Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is a musically-influenced visual splendour that puts the player in an underwater world filled with musical cues and smooth art designs. Upon first playing the game at PAX Aus back in July I was excited for what this game may involve, as it featured beautiful visuals, interesting challenges and incredibly catchy tunes. One of the first things players will notice is that listening to the soundtrack is key to succeeding in Beatbuddy, as enemies and traps follow the rhythmic pattern of the music. Even characters’ names are reminiscent of musical terminology. However, for all of the aspects of the aesthetics that captivates the player’s attention, unfortunately the stage design eventually becomes a bit stale and lengthy that getting towards the end will often feel like a chore.
The gameplay of Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians feels smooth and responsive, with puzzles being time-based with the soundtrack. Even the titular hero of the game has a nice fluid responsiveness that makes traversal a breeze. Players are able to melee objects and certain enemies to overcome them, and early in the game will gain gain access to an underwater vehicle called the Bubblebuggy that bops along to the beat of the music. The Bubblebugy will also later acquire a gun upgrade that gives the player a ranged attack. Beatbuddy plays like a music-action game, in that almost every action is rhythmical.
In terms of narrative, the plot is quite simple. Someone is threatening the underwater world of Symphonia, and Beatbuddy is awakened by a goddess named Melody, for the purpose of helping her find her sister Harmony and putting an end who threatens the peace of Symphonia. Along the way you’ll meet other characters who thicken out the story slightly, but ultimately it’s the visual and aural aesthetics that will remain in people’s minds.
As mentioned earlier, the downside to playing Beatbuddy is that after a couple of stages the length of each stage starts to really become prominent. While each stage features a completely new accompaniment that sets the tone, there isn’t much about the level design that helps to change up the dynamic of the gameplay. Eventually the stages either come down to some degree of put-this-thing-here or quickly-get-yourself-there. And though there are checkpoints that autosave and give the player somewhere to respawn from upon dying, often enough I found myself getting stumped by an obstacle that felt like it was there just to slow me down, rather than have me interact with the game in an enjoyable way. Each stage took me anywhere between 40-50 minutes to complete, which a portion of those times had me just going around in circles trying to find a way to progress.
With all that said, the game’s presentation runs wonderfully, and encapsulates the feel of what a musical underwater world might be like. This concept married with a similar Sound Shapes style of progression through a level have an effect on the soundtrack by layering each track as you go, Beatbuddy does well to hook you in to a genre mash-up that needs games like this. The only down-side is that you may struggle with finding the motivation to complete the game’s stages in single sittings.