Beat Slayer review: Hit me with your rhythm stick

Beat Slayer review: Hit me with your rhythm stick
Images via ByteRockers' Games

Written by 

Joshua Boyles

Published 

2nd Apr 2024 10:22

When looking at the concoction of Beat Slayer on paper, it’s hard to understand why developers haven’t taken on this concept before. An action rogue-lite caked in a rhythm-based combat wrapper sounds like a dream come true - and for the most part, Beat Slayer is just that.

Despite a few areas in which the game fails to elevate itself above its competition, Beat Slayer is a riotous romp through alt-history Berlin. Complete with gorgeous visuals, a solid gameplay loop and combat that’s elevated by its soundtrack, it’s certainly one to consider for your collection - especially for Steam Deck owners.

GGRecon Verdict

If you’re looking for a new rogue-lite to sink your teeth into, Beat Slayer offers an excellent rendition of the genre, with the rhythm-based combat only elevating it further. I’d have liked to have seen a little more innovation in the game’s upgrade system, and the character work here falls a little sub-par of what I’d expect in a game like this.

That said, I had a rollicking-good time smashing my way through the streets of Berlin, and would certainly recommend picking it up if you’re looking for some added musical spice with your combat.

Get in the groove

A story panel for Beat Slayer showing Berlin under rule of the villain
Click to enlarge
 

In Beat Slayer, you play as Mia - a lover of all things melodic, who’s surprisingly skilled at smashing things to bits. She lives in an alternative-timeline Berlin, during which time a former musician called Deitrich has taken over the city by broadcasting entrancing music across the rooftops.

All the while, his army of robots terrorises the public, and Mia and her motley band of mates have had enough. This sets the scene for the premise of Beat Slayer’s rogue-lite formula. You’ll set out on run after run, defeating waves of robotic enemies and earning upgrades for your weapon, abilities, and health bar, balancing the difficulty as you push closer and closer to the centre of Berlin.

This is all wrapped in an art style that’s gorgeous to look at, with semi-drab watercolour environments punctuated with shots of neon colour provided by our hero and their attacks. This juxtaposition symbolises the hope that Mia is meant to portray in a desperate version of Berlin that looks delightfully dreary in comparison.

Dance Dance Revolution

Boss gameplay in Beat Slayer
Click to enlarge
 

The main draw of Beat Slayer is its combat system, which rewards players for performing actions in time to the beat of the OST. The face buttons on your controller are all mapped to a basic attack, a dodge, an ultimate ability, and a kick for a bit of crowd control.

Performing any of these actions at the exact time as the beat in the backing track will build up your combo metre, consequently causing Mia to deal a bit more damage. These beats can be tricky to hit, and Beat Slayer isn’t lenient on its default settings. Thankfully, there are plenty of accessibility features like an ongoing metronome and an on-screen visual indicator for those who are either deaf or musically challenged such as myself.

When you manage to nail the combat mechanics of Beat Slayer, it really rips. With the punchy synth-wave OST moving along at quite a pace, you quickly begin to think of the gameplay as more of a turn-based affair, each beat denoting your next move against your enemies. This quick-time affair gets addictive fast, and it’s immensely satisfying to use your abilities the most efficiently to take out a vast horde of machinery.

It helps that the enemy variety is, for the most part, excellent too. With heaps of variety, you’re forced to study attack patterns and learn when is best to go in for a couple of strikes, and when’s best to keep your distance.

There are a couple of different weapons to try, each with different attack patterns that all fit with the beat in different ways. My favourite was the hammer-type weapon, which takes two beats to fully perform an attack. On the first beat, it slams down in front of you, squashing enemies in its path. Then on the next beat, it’s wrenched upwards, causing an aftershock ability to strike any remaining nearby foes.

Given you can’t move while attacking with the hammer, this forces a level of deliberation on your gameplay. You really need to think about whether you’ll be safe enough to plant that hammer down and pick it up again before you’re fully swarmed. If not, it’s usually safer to kite enemies a bit longer and deploy some CC with your kicks.

To top it all off, the OST backing track becomes fuller the higher your combos go, adding an intense feeling of adrenaline when you’re performing at your best. Not only does it make hitting those beats even more satisfying, but it creates a sense of drive to consistently perform better as more drum beats and instrumentals are layered atop each other.

Bottom of the Pops

Character dialogue in Beat Slayer
Click to enlarge
 

There’s a lot of Hades DNA to Beat Slayer, which for the most part is an excellent thing. A banging soundtrack and some enthralling combat only confirm this.

However, there are a couple of areas where Beat Slayer borrows ideas from its peers without doing much to elevate them. This manifests in the gameplay with some fairly lacklustre upgrades. Upon completing some enemy encounters, you can choose to upgrade your weapons or abilities with elemental attacks like shock or poison.

While these can be fun to experiment with, slowly curating a build over each run, they’re fairly run-of-the-mill upgrades, and do little to stray far from the current status quo in the rogue-like genre.

What’s more, you’ll likely need to rely on the gameplay to keep your interest piqued as I didn’t feel that I connected with any of the character entourage that haunt the main hub area. This is down to some fairly standard writing, and some especially flat voice acting.

I even grew a little tired of listening to Mia when cutting about the streets of Berlin, as much of her personality boils down to quoting semi-relevant song lyrics from hits of the last few decades.

Thankfully, the excellent gameplay loop of Beat Slayer mostly counteracts this. I started each new run with the excitement of seeing how far each new upgrade could get me this time. With fairly generous rewards thanks to an ever-revolving quest list, it doesn’t take long at all before you’re caught in the grips of Beat Slayer’s loop.

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The Verdict

If you’re looking for a new rogue-lite to sink your teeth into, Beat Slayer offers an excellent rendition of the genre, with the rhythm-based combat only elevating it further. I’d have liked to have seen a little more innovation in the game’s upgrade system, and the character work here falls a little sub-par of what I’d expect in a game like this.

That said, I had a rollicking-good time smashing my way through the streets of Berlin, and would certainly recommend picking it up if you’re looking for some added musical spice with your combat.

3.5/5

Reviewed on PC (and Steam Deck). Review code provided by the publisher.

Joshua Boyles
About the author
Joshua Boyles
Joshua is the Guides Editor at GGRecon. After graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Broadcast Journalism, he previously wrote for publications such as FragHero and GameByte. You can often find him diving deep into fantasy RPGs such as Skyrim and The Witcher, or tearing it up in Call of Duty and Battlefield. He's also often spotted hiking in the wilderness, usually blasting Arctic Monkeys.
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