Humble Bundle with Android 5 ReviewGuest_Jim_* - March 10, 2013
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Beat Hazard Ultra Review:
First things first: I have owned and played Beat Hazard Ultra from before the Ultra content was added. I have enjoyed it since I got it so, unlike many of the other games in the bundle, what I write here does not represent a first impression but a long term experience. However, that experience has been with the PC version and not the mobile version. With that disclosed, let's get to it!
Beat Hazard Ultra is an arcade, twin-stick shooter that constructs its levels from your own music library. You are able to change the difficulty of the levels though by setting the difficulty and changing the visual intensity, which I will speak about more when I cover the graphics. As you play, you grow your point total which increases your rank. As you unlock ranks, you also gain the ability to unlock perks, such as additional lives, special weapons, and power-ups. To unlock a perk or upgrade it though, you must spend in-game cash, which is separate from points and collected by picking it up in levels.
The power-ups of the game increase your weapon power and volume. Weapon power is self-explanatory, but the volume is a little complicated. The game does more than just construct levels from your music because the music affects the gameplay, with more intense music translating to an increased fire-rate for your ship. The tempo also affects projectile-speed of your shots and your enemies. More volume in a level means the music affects you more, so a higher volume means you fire more and faster shots. It also does increase the volume of the music as it plays. This effect can be changed in the PC version through a config file, but unfortunately that procedure cannot be replicated on Android.
Only one of the special weapons within the game is not unlocked by perks, and that is the bomb. This weapon very simply explodes a ring of projectiles from your ship to destroy whatever is on the screen. It is worth noting that the projectiles do not pass through enemies, so how the enemies are aligned relative to you affect the bomb's effectiveness. Throughout a level, additional bombs are dropped in from the top of the map. The other two special weapons are micromissiles, which will hunt down enemies for you, a powerful beam that can be very useful when the there is a lull in the music and you have enemies to kill, and a shield which makes you invincible and reflects projectiles away from you.
The graphics come with a warning that they could cause photosensitive seizures, and you should believe that warning! The effects in this game can completely blot out anything on the screen, and had my phone's screen flashing at what I would guess is its refresh rate. You are able to change the intensity of these effects though, but because the chaos they cause is part of the gameplay, reducing the intensity will decrease your score. Basically, because you are more likely to see yourself and enemies at lower intensities, you do not get as many points as those who have to guess and hope they are right.
Though I describe the game as a twin-stick shooter, technically on the Android version you can play it with a single stick if you want. Twin-stick shooters are those where one stick controls your movement and the other controls your aiming. With the single-stick control option though, the game automatically aims and fires for you, with the single virtual joystick being for moving the ship. The default setting for the single-stick is also that it can be dragged across the screen, and I personally like this setting. I found myself moving my thumb well beyond the edge of the joystick, so the edge followed after it, allowing me to keep control at my thumb-tip. Honestly I wish more of these Android games with virtual joysticks allowed for a similar control scheme.
The graphics of the Android version are definitely less detailed than the PC version, but that is not very surprising. It also does not really matter. Playing on my phone, I would have believed you if you said the graphics were identical (with some exceptions I will get to) simply because of the fast pace of the game preventing me from catching the details in the PC version. You can see how the graphical detail has been decreased on the screenshots though. You can also see another example of how the graphics differ from the PC version, beyond the on-screen controls. The edge of the map is actually drawn as horizontal and vertical bars, which change color with the background. This is a completely natural and needed deviation from the PC version because the map you play on is smaller than what you have in the PC version. Some boss AI has also been changed for your benefit on the smaller map, as you will see if you play both versions.
As the game has the soundtrack you give it, I cannot really comment on the music itself, though it does come with some music to play. The Beat Hazard Album consists of 23 tracks, though only 17 are included in the soundtrack that comes with the bundle. (Four of the tracks belong to an artist the game developer was not able to contact in time to add to the soundtrack and the other two just appear to be missing.) In the Android version though, only four tracks are included. Additional tracks will have to be added, and incidentally it currently cannot use Google Music tracks, even if they have been downloaded to the device. If you do not mind playing somewhat random music though, there is a 'radio' feature which will stream music to your device from one of many channels. As you are listening to the radio, instead of playing until a track completes you play for a certain amount of time. Basically, you do not have to worry about having no music to play with.
Does Beat Hazard Ultra make this bundle a classic you just have to get? As I said earlier, I may be biased, but I definitely believe this game alone makes the bundle worth getting. It is a great game with an open-ended experience you control with your music library. The Android version is very well created with easy to use controls not only in-game but in the menu as well. I have no reservations about recommending this humble if only to get a copy of this game, alone. If you have a decent music collection and enjoy arcade shooters, you will find this game to be well worth it, both on the PC and on Android.