One of my fondest college memories was spending time at the student center’s video game arcade that played host to an eclectic mix of light gun games, pinball, 3D fighters, and a NEO GEO multicab. The arcade also had a Japanese rhythm game that would be replaced every so often with games like Dance Dance Revolution and Dance Maniax. I know that Japanese rhythm games existed long before I discovered them but the 2000s were spent playing lots of DDR (which was great exercise) and more domestic releases like Harmonix’s Frequency and Amplitude. Audio Beats, a new rhythm-based PlayStation VR game, felt like a trip down memory lane. Everything about this independently created music game has the look and feel of a mid-2000s Bemani product with its abstract menus, futuristic gameplay environments, and Eastern flavor of its tracklist. This gentle tugging of my nostalgia strings eventually grew bittersweet (emphasis on the bitter) after the realization that Audio Beats is less than half a game.
If you’ve played any rhythm game within the last twenty years, then you already know how Audio Beats works. Your instrument is a floating drum set consisting of four pads that you need to hit with a pair of futuristic batons as notes fall down an alleyway. Repeated, successful hits generate a combo chain that’s always a fun challenge to see how long you can sustain it. Learning to follow the rhythm and flow of the song is helpful in earning Perfects for each note and getting the best possible grade and final score.
There are three note types you’ll have to contend with in any given song. First is the standard note. Just hit once and move on. The second is a note that specifies a direction you have to flick the Move wand after the hit. Finally, there’s a sustained note that involves striking a drum head and holding the baton in place for the duration of the note. Some of these notes require you to follow a path across different drum heads and if you deviate from its set path, the note cancels out and you don’t get the points. These last two notes feel the most out of place for a drum-based rhythm game. I’m certainly no drummer but there have to be more technical things you could be doing instead of flicking to the left or right and sliding a baton across all four drum heads. When the song is over, you can either replay to do better or play it on harder difficulties. Audio Beats doesn’t break new ground nor does it have to. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
To me, rhythm games live or die by their tracklists. My foray into Dance Dance Revolution: Supernova introduced me to a dearth of performers, both domestic and international, that I never heard of. But that was OK. As long as the track had a good beat and was fun to play, then it didn’t matter that I couldn’t pick out groups like Terra, BeForU, or RE-VENGE out of a crowd (Dance Dance Supernova was great, though, because it had licensed music I was familiar with and a few tracks by Akira Yamaoka).
Audio Beats song list consists of only six music tracks, the bulk of which are from the same artist. What made me curious was how the game seems to be designed to host additional albums. My desperate attempt to find more to do eventually brought me to a PlayStation 4 system message that read, “No other albums found!” I wonder, then, we’re looking at a GHTV from Guitar Hero Live situation, in which regular content is shuffled in and out over a period of time. Did I buy a platform that will cater DLC? There’s no way to tell. The PSN store listing is short and vague. Its product overview on Steam makes a mention that new music is planned but I have the feeling the page hasn’t been updated since its release in January 2017.
Already Audio Beats feels dead on arrival. At $10, the game doesn’t ask for a great financial commitment however the whole thing ends as soon as it starts. Furthermore, it’s future seems bleak. I doubt I would know this game existed if I didn’t get a review copy. WIth no word on the possibility of new content, Audio Beats is little more than a platform for digital content. And a precarious one at that.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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