Table of contents
- Shoot 'em up at the rhythm of your own music!
- Game loop
- A deeper look into the main loop
- Music sources
- Local music library
- Internet Radio
- Streaming sources
- Item pick-ups
- Colour and Power
- Player and Ship level
- High scores
- Cash and its uses
- Additional ships
- Sharing goodies
- Custom ships and ship customization
- Game modes
- Shadow Missions
- What do you think, Andy?
1 Shoot ’em up at the rhythm of your own music!
Beat Hazard 2 is the sequel to the 2010 videogame Beat Hazard. Like its predecessor, it’s a twin stick shooter where the levels are generated from music files: one song, one level. In general terms, the more “intense” a song is, the faster enemies move and the stronger your weapons become.
The main feature of BH2 over the original is the ability to use (almost) every song playing through your computer’s audio device. This means that BH2 ‘supports’ music through streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple music, YouTube and Amazon Music.
2 Game loop
- Choose a song of your liking (or set the game to Open Mic to use a streaming service). The game greatly favors music with loud volume and intense rhythm tracks, but everything is fair game
- Choose your difficulty and game mode
- Choose the visual intensity of the game
- Shoot up waves of enemy ships, evade their attacks, take down massive boss ships to the rhythm of your favorite music
- Collect score multipliers and cash. Rack up your score!
- If you so desire, share a screenshot of your adventure, or leave a comment if you made it to the leaderboard.
I will now discuss a lot of nuances about the game. For a simplified review and opinion, skip to the section titled What do you think, Andy?
3 A deeper look into the main loop
3.1 Music sources
3.1.1 Local music library
BH2 assumes you have your music neatly tagged1 and is contained in a single folder, maybe with multiple sub-folders. The first time you play BH2, you’ll be asked to point the path of this folder so that an internal database of sorts can be built and maintained.
Although it’s not mandatory, this step speeds up selecting songs in the future and, with a large enough library, makes for better Survival and Boss Rush modes, since they will loop over all songs belonging to a single album.
I personally have a folder separate from my main music library. To this “BeatHazard” folder, I copy only those songs that I feel will make for a good stage . The main advantage here is that the game need only process a subset of all my files, speeding up the database’s maintenance.2
3.1.2 Internet Radio
BH2 comes preconfigured with several Internet Radio sources. I confess I haven’t delved a lot into these, but they seem to encompass a good variety of genres. I don’t know whether it’s possible to add new stations3 and I’m not going to find out right now because I tend to sink hours and hours at a time in this game.
3.1.3 Streaming sources
The main addition to this sequel is the ‘Open Mic’ mode, allowing the use of any sound going through the computer’s audio device. This means that BH2 can be played with music from streaming sources such as Spotify.
But—you may ask—how can I use the Leaderboards and other song-related bells and whistles?. BH uses proprietary song-recognizing software (like Shazam) to identify what song you’re playing and link it to its score database.
The main disadvantage of this is that the recognition is not 100% accurate, and it’s biased towards popular music in one particular edit.4 For most songs in the Spotify catalog this is not an issue, but minor mistakes are a thing that happens from time to time.
Generally speaking, ‘Open Mic’ mode can be used in 3 ways:
- Desktop audio: music running through an app or browser;
- Line-in: Connecting an external audio source to the PC with an audio cable, or
- Microphone: Karaoke-style singing!
3.2 Item pick-ups
During every stage, several pick-up items may appear after defeating an enemy. The first and most important of these are score multipliers. As you may imagine, these items add 1, 5 or 10 to your score multiplier, up to a soft cap.5 Since the main objective of BH2 is to have a high score, chasing after these is the bread and butter of the game and the only way to consistently reach for a score in the millions.
3.2.2 Colour and Power
At the start of every level, your cannons are not at their maximum power. You must pick up these two items to get your arms to their limit and once you’ve done it you become a Beat Hazard.
Plain old money for buying stuff (discussed later), in $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations.
You can bring with you up to 4 extra power ups to aid you in times of great need. These are:
- Super Bomb: A ring of bombs blast around you, obliterating everything in their path and giving you a few seconds of invulnerability.
- Micro Missiles: A volley of homing micro-missiles are fired and seek up enemies, asteroids and other hazards.
- Reflect Shield: A powerful shield that makes you invulnerable to all damage sources for a few seconds. It can also reflect some projectiles back at their sources!
