Kill To The Music
Have you ever played a fast-paced FPS with great music and had a moment in which your actions, guns, and enemy attacks lined up perfectly with the song in the background, almost as if it was intentional? It feels great, it’s magical. If you know what I’m talking about, you understand how satisfying it feels. Well, someone decided to make an entire game around that concept! Meet BPM: Bullets Per Minute, a rhythm-action FPS rogue-like in which your enemies and you attack, move, dodge, and reload to the beat of an amazing soundtrack.
Now, “rhythm-action FPS rogue-like” are words that absolutely do not seem to form any kind of coherent idea of a game. Despite this, Awe Interactive managed to shape, and transform them into a beautiful symphony that delivers a solid, fun, and well-developed experience.
My First Symphony
When I shot and reloaded my gun for the first time, hearing it line up with the beat made me instantly fall in love with the game. This love persisted throughout the entire time playing BPM: Bullets Per Minute.
Every gun has a different reload pattern that can have two or more steps and every time you press R according to the beat, part of the reload animation is triggered until it’s full again. The guns are all really satisfying to use because of this mechanic. Their punchy, impactful firing sound, when combined with the background music, reload animation, and synchronized movement actions, make a beat of their own that communicates beautifully with the world around you. The game turns the player into a walking instrument, as well as a killing machine.
You, however, are not alone in the collective band of BPM. The enemies around you also attack and move to the beat. You have to predict their attacks with your musical intuition and understand their patterns while keeping the room layout in mind. They’re all very diverse and have their own special abilities, which you’ll learn only by playing and finding out how they work – this is a rogue-like, after all.
Rooms Full Of…
Much like the enemies and guns, every room has something to offer, presenting creative layouts and enemy placements that keep the players on their toes. That said, some areas can feel kind of “cheap” on rare occasions, with way too many enemies and little space to dodge and run.
In more advanced levels, I feel like most of the difficulty comes from these annoying tiny flying insects and bats that shoot fireballs at you. They’re boring, difficult to hit, and overall clunky to fight against when in large groups. It feels like the developers didn’t know how to make certain rooms harder, so they just decided to fill the gaps with these types of enemies.
Many kinds of rooms are present other than combat ones. Some contain only chests, others give you an item or perk of your choice and it’d be a sin not to mention the shops in each level. These are always separated in two, one for weapons and the other for items. The first is run by an adorable angelic bird that dances to the background music and the latter by a more metallic, punk (but equally as adorable) version of the first one
Each non-combat room has a different icon indicating its characteristics. That helps a lot, but I think the game could further benefit from showing items present in each room in the minimap of your HUD. That way, it’d make the gameplay flow better and spare the players from checking each room for that one healing potion they found earlier.
Related to the high variety of rooms in this game, there are also many secrets hidden throughout every floor that can be found by those who really pay attention to their surroundings. Some of them are inaccessible without specific gear, though, like flying boots and rocket launchers.
Weapons, Items, and Magic
Yes, BPM: Bullets Per Minute has rocket jumping, since you don’t take damage from your own weapons. In fact, every gun has something special about them, making it really fun to discover new firearms and see how they work. The shotguns, for example, have to be cocked once before shooting and the revolver requires you to reload each individual bullet, so on and so on.
Have I mentioned the magical powers in this game? That was a rhetorical question, I haven’t. There are lots of them and you can acquire a randomized one in one of the special locked library rooms in the game. You can only equip one ability, but each can have its own devastating effect. From temporary invincibility shields to deadly fireballs that can cause afterburn damage and even teleportation, only luck and skill can dictate how well it’ll suit you.
Of course, we don’t talk about rogue-likes without mentioning luck! And you can get really lucky in this game. Luckily, BPM: Bullets Per Minute knows how to balance random chance and skill. While some better weapons and items can guarantee an easier time, you can survive with worse options. Naturally, you will end up with a higher-powered loadout as the game progresses, but there are no promises that it’ll be a cakewalk. Though rare, it can happen. The first time I completed the game, it was because I found one of the most powerful weapons alongside a key that can open every lock so I had every item possible, an über destroyer mother of all guns and enemies that didn’t stand a chance. In the end, it all boils down to how well you can adapt to the game’s unique mechanics. Don’t be fooled, though, as it still takes some skill and musical sense to win, no matter how good your gear is.
The visuals are quite nice. The first time I started the game and had my eyes assaulted by the disgusting bright red filter, it felt like someone was shoving a pair of hot iron rods into my eye sockets, though… I’ll tell you, that wasn’t very nice. You see, the game has some very beautiful models, a wonderful design, and a great artstyle. It’s all very well made and it looks amazing.
