Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is a game. Scratch that. Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is an interactive musical experience, which I’ve been looking to get my hands on since PAX East. Created by the indie developer Threaks, the game’s mechanics are built around an original soundtrack created by a range of talented musicians, including Austin Wintory and Sabrepulse. Every creature in the game has its own unique musical rhythm and interactions with them create a living song that the player has control over.
As a musical action-adventure game, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians belongs to a genre that doesn’t come across my desk very often. Unlike most other rhythm games, which generally consist of button mashing or bad singing, this one was actually a pleasure to play through. Furthermore, it isn’t about simply dancing or following a rhythm, but instead the whole game is alive with the music that’s playing. Instead of just being part of the background, the music is affected by your interactions and stipulates how obstacles are handled.
Beatbuddy, an ethereal creature and guardian of Symphonia’s music, awakens from his slumber to find Prince Maestro ransacking his temple and trying to seize all of the planet’s music for himself. Eventually Prince Maestro captures Beatbuddy’s sisters, Melody and Harmony, so in addition to saving the world he also has to simultaneously save them with the help of his friend Clef. The story stays relatively basic, without any crazy plot twists, and doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before. It’s a simple case of stop the bad guy and save the girl and/or planet.
A general theme with Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is simplicity. The plot is simple, the controls are simple, and the combat is simple, but everything meshes together nicely. On the other hand, simple does not mean easy. The puzzles require a solid combination of timing, accuracy, logic and being able to follow a beat, and the main controls consist of being able to punch, dash, and grab objects. While it may seem like only so much can be done with three controls, a majority of the game is played by interacting with the environment.
The violence here is set to a minimum, which is a nice change of pace from the usual these days, so those looking for a good beat ’em-up should look elsewhere. Most of the fighting consists of punching angry fish or shooting parasites in the “Bubble Buggy.” Speaking of the Bubble Buggy, I definitely enjoyed the incorporation of vehicle rhythm mechanics, that reward players with faster movement by moving to the beat. The amount of time spent in the buggy felt about right as well, as it never seemed like the vehicle areas were too long or drawn out and they provided a nice break from the puzzle solving.
Each level in Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is unique and beautiful. The environments are comprised of hand-painted 2D art, created in layers to give a feeling of depth to the world of Symphonia. All of the different colors and layers did provide a few issues with the gameplay, though; it was difficult to tell if some of the objects were actually in the foreground instead of the background, and at times Beatbuddy would become obscured.
Broken into five chapters, each of the six levels extends a five minute song into a forty minute musical journey. Since the levels aren’t completely linear, with many secrets and varying paths, it’s possible to hear each musical score in multiple different ways. There’s also good variety in musical genres, including everything from trance to rock, so there should be something for every audiophile.
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is such a unique and interesting experience that I couldn’t help but enjoy it from start to finish. The few negative points were random bugs, such as objects not interacting properly, and the lack of a complex storyline, but the game was obviously more about the music than the story. The gorgeous visuals, stimulating music, and the high level of player interaction within the game combine to create something truly unique. With such a low price point of $14.99, it’s almost impossible for me not to recommend this one.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Featuring unique, music-based gameplay mechanics, Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians puts players through a mystical journey that can be enjoyed by everyone.