Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
The rhythm genre is a dear friend to indie developers, who have historically taken advantage of musical tracks and well-timed synchronization to enhance what would be rather basic gameplay without them. From Pataponand Sound Shapes, to Lumines and pretty much every game of "synesthesia" that Tetsuya Mizuguchi has ever created, there's something about pressing buttons to the beat of a song that naturally engrosses players and makes critics giddy with high scores. Beatbuddy, developed by Threaks and not to be confused with the Japanese hip-hop boy band Beat Buddy Boi, wants nothing else than to join this illustrious group.
Somewhere between Sound Shapes andPixeljunk Shooter, Beatbuddy is a platformer where the titular character, which looks like a blue iPhone turned into a jellyfish man, must traverse an environment where each track of a song has been turned into obstacles. Illuminated flowers are bass drums, gates that spurt streams of bubbles are snare drums, and hermit crabs and spikes are hi-hats. All of them pulse to the beat of the music, and add their musical layer to the track, gradually forming the entire song—tracks like "Love Swing" by Sabrepulse and "Catgroove" by Parov Stelar.
To conquer most of these obstacles, the player needs to maneuver Beatbuddy through them with a quick dash, hopefully not into the spikes along the wall; if so, he'll lose some health and the screen will go gray until he recovers. Sometimes Beatbuddy will need to carry a key to activate certain switches and race against the clock to get through the narrow caves before the openings close. Along his path throughout the level, he can find crystals and special collectibles for high scores and can even board a special ship.
The developers still have quite a bit to show beyond the premiere level that they had available for demo. It seems like an underwater platformer, but there's no reason why Beatbuddy can't make his floaty dashes in the air in future levels and can't be challenged to speed runs.
Luckily, this student project in 2009 has already made waves, being featured at PAX East and receiving Intel awards for Best Music and Art. Both awards are certainly well-deserved, because graphically it has the bubbly and brightly colored charm of Rayman Origins and the developers say that the game also features a composition from Austin Wintory who created the incredible soundtrack for Journey. How's that for being in good company?
Beatbuddy hopes to arrive on XBLA, PSN, and PC some time this year. A demo is available on Steam.