalong chorus.
Find out more about the game HERE, or grab your copy on Steam from 6th August!