In 5 minutes, Beat the Game had managed to convince me that my morning coffee had been inadvertently laced with LSD. By the 10 minute mark, Beat the Game had tapped previously defunct areas of my brain, and had begun to poke them with a sledgehammer. Within a mere 15 minutes of gameplay, Beat the Game had reduced me to a senseless wreck, able only to nod my head in time to a pulsating, electro-new-wave-synth rhythm.
I may be exaggerating a little, but I do suspect that the creators of Beat the Game – the San Francisco-based Worm Animation – suffer from severe hallucinatory episodes; I highly doubt that imagination alone concocted such absurdity. Offering little by way of narrative exposition, I was dumped straight into the perspective of an unnamed biker, drawn and animated as though he were an extra in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Dressed in prison stripes and a tight bodysuit with matching cowl, he rode some sort of hover-bike until he didn’t, crashing into a vending machine half buried in the moonlit desert. Then he kicked the machine… and there was carbon dioxide soda… floating eyes with wings… the biker sits in a chair… but suddenly, TREE ROOTS! After some hours sleep, underground… boy in striped pyjamas makes the surface… and then music.
Suffice it to say, until instructions begin to appear on your screen (and for some time after), Beat the Game makes zero sense. Once the prologue is out of the way, however, and you’ve reached the first open area, a terrifying voice commands you to collect sounds. And thus, you begin sampling your environment and using the portable mixing deck to create the sickest beats this side of the new millennium. Don’t ask me why. I’ll never tell.
What I can say, though, as a musician with a creative streak, is that Beat the Game doesn’t need a reason to drop a filthy bass-line. You’ll soon forget the dodgy narrative, the painful camera functionality, and the lack of attention to syntax (a pet peeve, nothing more), because you’ll be mixing that unwashed kick drum with synthetic waves, artificial hi-hats, and whatever else you can get your audio sampler mitts on. You don’t even need a musical ear: the mixer does the hard work, so all you really need to do is keep selecting and deselecting samples until you find a rhythm that takes your fancy.
The time I spent with Beat the Game was very limited, but it takes mere moments to respond to the quality of the graphics, or the intuitiveness of the UI. Beat the Game did not leave me wanting in any respect other than wanting to play a little more: if you’ve watched the trailer, you’ll see that the oddity soars to new heights as the game progresses. Perform your favorite composition to the crowd in lieu of a boss-fight – if they like it, you’ll progress to the next world. Scour the world with a rolling robot that I hope makes full use of the game’s intriguing open level design; plod about as the anonymous musician (edit: he’s called Mystik, but you’re never actually told that), using either keyboard or controller, and sample anything that moves.
It’s crazy, but it works. With music from house producer Marc Houle, Beat the Game is a nonsensical, aural, point-and-click journey into one of the more imaginative environments I’ve ever had the pleasure to virtually explore. The cutscene animations are strong, and the music, grungy; Beat the Game is, in the words of founder Cemre Ozkurt, giving you every opportunity to flex your compositional muscles. Make music, Yo.
Beat the Game is scheduled for release in early 2017 (note to devs: we’re approaching late 2017, folks), and will be available on Xbox One, PC, Mac and Linux.
This preview is based on an early access copy of the game provided by the publisher.