Taking Beat’em Up to a Whole New Level
I’m a simple woman — if I see anything that gives me Dreamcast vibes, I play it. It should go without saying that UNBEATABLE [white label] absolutely fits that bill, exuding Jet Set Radio energy, but it’s worth repeating until the end of time for just how amazing of a first impression it gives. And with a free demo available on Steam complete with 11 songs to wallop your way through, this article should honestly just end here (with you downloading said demo right now), but I need at least a couple hundred more words so I’ll keep praising it while you download it in the background.
Released on the same day its highly successful kickstarter campaign ended, UNBEATABLE [white label] is a special episodic side-story set in the world of UNBEATABLE. According to the game’s Steam page, “every episode of [white label] will feature new story content and beatmaps, eventually finishing a complete stand-alone narrative.” For those in the know, it also features the highly coveted, mildly tongue-in-cheek Aggro Crab Seal of Quality, so you know UNBEATABLE’s been positively vetted by other stand-out indie studios.
Players take on the role of Beat, a young woman who’s late — again — for band practice. Why does she keep showing up late to the band *she* suggested the group creates in the first place? Whatever, that’s not important; what is important is that they just get started. Snarky comments to each other aside, time’s a’wastin, and these lyrics are far too fire to not jam out to right tf now.
First up is a little pop punk ditty called Familiar, which serves as a tutorial level to allow players to get used to the controls. At first, everything is extremely simple — J or F to hit the bottom notes and K/I/D/E to hit the top notes. Coupled with WASD to control movement during the walking segments, F to interact with objects and people, and Q/E to shuffle between dialog options, the controls are easy enough to get the hang of. Although there isn’t any remapping available at the moment, these controls actually allow for a one-handed scheme, which is a nice accessibility aspect I certainly appreciated (I could take screenshots with one hand while rockin’ out with the other).
After beating the tutorial, players are treated to a teensy cutscene, followed by the ability to choose from nearly a dozen new songs. There are two difficulty levels total in the prologue — beginner and, notably, “unbeatable” — with certain songs locked to specific difficulties. Switching between songs is as simple as pressing Q/E; what’s nice is that there are songs from multiple genres, such as pop punk and EDM, so you’re not pigeon-holed into a specific type of music. This was a pleasant surprise, as sometimes these games heavily lean into one type of music that may be grating to certain players over time; for example, I find pop punk pretty grating, but the industrial techno remix song was absolutely killer.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the game’s aesthetics, as they’re what drew me to UNBEATABLE [white label] in the first place. Certainly the color hooked me immediately, but where I fell in love? The animation and movement. Everything is absolutely perfect, from the subtle shadowing to the beautifully executed parallax effects, the way both characters and backgrounds move, flow, and pop off screen is seriously stunning. I took an embarrassing amount of videos to excitedly send to my editor just gushing about how cool the building entrance transitions were — to say I was blown away isn’t an exaggeration in the slightest.
A quick glance at the Steam reviews indicate that many fans of Muse Dash really resonated with UNBEATABLE [white label], so if that cute lil rhythm game was up your alley I’d say this one would also be your cup of tea. Of course, there’s no reason to take my word for it — after all, this is a free prologue, and one that should absolutely keep you entertained for hours on end. Be sure to check out UNBEATABLE [white label] on Steam and/or Itch.io today!