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Beat Slayer Review: A Well-Crafted, If All Too Familiar Experience

While a comfortable roguelike with an appealing retro-futuristic setting, Beat Slayer struggles to pave its own way and takes a few too many cues from titles that came before it.
Beat Slayer Review: A Well-Crafted, If All Too Familiar Experience

Beat Slayer is a rogue-like that takes its inspiration almost beat for beat (hah!) from one of the best to ever do it: Hades. But with The Underworld lacking in electronic dance beats, the concept behind Beat Slayer was no doubt ripe for the taking. Set in a retro-futuristic-inspired 90s Berlin, you must battle your way through stages of robots as Mia, who is on a quest to rescue her brother from the clutches of Dietrich, a musician turned villain who operates out of a TV Tower. 

Bitter Sweet Symphony

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Stay on beat on pain of death. (Picture: ByteRockers' Games)

The heart of the game is in its combat. The effectiveness of Mia’s attacks on the robot army depends on how well a player stays on beat. As the soundtrack plays, you’ll need to match your movement and attacks with the rhythm, creating a combo. Once your combo reaches a certain number, Mia enters a “flow state” called Tanzrausch that allows her to hit with a little more oomph. You’ll move from stage to stage, clearing each one of enemies to earn either a temporary power-up, health items, or XP to put towards more permanent upgrades. The mechanics are very easy to get your head around, and even if you’re less rhythmically inclined, you’ll still manage to make progress. 

Born Slippy

Getting quippy with it. (Picture: ByteRockers' Games, screenshot: Alexandra Hobbs)

On paper, Beat Slayer sounds like it was tailor-made for me: a 90s-inspired roguelike with music at its core and a light sci-fi twist. Playing through it, however, I found myself bouncing off in ways I didn’t expect. Mid-run dialogue is made up of mostly eye roll-inducing pop culture references, and interactions with the supporting cast of characters in the rest area felt largely wooden, even when they begin to open up parts of their back story. 

Thankfully, what makes games such a unique medium is that not everything needs to align in order for players to enjoy the creation. If you can look past its narrative shortcomings, you’ll still be left with some solid gameplay. While you won’t find as much depth as Hades and its many boons, there’s still a decent amount of upgrades to acquire and work through to improve your runs. You can inflict a Virus status effect that deals damage over time, a Shock buff that increases your chance of stunning enemies, and more. 

Things Can Only Get Better

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Hope you like smashing up metal moles. (Picture: ByteRockers' Games)

One thing Beat Slayer does very well is its range of enemies. You’re encouraged to learn not just their attack patterns, but also their rhythm. Knowing when to dodge, stun, or attack can be the difference between flawlessly executed attacks, and being a stain on the floor.  And there’s plenty of different enemies, too. Ranging from small, pesky bots, to devastating machines that won’t hesitate to turn you into scrap. Boss fights are also appropriately challenging, and never feel repetitive. 

It’s a roguelike in a nutshell. Undeniably so. It just doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and that’s where the frustrations lie. It’s got the setting, it’s got the art style — all of which draw immediate attention to Beat Slayer. It’s just lacking in certain areas that could make all the difference. 

The music itself isn’t particularly memorable. It serves the function of the mechanic, allowing you to attack on beat, but doesn’t elevate much outside of that. I drew comparisons to games such as Metal: Hellsinger, where components of the score evolve and build as you increase your attack combos, while allowing you to appreciate the track alongside the demon hunting. In rhythm-based games, or ones with music as its focus, the soundtrack should be a particular standout. In Beat Slayer, it never quite hits the mark. 

Verdict — 3/5

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Mic-check. (Picture: ByteRockers' Games)

I want to make it clear that Beat Slayer is a well-crafted game. A lot of attention has been given to its art style and setting, and it’s clear that the developers have a love of music and its uses within video games. The game’s soundtrack was even made alongside the German Babelsberg Film Orchestra. And, other than a few minor FPS drops, the game is structurally very solid. But it’s too easy to compare it to similar titles; to Hades, to Hi-Fi Rush, or to Metal: Hellsinger. If you enjoyed these games and are looking for something to scratch a similar itch, then you cannot go wrong with Beat Slayer. However, if you’re looking for a unique experience, you won’t find it here. 

Beat Slayer, developed by ByteRockers' Games, enters the airwaves on April 4, 2024 for PC via Steam.

A PC review code was provided by the publisher.