Friday, 9 January 2015

Procrastination Station: Beat Hazard

A confession that'll come as absolutely no surprise to anyone ever: I procrastinate.  A lot.  If there's something I'm supposed to be doing (like writing), it's guaranteed I'll be doing anything else instead while thinking about it, because thinking about what I'm not doing is almost the same as doing it, right?

Well, not exactly...  Though not exactly not, either.  Doesn't sound like it makes sense, doesn't it?  Bear with me, here.

I have a deep love for rhythm-based video games.  Not ones that use pre-recorded tracks (though those aren't too bad either), but ones that generate gameplay from the user's own music collection.  My favourite method of procrastination is to set up songs I usually write to in these games and indulge in something that allows me to not think about what I'm doing while letting my subconscious wander around in the music and fix whichever issue is bothering me at the time.

It sounds ridiculous, but it's remarkably helpful.  Except for the keeping me from writing bit, but you can't have everything.

What's the game?

Today's Procrastination Station example is Beat Hazard, a music-based indie shoot-em-up that handily (or dangerously) also has a demo available.

Apologies for 4:3 screen resolution.  It mildly horrified a guy from my ISP too when he saw it.

I'm not actually a fan of shmups at all.  I grew up playing them, sure: it was the 80s/90s, there was a plethora of them available.  But the gameplay never caught my attention.  They were just timekillers and, when playing, there was always that inevitable moment you picked up something that was supposed to be an upgrade only to find the "upgrade" downgraded your hard-fought-for weaponry into something that was supposed to be more powerful but functionally useless for the stage you were on--

--Yes, as you can see, I harbour grudges against ancient gameplay mechanics.

Luckily, Beat Hazard doesn't do that.  You have two sets of powerups: volume and power.  You gain them by killing enemies or destroying asteroids and they increase the breadth and power of your attacks (big surprise).  If you die you lose them all, but your carcass also contains the remains of some of your former glory so the only time you're likely to feel powerless is at the very start--and after you've played the game for a while and unlocked some perks with the cash that also appears when you wreak your gloriously retina-burning destruction, you can even start out fairly powerfully.

The default game is enjoyable, addictive even, but gets a little boring after a few hours.  Luckily (or unluckily?) there are two DLC packs available, which expand the game so much with new enemies, bosses and modes it feels almost totally new.  I bought both after maybe a couple of hours' play.

And what have I actually learned about my characters by procrastinating with this game?

Sod all on existing projects, actually, other than a vague relief that slipspace is brightly coloured in The Rose Queen, and the realisation that gunfire is probably the same sorts of colours--though it's hit and miss whether we'll see that, what with Fayth being pretty pacifistic for a thief...

I did, however, accidentally spawn two new characters, Aneirin and Rheon, who wandered into my head while I was playing and pretty much said, "new sci-fi characters reporting for duty, sir".  So I got something out of it alright: the realisation I have more people I need to do something with.

Oh joy.

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