Platform: Xbox Indie Games (Xbox 360) Price: 400 MSP / $5 USD Beat Hazard is basically that kickass interactive music visualizer that you've always wanted. I remember when I first toyed around with the visualizers in Windows Media Player I thought it would have been pretty cool if a game was made out of them and then years later, such an idea was finally implemented in the form of an Xbox Live Indie dual stick shooter that supports custom music (as in songs streamed from your PC or stored in your Xbox 360's HDD). Gameplay: As expected from a dual stick shooter, the left stick is used to move your space ship and the right to shoot, in this outer space game. The core gameplay resembles Asteroids but it's not a direct clone. There are some new elements such as power-ups and mini-bosses (large space ships). Also, as mentioned before, the music influences the gameplay which is what makes this game stand out as you can pop in custom music in any other dual stick shooter, but you can't actually "play it". Depending on the particular frequencies found in the song, the amount of enemies as well as the visualizer colors will vary throughout the song which means that each unique song you play should provide a unique gameplay experience but this also means that replaying a song will essentially produce the same scenario as before (although gameplay will still vary as you might not pick up every power-up amongst other factors) which helps keep it consistent similar to mechanics found in Guitar Hero. As for the power-ups, there are 4 types. By default, the game starts out with a rather low volume tone and as you pick up volume power-ups the sound will increase until the song is heard loud and clear. One of the other power-ups will increase your weapon power and once it's maxed out along with the volume counter, it will produce a rather strong beam that will help eliminate enemies with much more ease. Another power-up serves as a score multiplier while the other power-up is an extra bomb which when used, will clear out all the enemies on the playfield within the explosion's radius (except the mini-bosses, it will damage them though). If you've played Asteroids before, you can guess at least one of the types of enemies that you'll encounter in this game. The meteors usually make up the largest enemy base but there are enemy space ships as well along with deadly orbs and missiles. The mini-bosses are large space ships that have two guns on each side and have several special attacks ranging from a laser beam shot to shooting several missiles at once. It's quite common for several of these mini-bosses to appear frequently in certain songs (yes, even in classical music). Also, there is no health system which means that in one hit you're dead and then it's game over unless you have some lives left. You'll lose your volume/power charge when a life is lost as well. After each song is completed or you've run out of lives, your total score will be listed and a progress bar will fill up. After a certain amount of points has been accumulated you'll rank up and unlock new things such as more lives or even starting out with a few power-ups. Another thing worth mentioning is that Beat Hazard features 3 difficulty modes (Easy, Normal and Hardcore) to accommodate differently skilled players. I will warn you that just because you're playing a song in "Easy", doesn't mean it will be easy though as certain songs are tough in "Easy", at the same time it is possible for a particular song to be easier in "Hardcore" than a different song in "Easy" due to the mechanics of the game which means technically it's not due to a flaw. Lastly, there's a co-op mode which allows you to play the game with a friend locally. Lives and bombs are shared in co-op so be careful how you use them! Graphics & Audio: The graphics in general are decent whereas the visualizer effects found in the game are quite impressive. While playing on hardcore, you'll be sure to be tripped out by the visuals. As for the audio, the game included some default tracks to get you started which along with the sound effects were decent. Warning: The visuals do get a bit rough on the eyes after a while though so you might want to avoid playing "Hardcore" continuously unless you have amazing eye vision. That seizure warning in the main menu is probably no joke either.... Replay value: If you have a handful of music tracks, you'll be sure to be replaying this game a lot. However, even if your music collection is limited, since there are 3 difficulty modes and several ranks to unlock, even a small music collection could keep you entertained for a while especially if you have a friend to play with. Overall: While the Asteroids-like gameplay is nothing new, it's interactivity with music, addictive ranking system and impressive visualizer effects make this game a worthy purchase especially if you're a fan of dual stick shooters. Don't expect a relaxing experience though as this game can get intense, even with "soft music". However, if you can't stream songs from your PC or rip music (don't have any albums etc.) then this game probably won't appeal to you as the default tracks probably won't keep you entertained long enough to warrant a purchase. On the other hand, if you meet the "requirements" then definitely give it a try. Pros: +Impressive visualizer effects +Simple yet fun gameplay +Decent enemy/power-up variety +Custom music support +Co-op (2 players locally) +High replay value +Rank system +3 difficulty modes +Reasonable price Cons: -Your ship is rather bland, a different color or more refined design would have been better as it's too similar to the enemy ships (in co-op each ship has a different color though) -An unlimited lives mode would have been nice to play just for fun (no score points earned) for when you feel like playing simply to relax without having to worry about dying -Minor issues with the menus, for instance, you can't go back after selecting a song, you have to pick a difficulty and wait until the song starts to exit it -While it's not a straight-up Asteroids clone, a couple of additional enemy types or differences would have made it much more enjoyable With all that said, Beat Hazard gets a 8.75/10 as it's nice affordable alternative to the mainstream music oriented games available on the Xbox 360 and it's one of the first games of that nature (on XBLIG/XBLA at least) to support custom tracks, no need to repurchase your favorite songs via DLC - just rip or stream them. As stated before though, if you can't stream or rip music to your Xbox 360, then it probably won't be a good investment. To those who don't like dual stick shooters or who are simply tired of the genre, the musical touch will probably still grab your attention so do give the trial a shot at the very least. This game was obtained from the developer rather than purchased, for review purposes.