Monday 17 April 2023

Backbeat Review (Switch)

We’ve played a lot of rhythm action games in the past. Elite Beat Agents, Frequency, PaRappa the Rapper being some of the highpoints. We’ve also played action games such as Rez and P.N.03 but Backbeat is the first rhythm puzzle game we’ve come across.

The basic idea is that you (eventually), have four members of a funk band who need to be directed around objects and people to a goal area in locations such as video shops, malls and other such 90’s stalwarts. This all comes filtered through some soft and jazzy colours as well. Of course, things are never that easy and each new level adds another layer of depth and trickiness to deal with.

Each of the band mate move in a different way. The drums for instance, takes big strides, while the brass only moves a step at a time. The way the characters move creates a sort of flowing soundscape as they make their way around the levels. At points characters will be close to each other, at other points they will be moving solo or moving away, all the time mimicking the sound creation of a musical collaboration. When all the band have made it to the goal zone the level will replay showing all the members moving and playing together. Once a puzzle is finished there’s incentive to go back and try for a better score as well – though we often found we either tended to fail or complete levels in the top rank.

It all seems so simple to start but soon you’ll discover pedestrians walking their own routes that get in the way, barriers that need to be raised and lowered and even your own band mates getting in the way. All four band members move at the same time so you have to try and factor the four different ways of moving into your plan. Each character only has so many moves they can make and any crossover with other band mates stops them dead. There is a handy rewind button for each move but you’ll find most patterns have to be figured out from the start which can lead to some frustration when you get stuck on a particular level. Things such as a barrier coming down will also send you moving back and we did find it tricky to really grasp where every character was in each turn of their movement on later levels. But then that is sort of the point.

Overall, if you are up for the challenge there isn’t really anything else out there like this and when you do figure out a level you will feel like you have really worked to do it. There is a lot to deal with though so be prepared before going in. The general vibe of the game is also great with each level book ended with a gentle story. It’s innovative, fun and different and is well worth seeking out.

Overall 8/10

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