Beat Slayer Review – We’ve Got the Beat

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Image Credit: ByteRocker's Games
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A new threat has descended upon the city in an alternate reality post-wall teardown Berlin. The villainous Dietrich has taken over. Sitting atop his ivory radio tower, he pumps out an unending torrent of sound that turns people’s brains to mush and makes them compliant. A small band of freedom fighters have created a tape that counteracts Dietrich’s droning decibels, hacked into his network, and is on a mission to take him down. Mia is one of those fighters, and she is on a vengeance warpath as she smashes her way through an ocean of robots to get Dietrich and her captive brother.

The beat-smashing roguelike adventure Beat Slayer comes straight to your eyes and ears from developer ByteRockers’ Games. I like all these things, so I was eager to get my hands on the full release. With combat constructed to be most effective by hitting on the bumping beat, the similarities to Hi-Fi Rush, my favorite game of 2023, were enough to get me on board.

Beat Slayer regular combat
Image credit: ByteRocker’s Games.

Not only is there keeping a rhythm to be concerned with, but there’s also a variety of powerups, special moves, and a roguelike gauntlet to contend with before I could get anywhere near the main musical offender, Dietrich. I am famously bad at all these things, but I also love them – a good rhythm game is a balm for the brain. It takes full concentration, precision, and funky beats, meaning there is no space for ADHD to win while I’m playing one.

Beat Slayer Is One Of The More Balanced Roguelikes I’ve Ever Played

As a roguelike game, you will face a considerable amount of failure. I was expecting it. What I wasn’t necessarily expecting was for it to be well-balanced progression-wise. It’s a common hurdle I run into with roguelikes. Two things happen: you die approximately 12 million times before making any worthwhile progress. Or, you’re smashing through huge swathes of levels before encountering any real resistance or challenge. Neither of these options is particularly fun. Beat Slayer has the leveling up and progression pretty well evened out.

When I started my journey as Mia, I could only get through a few instances before being robot-punched back to headquarters. I needed to level up to take out the increasingly murderous bots in my way. Back at HQ, you meet the crew, get a bit of lore, and spend XP points on upgrades and delicious drink boosts that will last for the length of your next run. There’s also a training bot that acts as a move set tutorial. Perfect.

Beat Slayer DJ Pocke
Image credit: ByteRocker’s Games.

Talking to the various characters in the rundown underground hideout revealed little pieces of information about the world. Talking to grizzled DJ Pocke reveals that Dietrich’s droning sounds don’t affect you because of a music cassette that his family created. The music counteracts Dietrich’s dross and is the beat you fight to. It’s a high-energy soundtrack, thrumming with bass and bouncy beats. Exactly what you need to power through waves of increasingly powerful killbots.

Donna is the keeper of the upgrades where you can increase your health, combat skills, frequency of drops, etc. Joe, the barman, deals out run boosting libations, and tech wiz Selin explains that she’s hacked Dietrich’s transporter system, which is why you end up back at the base instead of in his clutches. She also deals with weapons upgrades.

Beat Slayer Requires You To Move To The, Erm, Beat

Combat is dependent on staying on the beat to be the most effective. I struggle with it since I am a middle-aged, arthritic white woman. Thankfully, there is a setting to turn on rhythm assist should you need it, which I did. Thus, I employed the strategy I always employ in this kind of game: upgrading until I had all the HP in the universe, picking shield powerups whenever possible, and upgrading the shields back at base. I have become Tank, Destroyer of Bots. I initially attempted to go purely for firepower and became stuck in a permanent loop of the same amount of progress. Once I became the impenetrable EDM Tank, I immediately advanced. I should know to always trust the armadillo strategy by now.

Beat Slayer power up upgrades
Image credit: ByteRocker’s Games.

Of course, different strategies work for different people, but becoming an armadillo with a life pool the size of the Indian Ocean works for me. Plus, I have the dexterity of a dead fish, so it’s often better to bolster my defense. The combat itself is smooth, and I definitely noticed a difference in effectiveness whenever I attacked off-beat. Enemies all have their own attack patterns, which make them easier to defeat once you figure them out.

Performing a combo of 20 hits on beat puts you in a state called Tanzrausch. Roughly translated, this means being dance drunk, I think. More poetically, “intoxicated by the rhythm.” Attacks and ultimates are more effective during Tanzrausch, and you can even upgrade Tanzrausch bonuses with Donna. When planning a route on your runs, you can see on the map what bonuses or powerups will be available after defeating each stage. It makes stacking effects and upgrades to specific abilities a lot easier.

Wrapping Up

Most importantly, Beat Slayer is fun, and it remains fun even if you are bad at video games and occasionally get stuck in roguelike purgatory. There are a ton of pop culture references to be found. Mia frequently quips in song lyrics. The opening comic book-style animatic is reminiscent of Frank Miller’s Sin City. The overarching plot is influenced by Orwell’s 1984 and John Carpenter’s They Live. It’s a tale about the two most important causes in the world. Forging individuality and going against the grain even when the odds are against you. It’s also about punching robots into electronic music. Both are equally important.

Beat Slayer is released on Steam on April 4



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Beat Slayer Review – We’ve Got the Beat
Beat Slayer is a well designed rhytmn-based roguelike with a killer soundtrack and excellent gameplay to keep you going.
Well-balanced combat and progression.
Banging beats to beat up robots to.
An unending sense of energy that makes it impossible to put down.
Stuffed with pop culture references.
Movement around the areas while not in combat is oddly slow, like running through molasses but it is a very small part of the game.
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Written by Emma Oakman

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