Review: Beatbuddy is a joyous and musical underwater adventure

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Sometimes it's nice to sit back and play a game on your computer without having to worry deeply about the bullsh*t that goes on in the world and in your daily life. Games like Sound Shapes, Journey, and every single Kirby platformer (but especially Kirby's Epic Yarn) are among some of the most therapeutic titles out there. They don't exactly force you to tense up, and they deliver a treat for your eyes and ears. Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians from developer Threaks falls under that category of game — it's an adventure that's just really delightful and charming, and it's a lot of fun. It's so entertaining that it's even easy to look past some otherwise nasty bugs, and it'll keep you engaged practically the entire time you're playing.

You take on the role of the titular Beatbuddy, a water spirit who's tasked with saving the magical underwater land of Symphonia from the disastrous ideology of the jerky Prince Maestro. Light comedy is sprinkled throughout this tale, and while you probably won't be laughing maniacally at everything that goes on, there are a number of pleasantly clueless characters. It's often great to see friendly NPCs with good intentions and absolutely no IQ, and Beatbuddy is full of those kinds of jolly little buffoons.

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Beatbuddy plays somewhat like a cross between the little known DS gem The Legendary Starfy and the aforementioned indie hit Sound Shapes. You guide the heroic little sprite through massive underwater levels, solving puzzles and slapping enemies around along the way. Though later puzzles tease your brain a tad more than earlier offerings, nothing ever gets to extreme levels of frustrating. You may get stuck on occasion, but it isn't long before you figure out what switch to hit or what path to take to proceed on your journey.

Music plays a uniquely interesting part in Beatbuddy. Rather than just playing in the background and mindlessly looping, the themes are an actual part of the levels. You can literally see enemies, obstacles, and your frequently used underwater vehicle thumping along with the beats. This makes for some clever timing-based gameplay. One moment you'll find yourself swimming freely through an open space, only to have to zip through a tight corridor filled with bubble streams that go from passable to impassable in time with the music the next.

Despite the fact that music is built directly into the levels, it doesn't put as much emphasis on the timing aspect as something like Runner2. That's not a bad thing by any means — it's simply a design element that doesn't force you to stick especially close to the rhythm at all times. If anything, there's less pressure tied to the progression of Beatbuddy, allowing you to move along in a more relaxed manner. Sure, you still have to pick your spots if you're trying to pass through one of those bubble streams, but you're not on a predetermined timer.

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Sadly, there were some really janky glitches in the review build of Beatbuddy that I played for the purpose of this review. A few frame rate issues interrupted the overall joy I was having as I led Beatbuddy through certain areas. Additionally, the game would occasionally stutter following certain checkpoints, causing a break in what should've been a seamless romp. One glitch was particularly weird: I was unable to move Beatbuddy with the analog stick like usual for several minutes and was forced to use the dash move to get around. What was odd was that I was still using the analog stick to send him dashing in different directions — I just couldn't make him swim freely using the analog stick.

As evidenced by its many screenshots, Beatbuddy is a really pretty game. The hand-painted look helps create some truly bold worlds. Various visual themes are utilized throughout to create different types of levels such as a natural jungle and a more mechanical land. Heavy outlines and great color use are employed appropriately to build the game's large, vibrant, and life-filled levels.

Obviously, sound is an important part of Beatbuddy, so it only makes sense that the game's soundtrack is so damn good. Austin Wintory, Parov Stelar, and Sabrepulse are just three of the talented musicians who contributed tracks to this musically rich title. During the course of the six levels that make up Beatbuddy, you're treated to original techno, funk, and jazz songs that sound great. It's not like these six songs are short and forced to loop, either. Instead, they grow and change as you move deeper into the levels, staying thematically consistent but evolving along the way.

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You can get through Beatbuddy in about five to six hours. Though the game isn't terribly long, it makes for some wholesome entertainment. Additionally, if you take the time to explore a bit, you can discover collectible items and unlock bonuses. These extras consist of screenshots with captions detailing the creation and development process of Beatbuddy. It's actually kind of nice to see how the game was conceived and the proverbial road traveled by Threaks.

If you're looking for a jolly game that's a lot of fun to play and doesn't put loads of pressure on you, Beatbuddy is an ideal choice that's easy to recommend. A few bugs may get in the way of your enjoyment of this title by forcing you to jump through unnecessary hoops, but ultimately, you still get to guide a little water spirit through six lovely stages and listen to great music while doing so. If you play video games for the fun of it, you'd do well to check out this deliciously musical, joyously watery quest.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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