Unfortunately, for some unholy reason, someone decided to put a horrid filter on top of the great visuals. The color varies according to each stage, which does nothing but makes everything look worse. Have you ever seen Nintendo’s 80’s console Virtual Boy? The strong red light of that about sums up my visual experience after the first 20 minutes of gameplay. I’m not the only one who complained about that. In the official trailer’s comment section on YouTube, many people were intrigued by the idea, but upset about the migraine-inducing red filter. Fortunately, there is a slider in the options menu that changes the saturation and makes everything not only look smoother to the eyes but also more pretty and detailed.
BPM is actually a pretty nice looking game in general, with elaborate gun designs, nice lightning, engaging environments, and complementary effects. Sadly, the visual enemy design in BPM: Bullets Per Minute is usually uninspired and boring. I was honestly expecting to have heated battles against mages with saxophone heads or something, but the game didn’t deliver in that area.
What really matters in this game is the music. What can I say? The soundtrack is just great, masterfully executed, engaging, and even empowering to some extent. I suck at categorizing music, but I’d say it’s a techno-rock instrumental OST with very defined and clear beats which is needed for the gameplay. Honestly, the music alone is already enough of a reason to buy BPM: Bullets Per Minute, but the ultimate way to listen to it is by playing the game. As I said before, it’s like the players themselves become an instrument, with gunshots, reloads, jumps, and dodges merging with the background tunes and making a beat of their own.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is amazingly satisfying and a great game, but it’s not flawless. In fact, I have a gripe with some things that don’t, at all, take any fun out of the game, but I feel addressing them could make the gameplay better and improve the experience.
Mainly, I’d like to point out the lack of explanation. Sure, we all like games that let you figure out things on your own without hand-holding, but BPM: Bullets Per Minute sure as hell could provide some slightly more detailed explanation about its items. I often found myself encountering an item with a very vague description that didn’t give me any idea of its purpose. Even when equipping it, I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to do, such as a hat that has as its description “mind control”… WHAT? What the hell is that supposed to mean? All that it did was show echoes below my feet and… that’s it, I couldn’t figure out how it benefited me. Or a magic move that would “prevent death”. I, very happily and optimistically, thought “cool, invulnerability!” and jumped straight into combat with it activated, only to be met with very damaging fireballs to my face and no invulnerability at all. There are times in which I decided not to buy an item because I didn’t know what it was supposed to do, and that sucks for a game in which every buff, bonus, and power is essential.
Another thing that bothered me is how you can disregard permadeath which is arguably one of the rogue-likes most important characteristics by simply quitting to the menu. If you are low on health, got hit by something you didn’t expect, or just generally want to restart the same level, you can simply quit to the menu and continue the game from the start of the level you just left. Anything you’ve done, lost, or gained will be erased as if you had just arrived on that stage. The rooms all stay the same too, so you know exactly what’s waiting for you. That seems incredibly contradicting with a genre that puts such an emphasis on one life playthroughs. I’m not sure if that’s intentional, but I can’t say I want it entirely removed from the game since I only encountered this “exploit” because I got stuck in a room after one of the enemies clipped out of the map and made it impossible for me to leave (you can only move on from the area after you’ve killed all enemies). Though it might be game-breaking, it can have its uses and prevent bugs that can ruin your playthrough. Still, I’d rather not have any bugs than a cheap, flawed solution to them.
Now, something that this game does need is some more replay value. Don’t get me wrong, it’s highly replayable, but after you’ve finished easy and maybe hard mode, there is not much incentive for you to start other runs. There’s a character rewarded for beating hard mode and the game mentions ultimate powers, but other than that, there’s nothing else to see. More unlockable guns and items could become available throughout the time spent playing the game so the player could feel like progress is being made, or even customizable user-created content, like being able to incorporate different music and change the visuals (though I understand that might be a challenging task for a development team that has written “more if we have the budget!” in the game mode selection.
My last complaint, however specific, is not any less important. Whenever I entered a room in which an enemy that shoots fireballs and has a shield present, my game would stutter for no reason. I don’t know what’s wrong with that character, but it significantly impacts my performance. My FPS would drop. Otherwise, I didn’t have many problems with the frame rate.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute, despite having a few exploitable flaws and little reward for those seeking to replay it other than for fun, is absolutely worth your time. The gameplay is satisfying, the music is superb and Awe Interactive proves its rhythm-based mechanics aren’t just a cheap marketable gimmick like many we see. It’s a fully developed and enjoyable experience with which you’ll have fun throughout the entire time playing it. I sincerely hope the developers address the main issues with this game, so it can really become something worth putting hundreds of hours into.
BPM: BULLETS PER MINUTE IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Awe Interactive for a PC review code for this title.
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I am Atlas, hello. Honestly, there isn’t really anything worth mentioning about myself, but I am required to create a blurb for this site regardless. I enjoy most types of games, especially stealth and FPS. I also like games with slow motion firefights and/or that feel realistic, as in, you and the enemies both die in the same amount of hits. Max Payne, Hotline Miami, DEADBOLT and My Friend Pedro are good examples.