- Ultra Beam: A concentrated stream of high-energy photons, able to annihilate anything. Preferred for single targets.
- EMP Virus: An electro-magnetic pulse fires in a short radius around your ship. Affected enemies are slowed or completely stoped in their tracks for a few seconds.
- Crusader Auto Turret: An immobile turret that fires at anything in its firing range. Great for incoming threats at the edges of the screen.
- Quantum Echo: A mirror image of your ship appears; moving and firing in rotational symmetry with respect to yourself. Great for short bursts of near-omnidirectional firing.
- Sentinel Drones: Two small drones appear orbiting your ship, firing at incoming threats. Great for taking down enemies in close quarters.
3.3 Player and Ship level
At the end of every stage, both you and your ship earn XP based on your score. This level is necessary to unlock certain perks and (in the case of ships) to complete Shadow Missions (more later). Other than this, there’s no real gameplay component to player level, other than bragging rights and a fancy badge on your profile.
3.4 High scores
BH2 holds global leaderboards for every single song on its catalog. At the end of every song, you can see your total score and how you rank compared to every other player of that particular song. The top player gets to write a small, safe for work message that will be displayed to everyone else at the beginning of the song. This is excellent to (French-)taunt your buddies to try and beat your scores.
You can opt-in for email notifications. Every time you’re dethroned off a global 1st place, you’ll get a message saying who beat you, what ship and difficulty they used and the new top score. If you so desire, you can try and retake your crown.
3.5 Cash and its uses
The cash acquired through playing can be spent in several ways.
Passive effects to your playing that stay throughout the level. You can only have a limited number of perks active at any time, but once you’ve unlocked one, you can switch to it without extra cost.
The perks include:
- Ability to take power-ups with you (see above),
- Extra lives,
- Extra multipliers for surviving or not firing for a few seconds,
- Cash or multiplier item spawn at certain times,
- Higher difficulties (more enemies, more loot!)
3.5.2 Additional ships
Sometimes at the end of a stage you will find a new ship, procedurally generated from the stage you just finished. These are always different from the default ship and come with several strength/weakness pairs (some are powerful but slow, some can attract items but handle poorly…) You can test them right then and there, but you must buy them to permanently unlock them.
The ships are grouped in 7 ‘manufacturers’ that reflect their overall strengths and weaknesses:
- Brute, Inc. «Why bring a gun when you can have a nuke?» These ships are equipped with powerful cannons, but lack speed and maneuverability.
- Blazer Labs. «You can’t dodge light speed!» These ships’s cannons fire at an extremely high speed, making for very short delays between yourself and your target. Good for high-precision targeting.
- General Industries. «Affordable Destruction» These ships are all-arounders, able to take on multiple situations and with a low cost attached.
- Mosquito Systems. «Fast, Small, Agile» These ships are small and can move at high speeds, able to weave through bullet hell and enemy spam at the cost of firepower. Excellent for those with good reflexes.
- Scorched Earth. «Indiscriminate Carnage!» These ships have moving cannons, resulting in a wide arc of fire in front of them. Excellent for crowd control, but tend to perform poorly against single targets at a distance.
- Cra$y Thief. «Greed is good!» These ships have strange technologies that allow them to attract items at large distances, so that no multiplier or cash can escape. Their maneuverability, however, is subpar.
- War Bringer Cartel. «Annihilation!» The definition of More Dakka. These ships are extremely powerful, made to exterminate enemies big and small all around. Great for those with good spatial awareness.
3.6 Sharing goodies
Being an action-packed game, BH2 has a nice sharing feature: auto-screenshots. During any stage, the game will automatically select a few moments to capture for posterity (don’t worry, this doesn’t interrupt the game at all). At the end of the stage, you’re presented with a few (3–8) appropriately cropped screenshots of high-intensity moments. If you choose to, you can save any of them and the game will automatically save the image, complete with song title, difficulty, final score and, if any, a message of your choosing.
These screenshots are temporary and will be saved only if you want to. Once saved, they can be easily shared through the Steam application or tweeted to the world at large.
3.7 Custom ships and ship customization
Besides the ships you encounter after finishing a stage, you can build your own ship in BH2. Although the editor is a bit clunky, it offers a wide range of possibilities to construct the ship of your dreams.
