Beat the Game

House mu­sic for life


Howdo you feel about min­i­mal, groove driven, tech-house mu­sic? A strange ques­tion to open a game re­view with sure, and re­ally that’s quite a con­vo­luted genre de­scrip­tion. But Beat the Game’s ap­peal re­lies al­most com­pletely on your re­ac­tion to the house beats, per­cus­sion, bass lines and the weird synth chords and fx flour­ishes that de­fine the genre.

The core premise of Beat the Game is a strong one. Ex­plore a richly de­tailed and strange en­vi­ron­ment, record dif­fer­ent sounds, and then use those as a ba­sis to mix and cre­ate the back­ing sound­track as you see fit. But again, fil­tered through the sounds of min­i­mal tech-house.

Tak­ing con­trol of Mis­tik, in a world that feels partly in­spired by Dou­ble Fine’s Psy­cho­nauts, there isn’t much in the way of con­text or nar­ra­tive drive out­side of the mu­sic. Well, there’s ad­mit­tedly very cool goal of putting on a live show for all the tri­an­gle-shape denizens of what­ever dream­scape you find your­self in. Af­ter col­lect­ing all the dif­fer­ent sounds of course. With a sim­ple point-and-click struc­ture that in­volves walk­ing around and en­ter­ing a first-per­son mode to scan your sur­round­ings to find all the record­able au­dio, the setup is sim­ple and easy.

If you’ve ever come across an au­dio in­ter­face that trig­gers dif­fer­ent loops then us­ing Mis­tik’s por­ta­ble mixer and au­dio player that hangs around his neck to con­trol the mu­sic will im­me­di­ately make sense. For those that haven’t, the in-game tu­to­ri­als clearly ex­plain how all of it works with easy to fol­low UI over­lays. In Beat the Game, each mu­si­cal loop is spread out over a grid bro­ken up into all the dif­fer­ent parts that make up a tech­house track. The beat, per­cus­sion, bass line, melody, synth at­mos­phere, and so forth. And as you can only play one sound from each cat­e­gory at a time, there’s vir­tu­ally no chance of cre­at­ing an un­lis­ten­able mess.

Where Beat the Game stum­bles, out­side of the fact that you can, err, beat the game in about an hour or so, is with how it ul­ti­mately fails to re­ally sell the con­cept of cre­ative ex­pres­sion through mu­sic. Not on the art side, as the evoca­tive look bears an al­most ab­stract artist’s im­pres­sion of the sound­track. Like a strange mu­sic video that you once saw from the era when MTV ac­tu­ally played mu­sic videos. No, the is­sue comes with Beat the Game’s in­abil­ity to fully cap­ture that one as­pect of house mu­sic that has made it stand the test of time as a genre.

And that is - sub­tlety. Lit­tle changes and mu­si­cal pro­gres­sion that is mea­sured across sev­eral min­utes. Un­for­tu­nately, with short loops the mu­sic here be­comes repet­i­tive and monotonous long be­fore you get to put on your live show. In a way, it be­gins to sound like ev­ery crit­i­cism you might have heard over the years be­ing spo­ken about house mu­sic from peo­ple that don’t “get it”. Which is a shame be­cause be­ing able to do more with the mu­sic other than paus­ing to switch up the dif­fer­ent loops and slid­ers would have fixed a lot of the prob­lems.

it ul­ti­mately fails to re­ally sell the con­cept of cre­ative ex­pres­sion through mu­sic

Play as Raz from Psy­cho­nauts’ pill-pop­pin’ cousin.

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