When it comes to indie releases, both 2D platformers and rhythm games have flourished on the Nintendo Switch eShop. However, I’m surprised it’s taken so long for me to find an interesting looking title that combines these two genres. This title is the recently released BeatsRunner, published by the FuryLion Group. Also, I’m just gonna get this out of the way now: FuryLion provided me with a review copy for the sake of this critique.
First impressions are good. The pixel art style is beautiful, especially with the sweet rave aesthetic that accompanies all of the trippy stage themes. Stage backgrounds are dynamic, but not distracting. Perhaps most importantly, the soundtrack is incredible. A message appears before the title screen, warning players that headphones are recommended. This is a warning well worth heeding.
Being a rhythm game, the soundtrack here is an absolutely crucial part of the presentation. OSTs make or break games like this, and thus I am very happy to report that the soundtrack here is phenomenal. If dubstep or electronic dance music is your thing, you’ll likely absolutely adore this soundtrack.I honestly wish there was a sound test mode so that I could listen to the individual stage themes. The soundtrack alone could make the $6.99 USD price tag worth it for some.
However, some issues do arise with the gameplay. The controls here are incredibly simple, requiring just the use of either the “A” button or, optionally in handheld mode, the touch screen. The gameplay is incredibly simple and is mostly quite tight. Though being an “endless runner” type of platform, such as similar titles that flood mobile devices, this style of gameplay suits this title, as it allows your character to always be running in tempo with the background music, and for stage obstacles such as jumps and jetpack segments to be timed to musical cues.
The issue comes with some of the fine elements.
On occasion, if I hit a small platform just right, it will force me to jump a second time immediately after landing from a jump, even if I had only pressed the “A” button once. After testing this with multiple Joy Cons and using the touch controls in handheld mode, I can confirm that this happens in the same several places across the various stages I played. I hope this is something that will be patched out in an update.
Furthermore, there are issues with balancing. Stage 2 (which is the first “true” stage of the game, as the first level is just a tutorial) is shockingly difficult. Introducing elements such as gravity switching and finicky-controlling jetpacks, combined with several pixel-perfect jumps, all make this stage feel like a swift kick to the testicles. This is especially odd as, after completing this stage, I pretty much steamrolled my way through the next four stages! Though only the second level in the game, I feel like it would be better suited as the fourth or fifth level. It’s such a sharp uptick in difficulty from the tutorial that I’d imagine it would scare away a lot of more casual players.
But, for those who are willing to stick it out past the second stage, you’re in for a treat. The following stages are difficult, but it takes until stages 6 and 7 to reach a similar difficulty level again. Thankfully, the gameplay here is addicting. Like with all good arcade-style titles, you’ll feel something urging you to come back again and again. Plus, the short level lengths mean that this title can easily be enjoyed on the go.
Other issues I encountered were with overall stability and the character unlock system. At the end of each stage, there’s a slot-machine minigame. There, you can win additional coins, which can be used to purchase stages you don’t want to unlock through progression or to unlock additional characters. For some reason, in docked mode, every other time I reached this screen, my game would freeze and I would have to close out and restart. Hopefully this, too, can be patched.
As for the character unlock system, I have an issue with characters needing to go through a cooldown period of a few minutes after each use. While they’re still useable during this period, they will not have access to their extra lives. This feels merely like a way to artificially inflate difficulty. I almost expected this to lead to some sort of microtransaction-based element. It thankfully did not.
These issues aside, BeatsRunner is an absolutely addicting yet brutal rhythm platformer. It is most definitely not for everyone, and some of the control and stability issues could definitely be dealbreakers for some. Yet, for the right type of Switch owner, I believe that this title is an absolute must-buy.