Too Long; Didn't Play: Beat The Game

Sponsored By: Steam’s Spooky Halloween sale

Time Beating: 103 Minutes

Trance Review

Navigate a bizarre desert wasteland with nothing but a pair of Groucho Marx glasses and a portable sound mixer in this surreal point-and-click adventure.

Dubstep Review

I have always been a fan of music mixers. I like to fiddle with GarageBand, and I created a short song out of nothing but cowbells using Traxxpad on the PSP (I believe it was even featured as interstitial music on the GWJ Conference Call once or twice. Listener feedback suggested that it frightened cats.) So when I saw Beat The Game show up in my discovery queue, I couldn’t help but be interested.

Based on the trailer, Beat the Game looks like a puzzle game where you use a mixer to create beats to solve puzzles. My mind bubbled over with possibilities for what that might look like from a gameplay perspective. Would it be like a rhythm game, or a musical match-three? Maybe it would use the tags on the individual track loops to create a Love Nikki Dress Up Queen-style score-chase, where a character wants a certain kind of beat laid down and you have to figure out how to do it. It is with mixed emotions that I report that Beat the Game is none of those things. It is, in reality, a fairly standard point-and-click adventure game with a fairly dumbed-down implementation of Simon tacked onto the end.

In a lot of ways Beat the Game is a disappointment. It’s incredibly short – in the 103 minutes I spent with the game, I beat it twice – and the puzzles, if you can call them that, aren’t terribly challenging. Mostly the entire game is a series of fetch quests, except the what you’re fetching is sound.

This is where the mixed emotions I spoke of come into play, because even though I’m disappointed that the game isn’t interesting in the way I thought it would be, it’s interesting in a different way. Using a mixer to seek out sounds to turn into loops for a dubstep track is one of the more unique game ideas I’ve encountered in recent memory. The whole object of the game is to collect enough audio samples to DJ a concert for the creatures that live in the desert. That advances your character’s goals in the game because reasons, but Beat the Game isn’t about story. It’s more about atmosphere. Fortunately, the atmosphere is the most compelling thing about it.

The developers clearly spent a lot of time on the character and world design. Everything and everyone in the game oozes personality, even the little triangular polygon people for whom you stage the concert. Again, I have mixed feelings about this. There are some phenomenally well designed characters in this game, but they have literally nothing to do. There’s a young woman with a spear who tracks you through the first twenty minutes of the game, only to completely disappear without the main character even knowing she was there in the first place. A half naked tree-man that features prominently in the promotional material for the game shows up once and is never seen nor heard from again. Heck, half of the objects you can collect aren’t even used for anything. So much work went into the world-building of Beat the Game, it’s a crying shame that more wasn’t done with it.

Overall, Beat the Game is a worthy experience that there just isn’t enough of. It’s kind of like when your roommates drink all but the last inch of milk in the jug. There’s just enough there to arouse your thirst but not enough to bed it back down properly.

Will the Beat Go On?

Part of me wants to continue to play just to see if there’s anything I’ve missed. Surely there must be some use for the Groucho Marx Glasses you find, right? Why else put them into the game? My hopes on this aren’t high, since I’ve already beaten the game twice. I guess that’s some incentive to try again, since it’s so short that trying one more time won’t cost me much.

You’ve heard of damning with faint praise, I suppose you could call this praising with faint damnation: I want there to be more to this game than there apparently is.

Is it, like Dubstep, The Dark Souls of its genre?

Unless there is something profound that I am missing, there’s no way Beat the Game can be called the Dark Souls of anything. Even the name telegraphs that it’s an easy game.

It’s worth playing, perhaps at a discounted price, but it’s no Dark Souls.

Comments

Is this one of those Double Fine experimental things? Because that art style is Psychonauts + Brutal Legend in some of those shots.

Nope. It’s developed and published by Worm Animation.

If this game is meant to be a demo reel for their animation studio, then somebody ought to pick them up because the animation is one of the best parts of this game.