Beatstream is the latest in a long line of games that allow players to plug their own music into the software and generate gameplay from a designated track. Unfortunately– as is often the case with these kinds of games– it does little to advance itself beyond mere novelty.
In Beatstream, your only avenue for interaction is to tap the screen to flip over your avatar, a chain of triangles gliding along a predetermined path. As your polygonal self moves along its track, you’ll see barriers in front of you, which are created by the game’s analysis of the songs you choose. They’re either colored blue or yellow, and you need to flip over to your blue or yellow side to match the gate in your way.
Green with envy.
It’s just as simple as it sounds on paper. There is obviously merit in making a one-button mobile game, but there’s just not enough to Beatstream to keep it interesting. You can unlock higher difficulties– meaning more frequent obstacles– as well as Warped mode, which makes you move faster through the song as you avoid making mistakes.
You may be wondering how you can move faster through a song without changing the audio. Well, you basically can’t. Beatstream just plays the music at a higher speed, eventually transposing your favorite music into the chipmunk register. It’s questionable as a reward for playing well, and as the one alternative to the bland default mode, it’s not interesting, either. What’s worse is that, when you fail and drop down from one speed to another, the game spews harsh noise at you. It’s incredibly jarring and unpleasant. Warped mode mostly feels like a vandalization of your music library, and it’s not worth looking forward to in the few minutes you’ll spend with it locked (as you can make all the game’s content available without much work).
Let the beat mmmmmm drop.
Even when the game isn’t making a mockery of your tunes, it’s not treating them with much regard. We’ve seen games like this before– a recent notable one being Beat Hazard Ultra— so generating a level based on an audio file isn’t new. It’s also not done convincingly most of the time, and Beatstream is not an exception to this trend. In our time with it, we felt like we were just playing a dull game while the device’s music player was running. There isn’t enough of a connection between the music you’re feeding to Beatstream and the resulting gameplay.
This is a larger problem with the genre, though. Great music games are exciting because they make you feel closer to the music. While an attractive concept, simply making an algorithm to analyze any old audio doesn’t compare favorably to the experience you can have with handcrafted rhythm games. It’s not a coincidence that titles like Groove Coaster and Rock Band are better music games when their songs/levels are carefully designed by a real person to ensure that the music-gameplay relationship is as tight as possible.
Whether in concept or execution, Beatstream is an underwhelming experience that you can feel free to miss out on. If you want to play something while enjoying your favorite songs, just play a better game with its audio turned down and your jams turned up.