Beat Souls Review (Switch)

Beat Souls Review: rhythm and hues

Beat Souls

Everyone who loves rhythm games has one that is their gold standard by which all others are judged. Some live and die by Beat Saber’s blade while other still shout “viva la Dance Dance Revolution!” from the rooftops (me). And everyone has their reasons for remaining loyal, be it a sick soundtrack, fun mechanics, or something innovative and fresh. It’s that innovation and novelty that often propels rhythm games forward, as new ways to play challenge the way we feel and experience the music. Some ideas work beautifully, while others can’t seem to stick the landing; Beat Souls seems to fall on an ill-defined place on that spectrum.

At first, I thought I’d really like Beat Souls, its approach to music a bit different than other rhythm games. Players take on the role of a yokai wrangler who faces different anime demongirls and their songs/obstacles, armed only with two color-changing flames at her side to catch what the yokai throw at her. She’ll need to dodge obstacles and jump over literal teeth in the floor at times as well — all to the beat, of course. If she can keep her combo up without dying on the battlefield, the stage is cleared and players can move on to the next song.

beat souls

There’s a lot to love about Beat Souls right from the get-go — a simple, replayable tutorial to help players get re-acquainted with mechanics after troubling levels or long breaks impressed right away, for one. I also loved the fantastic use of color, as well as the overall layout of the levels: players move as if they’re walking to the horizon with everything coming at you a la Guitar Hero. This allows players to tinker with familiar mechanics quickly while getting used to new ones gradually, which helps when said new mechanics can be a bit of a handful.

Unfortunately, Beat Souls arguably stumbles as much as it interests, and a lot of it has to do with the soundtrack. Now don’t get me wrong, the music isn’t actually bad. It isn’t! It was cool that each yokai had a distinct music genre — vaporwave-inspired, jazzy, and pop rock — but none of the tracks are honestly all that memorable, and several levels feature the same song (short version vs. full). I actually loved the vaporwave-inspired music and was initially impressed that a rhythm game would feature lower energy music, but the jazz did not hit and the pop rock felt generic so any positivity Beat Souls had banked unfortunately evaporated.

Beat Souls

Additionally, the souls mechanics is also pretty hit or miss. As stated earlier, Beat Souls features two lil… soul catchers? On either side of the yokai wrangler, and the yokai will throw obstacles and music notes at the player. The goal is to match the music notes up with the soul catchers, so you either move yourself to be in the middle of the notes or press one of the shoulder buttons to make the soul catchers both move to the left or the right. It’s cool that there’s something slightly new to explore in the sense that the character themselves doesn’t catch the notes, but making the brain remember this gets harder and harder as time goes on.

My last complaint is a fairly slight one in comparison to some of the others, but I found it odd and even frustrating that the jumping sound effect did not match up to the beat at all. Dodging blocks and collecting notes could be timed with the beat so you’d know exactly when was best to move, but getting the jump timing right was consistently an exercise in frustration due to this audio cue… well, never actually being an audio cue. For those who play consistently I assume it won’t be an issue, but if you pick up and play Beat Souls on occasion, I guarantee jumping will be the reason why your combo breaks.

Beat Souls is easy to learn but hard to master; it’s also easy to like but hard to love. A lot of promise upfront unfortunately doesn’t carry through the rest of the game, which is a shame considering how finely tuned the entire experience is. I wish I could remember a single song or recall a fun beat pattern where I really connected with the game; instead, I’m left with the feeling that I would have put up with Beat Souls if either music or mechanics had been better. Still, if you’re wondering about how jazz or vaporwave-inspired tracks would work in a genre flooded with higher energy tunes, Beat Souls won’t break the bank for curious minds with disposable income to spare.

Final Verdict: 3/5

Available on: PC, PS4, PS5, XBox One, XBox Series X|S, Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: EastAsiaSoft; Developer: ZOO Corporation; Players: 1; Released: February 16, 2022; MSRP: $9.99

Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Beat Souls provided by the publisher.

Heather Johnson Yu
Born at a very young age; self-made thousandaire. Recommended by 4 out of 5 people that recommend things. Covered in cat hair. Probably the best sleeper in the world. Still haven't completed the civil war quest in Skyrim but I'm kind of okay with that. Too rad to be sad.

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