This customization is point-based. Generally speaking, every improvement upon your ship costs points, while penalties give you points to spend. Want 2 extra cannons and speed? Maybe you’ll have to sacrifice your brakes and learn to maneuver as if you were sliding on ice.
Also, every ship can be refined with the use of modules. Every ship has 5 slots for modules that slightly modify their stats: weapon power, top speed, asteroid shield, etc.
4 Game modes
- Normal stage. Select a song, play it, earn rewards, rinse and repeat.
- What it says on the tin. Try and survive for as long as possible. If the music library is properly configured (see above) the game will loop through all the tracks in an album6 If the game is set to ‘Open Mic’, BH2 assumes you have some sort of playlist playing continuously and will not stop to confirm this.
- In Survival mode you’re scored both in points and time elapsed.
- Boss Rush
- Similar to Survival, but only boss ships will spawn. The bosses spawn in waves determined by time, so defeating them quickly is of the utmost importance, or else one may become flanked by giant ships.
- In Boss Rush mode you’re scored both in points and how many waves you managed to survive.
- Chill out
- An unranked mode with unlimited lives, but otherwise identical to Survival mode. Tracks are played one after another through a single album. Great for practicing higher difficulties.
BH2 has temporary stages, based on music played in what people play in ‘Open Mic’ mode all around the world. The top 10 scores receive a special ship, often a really god one.
Challenges come in two varieties: Lightning, rotating every 4 hours; and Daily, rotating every 24 hours.
4.2 Shadow Missions
Every ship in the game has 4 Shadow Missions to complete. These missions are always active7 and are completed only after successfully finishing a stage.
- Complete a song with 5,000,000 points in ‘Insane’ difficulty
- Complete a 4-minute song without power-ups
- Survive for 5 minutes
- Reach (XP level) Elite 1 with this ship.
Completing any 2 missions for a single ship will give you a module that can be used on any ship you’ve unlocked. Completing all 4 missions will give another module.
5 What do you think, Andy?
If you scroll through the Steam reviews, you’ll notice that several ‘Not Recommended’ reviews share a common complaint: the fact that ‘Open Mic’ is pretty much the only new thing in BH2, since virtually every other component exists already in BH1.
This… is not entirely incorrect. It’s true that most features exist in some form in the complete version of BH1—that is, with all its downloadable content—and the main appeal of the sequel is ‘just one feature’. It’s true that the main game loop is almost the same, save for new enemies and bosses.
I can see why some people see only that, but I disagree with them not recommending the game. It’s true that the flagship feature of the game is ‘only’ the ability to use music streaming services8 and everything else is a new coat of paint.
But the game itself has no major flaws. All of those new coats of paint are improvements:
- The annoying ‘magnetic’ feature is gone,
- There’s more enemy types, with more variety,
- The annoying ‘Octopus-type’ boss that couldn’t be attacked in close quarters is gone.
- There’s more types of bosses with interesting mechanics,
- Enemy waves don’t appear out of nowhere: there’s a clear indication of where and when an enemy is appearing on screen,
- There’s more variety in ships, and a greater incentive to try different types,
- Did I already mention that you can use whatever music streaming service you want? When I said that the music identification isn’t perfect, I mean that it fails only in edge cases—and to be honest, those are quite obscure artists and albums.
In short, compared to the original, this is a great overhaul. If this interests you, I would skip BH1 entirely. Just remember to play in a well-lit room so that your retinas don’t melt. Also, use a vertical mouse and take frequent breaks, your index finger will thank you for it.
A ReQuested writeup: «Andy says he’s signing up for ReQuest, so when he does, I request that he, Andycyca, node Beat Hazard 2»
That is, with proper metadata
BH2 recognizes only music files, but if your library is anything like mine, your main folders will also contain
.cue files, lyrics and artwork, which consume extra processing time.
Like the amazing Rainwave
For example, the other day I tried playing Michael Jackson’s «Will You be There» and even though I was playing the normal song, BH2 recognized it as the ‘radio edit’ that is almost 3 minutes shorter.
The soft cap is around 450x. You can get past it, but it will slowly decrease until it reaches the cap. Advanced players can manage to consistently keep their multiplier above the cap.
Album, not folder.
Except for the ones that require a specific game mode.
Which, by the way, was pretty much the most requested feature for BH1. Such poor memory on some of these reviewers.