April 19, 2024
Pulsating tunes and Hades hack-and-slash rogue-like combat allow Beat Slayer to mesh into a blast of a mix tape. The Finger Guns review:

ByreRockers’ Games’ Beat Slayer wears its Hades inspiration as loudly as Dionysus lords over bottles of wine. A birds eye hack-and-slay game where you dodge more than Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball, bust more clankers than a faulty robot factory and unleash all manner of powers upon unsuspecting robotic foes.

What helps Beat Slayer standout from its ingenious inspiration however, is that you have to contend with high-octane action while doing it in time to a pulsating synth soundtrack. The beat is everything in Beat Slayer. From narrative device to gameplay driver, you’ll be at the mercy of the bop throughout. The only rule is to stay on beat, so are you ready to take on this dystopian 90s Berlin?

Better hope so, ’cause the hordes of robot menaces standing between you and victory aren’t as down to jam as you are.

Turn The Crew’s Beat Around

Berlin is overrun with robot foes and the sinister Dietrich has flooded the cities airwaves with mind-controlling tunes. Who’s going to knock him down a peg and restore order with remix bangers? That’d be Mia and her motley crew of rebellious music-lovers. Mia’s brother has been taken by Dietrich and she ain’t best pleased.

As far as narrative exposition goes, Beat Slayer is compact and straight to the point. A handful of small, yet wonderfully animated manga-esque cutscenes and snippets of dialogue in a home base is what you can expect. Similarly to Hades, the story progresses alongside your efforts (and failures) on your runs to take down Dietrich and save your brother.

Mia’s motivation is explored nicely overall and the eccentric supporting cast are interesting enough. Beat Slayers never develops into a more layered or nuanced story, content with being a supportive bass instead of a foundational guitar riff. If you’re expecting Hades’ level of character development, you may be slightly disappointed.

However, this felt like a deliberate design choice. Beat Slayer wants you out in Berlin, bashing in robot heads and looking rhythmic while doing it. Dialogue is intentionally kept to a minimal level, and your training contraption Botty never fails to put a smile on your face. There’s intrigue and solid narrative foundations, but the gameplay is very clearly the highlight.

Beat Slayer review

The Beat Goes On (Until You Miss)

Beat Slayer is an action focused hack-and-slash rogue-like where the trick is to time your inputs to the ebb-and-flow of the music. Mia has access to a basic attack, ultimate skill, a dash and kick that inflicts stun. Every one of these movements needs to match the whim of the techno tune, lest you find yourself out of sync, inflicting far less damage than you’re capable of.

Combat is fast, at times almost overwhelmingly so. The pace of the action is something that makes Beat Slayer so ridiculously fun to sink your mind into. As I found my groove, I was zipping between enemies, pinging off ultimate attacks right and left, all the while racking up combo chains of over 300. After reaching a certain combo threshold, you’ll enter a flow state named Tanzrausch.

In this mode, you’ll deal heavier damage and dish out some real pain depending on your upgrades. Miss a note, you reset to zero and lose the flow. At first, it can be difficult to get yourself into rhythm and maintain it consistently. Once I was able to nail down the timing, it becomes dazzling with how satisfying everything syncs together.

I settled on Beat Slayer being an amalgamation of Hades, Hi-Fi Rush and even a small sprinkling of Metal: Hellsinger. For newer players, the combat pace may be quite intense to learn. Thankfully, there are accessibility and difficulty options that can smooth over this skill curve, should you need them. I played on normal and found it a pretty perfect balance of challenge and reward.

Beat Slayer review

Heart Beats (Metal) Rock

As a rogue-like, Beat Slayer will have you take on multiple levels and three bosses in order to successfully complete a run. The usual trappings are here, with death returning you to the hub to restart, temporary in-run boons lost on death, and persistent hub upgrades. One of the most impressive elements of Beat Slayer I found was build diversity.

As you attempt runs, you’ll be slowly doweled out more in-run upgrade paths. On one, I went all in on critical hits, thoroughly massacring the steel waves. On other, I had virus stacks on my basic, fire pools on my dash and electricity waves on my ultimate, creating visual carnage across the maps. My final two runs placed everything on enveloping myself in shields and damage over time, making me a dashing force of techno death.

The variety in upgrade trees and build opportunities is great, and this carried a great deal of incredibly fun time with the game. There are some balancing tweaks that probably need adjusting. For example, the ability to gain shields on your basic attack (of which you can have up to three) trivialises even the last two difficulties.

Completing runs ups enemy damage and health, as well as introducing new elite variants. The aforementioned shield build effectively allows you to out-tank the opposition, which isn’t the most enjoyable way to play, but it is the most efficient. Overall however, tinkering with elementals, buffs, power-ups and builds is very engaging and drew me back to keep playing.

Beat Slayer review

Don’t Block Rockin’ Beats

In terms of the overall tune of this rocking beat, it’s fair to say Beat Slayer is hitting some high notes. I had some minor issues, for instance some enemy types having tiny windows of telegraphing attacks. This is fine when you’re one-on-one, but come your final run with dozens of elite variants on screen, it can become absolute carnage. Taking damage that feels out of your control can be momentarily frustrating.

