A Whole Different Kind Of Technological Boom
Although considered a genre unto itself, the truth is that first-person shooters are but a template. Over the years, many differing game styles have been built on the foundation of FPS, meshing it with role-playing, platforming, and random level generation. Obviously, some of these have been more successful than others; for every Ziggurat, there are a dozen or so STRAFEs. One popular genre that FPS hasn’t had many trials with is the rhythm-game, and it’s with that fact in mind that we’ve been treated to an FPS-rhythm title named BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE.
BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE places players in the glorious galoshes of a number of vengeful and vigilante Valkyries, though you only have access to one on the onset; the rest must be unlocked. Your mission is to travel to Helheim and beat the “hell” out of its damned denizens. Sounds easy, right? Well, no. Despite being born of divine stock, our repertoire of heroes are prone to mortal woes as much as we are, and it’s not unheard of to be brought down by as simple an enemy as a bat baby or an overgrown worm. You can also expect to be taken down by the game’s assorted bosses, and these guys really pack a punch. The good news is that they have a heavy arsenal at their disposal, along with some slick magical moves and an assortment of some melee actions to keep things interesting.
Your Eyes Won’t Only Be Detecting Movement
The game’s action is set to a rather awesome rock soundtrack. If you’ve ever played games like Crypt of the Necrodancer, Bit.Trip Runner, Thumper, Guitar Hero, and other rhythmic games, you know exactly what to expect. Fire your gun according to the beat, and anticipate your enemy’s moves accordingly. It’s tough; one minor misstep throws off your entire plan. But, it’s still a ton load of fun, even if it gets a bit too difficult for its own good at times. Fortunately, you also have a crosshair that helps you visualize the game’s relentless beat, so you still have a standing chance even if your own internal metronome is somewhat lacking. And you’d better get used it quick! Everything here in beat-based, not just your shooting but also dashing and reloading your weapons. Reloading isn’t just a case of pressing a button once: reloads require two or more key-presses, often more, giving the player more cues to sync to. It gets tricky, as even the stock-standard shotgun requires many key-presses for each shell and load. Fortunately, guns can be reloaded on half-beats, lessening the requirement and giving you a margin of error in case you didn’t quite nail down the rhythm correctly.
BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE features randomly-generated levels. I get why this probably feels some of you with trepidation. The dreaded term “rogue-like” gets thrown around a lot, and likewise makes a lot of people roll their eyes. Fortunately, BPM manages to pull it off quite well, with simplistic arena design and easy-to-navigate locations. And much like other titles with the same feature, this game features individual level chunks that are assembled together in a variety of ways, and these set pieces are great. It is rather tragic, however, that the amount of variety is severely lacking, something I noted in my initial preview. I’m sad to say that this problem has not been resolved, and the individual level bits are still repeated ad nauseam and give the game a very same-y feeling after only a few minutes of play. Maybe this issue will be addressed in an upcoming DLC or game update? I certainly hope so, because it sort of spoils an otherwise top-notch and challenging musical experience. Additionally, the random generation will sometimes leave players with a boss room as their only avenue after spawning, giving them a significant disadvantage. It only happened once during my playtime, but it’s definitely something the devs need to address.
Guns, Ghouls, And Grooviness
A rhythm game worth its salt needs to have good tunes, and luckily, BPM delivers admirably in this regard. The soundtrack is epic, hard orchestral electro-rock that you’ll wanna listen to even when you’re not playing; the sort of thing only fitting for a game rich in Norse mythology and featuring the mighty Valkyries. Visual-wise, things are certainly striking. Everything has an overbright, highly-saturated appearance, giving the whole affair an ethereal feel with just a touch of Hellish damnation. Distortion and washed-out effects all help to make you feel like you’re playing some sort of music video. It’s truly beautiful. And it makes for a fantastic show for any onlookers: this is definitely the sort of game you show off to your friends. And probably one you would want to use for betting purposes. However, as stylish as the over-saturation is, I would like an option to turn it off, or down it off completely, and enjoy the game rawly without the overbearing yellowish tones.
BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE is an extremely fun-yet-punishing game to play, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. The improvements are present, though far less noticeable than the leap taken between the betas and pre-releases. Concepts have been refined, and the controls are better, but the steep adjustment and lack of level variety remains a thorn in the side of an otherwise ambitious title. If you had a stab at the pre-release and enjoyed it, there’s absolutely no need not to get it now. If you’re of the console persuasion, you’ll only be seeing this one in 2021, I’m afraid. You can wishlist the game at its official Steam page here, and you may check out the trailer below to get an idea of how crazy it is. If you’ve played it, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Windows PC / Steam (Reviewed); Publisher: Awe Interactive; Developer: Awe Interactive; Number of players: single-player only; Released on the 15th of September, 2020.
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam key for BPM: Bullets Per Minute provided for Hey Poor Player by the game’s publisher.