I wanted to like Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians, I really truly did. Everything from its interesting character design to its bumping soundtrack made me think I’d found a gem. The gameplay took me a bit to get down but once I did I found myself solving puzzles and blasting baddies with no problem. Then, about halfway through, I found myself in a rut. Gameplay became uninteresting, moving around environments felt cumbersome, and glitches and bad level design started to rear their ugly heads. It was a downward spiral that took the enjoyment out of the game.
In Beatbuddy you play as Beat, one of three mythical guardians of the world Symphonia. On Symphonia the life force isn’t oxygen, food, or water but instead is music and the harmony it brings. Wildlife teems with instrumental melodies and music breathes life into the world as a whole. The Guardians; Beat, Harmony, and Melody are there to protect this life force and make sure it continues to power Symphonia with no issues. When the Guardians are awoken it becomes clear that something is wrong in this harmonic world and Beat sets out to fix it.
The look and feel of Symphonia is one of the things that drew me into Beatbuddy right from the start. Everything looks great and the world has an underwater Rayman vibe to it all. In fact, a lot of the voices, effects, and style reminded me of Rayman which is not a bad thing at all. Levels are vibrant and wondrous with a lot of layers going on in the background. Enemies are unique and sharply drawn and spending hours in the game just to look at the pretty colors is perfectly viable to me. Where the game stops its Rayman similarities, however, is in its gameplay.
Gameplay in Beatbuddy boils down to action-adventure with a mix of puzzle solving. Puzzles are often unchallenging and require a more bullish approach than anything while the combat feels disjointed and often awkward. Symphonia is a world that seems to be made up of largely water. I say this because Beat is always swimming around which gives the feel of the game an underwater feel. I’ve never been a fan of underwater sequences in any game as the feeling is always slow and strange. Often times I found myself dashing through the water only to hit something on the other side because I couldn’t stop myself. Beat must use his underwater dash to the beat of the song, a neat concept, but I felt that sometimes using the dash was a bad idea. This is because the camera wouldn’t follow me or show me what was ahead resulting in Beat getting hurt or killed.
The camera ended up being my biggest enemy in Beatbuddy as, especially towards the end, I couldn’t see what was coming or lost a visual on Beat altogether. Using the level to conceal Beat as a form of challenging gameplay isn’t a great idea and I found it frustrating. Another issue I had with Beat and his missions were the timed sections. Certain parts of the game require you to find a piece of equipment and bring it with you to another part of the level. This, on an Xbox controller, requires you to hold the right bumper while navigating the level. Taking any hits makes you drop the piece and that often ended with me having to restart as time would run out. The other issue with these sections is the fact that I often didn’t know where to go. This meant leaving the piece of equipment, finding my way to where I needed to bring it, going back to get it, and then running the gauntlet all over again with the piece. Backtracking is never fun, period.
Combat in Beatbuddy is simple enough, requiring the use of only the X button for basic attacks. You can dodge with your dash and late in the game you earn the ability to dash and attack at once to create attack chains between enemies. This dash-attack only works when a target appears over an enemy and I found it not working more often than not. At times I’d be surrounded by enemies with the opportunity to dash at them and the target just wouldn’t appear. I had this ability to wipe them all out yet I was powerless to use it as the game just wouldn’t let me. It’s frustrating times like this that take away from the enjoyable art and music of Beatbuddy.
Speaking of music, Beatbuddy’s soundtrack will make any EDM fan happy. The music in Beatbuddy is littered with fun tracks and unique spins that utilize the enemies and wildlife in the world to match the music and add to it. Bass drums are portrayed by plants that give Beat a boost, snare drums are portrayed by dangerous snails and their crab conductor, and so on. It’s all very well done and while I never felt that Beat truly moved to the music the world certainly did. All in all I’d say the soundtrack is the best part of the game.
Story isn’t a huge factor in Beatbuddy as the majority of it is “cookie-cutter hero saves the world.” Dialogue is self-aware and while it can warrant a smile or two it often feels a bit forced and overdone. The main villain in particular has awful dialogue and just sounds like a bad video game villain who knows he is a bad video game villain. Even the ending of Beatbuddy felt a bit sudden and unwarranted as the final level, while maddening, didn’t feel challenging enough to make me feel like I earned the ending.
Beatbuddy makes an amazing first impression with its unique world, beautiful graphics, and great soundtrack. Sadly this impression fades away as the gameplay and lackluster story start to lose a hold of what made those first moments so unique. Handling Beat never feels quite right and when the world obstructs your view of what needs to be seen things become frustrating. If you’re looking for a game with good music and not much else than Beatbuddy is your jam. Otherwise, look for the soundtrack and skip the frustration.