Yet in those same scenarios, I was bewildered with how electric this combat can be. When you’re evading dozens of enemies, all firing rockets, punches and lasers at you in destructive harmony, something clicks. Luckily, death is also pretty forgiving. You may lose progress on the run, but you’ll accrue XP which you churn into health, revival, power-up and boon strengthening.

Like many of the best rogue-likes, it strikes a nice balance of persistent external progression through stat boosts to run concurrently with your own internal progression. The bartender also has a potion-spewing vending machine granting you a buff for each run, which is cool of them. Lastly, there’s three weapons to choose from, though I was only able to play two prior to release.

I stuck with the default wrench for almost all of my runs, owing to its quick-fire nature. The hammer adds another wrinkle to gameplay but having you successfully hit two beat notes to pull off a hit, but the trade-off is much higher damage. If the third weapon switches up how you play too, it’ll make for a compelling gameplay layer.

Beat Slayer review

Darude Slaystorm

Naturally, with so many enemies on screen and so much action to handle, there’s always the question of performance. I’m pleased to report that Beat Slayer holds up superbly most of the time. My framerate was rock solid, with any dips that did occur having a negligible impact on the gameplay. Which is important, given that the beat is also linked to the FPS.

I experienced a couple of very minor glitches, such as a robot getting stuck in a wall or Mia’s attack tracking going slightly skew. These were few and far between however, barely being audible over the sound of rhythmic excitement. Latency on the beat itself seemed fine for the majority of my playthrough, but there were a couple of times where it felt ever so slightly off-key, making it difficult to maintain a combo.

Aside from that, Beat Slayer ran well and the soundtrack was remarkably entertaining. There’s not an abundance of songs, but the small track list is more than compensated for by their quality. Each is a supped up techno, synth blast which adorns the on-screen action brilliantly. Most hold the beat very intuitively, eventually even allowing me to ignore the on-screen prompts.

Not going to lie, that’s pretty impressive for a game to achieve with someone as musically inept as myself. After an hour or two of playing, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be humming the tunes, which is a pretty good feat, too. If you’re into your electronic music and pumping basslines, you’re set for quite the late night rave with Beat Slayer.

Beat Slayer review

Turn The Beat Around

Beat Slayer’s art style also did as much of a number on me as its steel rattling hammers and punchy tunes. Mia herself is a distinctive, badass looking force of nature. The crew also have quirky designs, making it feel like a Saturday morning cartoon. As I mentioned earlier, the manga style comic strips that are infrequently used for cutscenes are slickly integrated as well.

More than that though, the combat effects are wonderful. Explosions ping off in every direction, buffs to Tanzrausch flow with fiery energy around Mia, robot special moves crater the ground around you. Beat Slayer is brimming with vibrancy and zeal that makes up for the odd stilted animation. Tanzrausch itself looks awesome, creating a Dragonball Z like energy aura around Mia that pulses with your actions.

I really tend to dig art styles that lean on more visual flair than raw pixel count, and Beat Slayer does just that. Level design can become repetitive after a few runs, but the variety in locations is nice. Particularly the third area, which highlights a clean but engrossing set of environments. Fighting on top of a tower block helipad never gets old really anyway, does it?

Mia, What A Tune You Have

I spent just under 10 hours tearing my way through the 90s inspired Berlin, crushing thousands of robot carcasses in my path. Bear in mind, I’ve played a number of rhythm based games (as well as 50 hours reaching 100% on Hades), and experience of such titles will carry you a long way here. It took me 18 attempts to finish the campaign, which requires five completed runs.

For newer or less experienced players, you could safely double that time to completion. Even as a relative veteran of the genre, the runtime felt nicely paced. The final two runs do rely a touch too much on enemies being damage sponges, but rogue-likes do need to ramp up the difficulty to keep the tension high. It’s a bit of a trade off, but I think the final result is pretty fair.

So, is Beat Slayer a mixtape worth taking the time to jam out to? If my headbanging along to the songs, dismantling hundreds of robots in tow is anything to go by, then it’s an unbridled yes. For newer players, there’s enough accessibility support and difficulty tinkering to make it welcoming. While for more experienced rhythm maestros, there’s a brilliantly inspired hack-and-slay formula to tear into.

For me, Hades is the pinnacle of rogue-like action. The fact that Beat Slayer felt in the same ballpark of that, is a tremendous compliment. It has some minor flaws and tweaks that need addressing, but like many stellar remix records, we can forego the one or two forgettable tracks for the fantastic whole.

Beat Slayer is Hades meets Hi-Fi Rush and it lives up to its name of slaying some brilliant tunes. A superb art direction blended with intense, frenetic rogue-like action and a pumping techno soundtrack make this a mixtape worth digging out the headphones for. It’s not a perfect record, owing to a lighter story and the odd combat quirk, but it’s one worth having in the collection.

Beat Slayer is available on April 24th for PC via Steam (review platform).

Developer: ByteRockers’ Games
Publisher: ByteRockers’ Games, Paras Games

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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