iPhone App Video Review: Beat Hazard Ultra

by Andrew Koziara

It's always fun when an iOS game lets you play your own music through the app itself, but very rarely does a game depend entirely on your iTunes library, centering the core game mechanics around your favorite songs. Games like Beat Hazard Ultra from Cold Beam Games do just that. Originally released on Steam for the PC, this game is right up there with Audio Surf in my favorite music library games. It's a dual-stick shooter with bright, vivid visuals and simple gameplay that can't be beat.

This is the same twin stick shooting that you all know and love or hate. Enemies and random junk will fly in from the sides, and it's your job to blast them away. What makes this game unique is that almost every single aspect has been tied into your music choice. The speed of the enemies, the intensity of your shooting, and the insanity of the visuals are all tied to the song currently playing, constantly in flux. As you drop enemy bogies left and right, they'll occasionally drop score multipliers, cash, bombs and other powerups, and the always important Power and Volume collectibles. Once you max out the power of your shot and the volume of your song, you'll enter Beat Hazard mode, where your attacks are at their most powerful.

There are a bevy of modes to select from and settings to tweak as well. You can dial down or crank up the intensity of the strobe effects and rock concert visuals. Higher settings can be pretty headache inducing, so that's appreciated. Standard mode has you playing through single songs, one at a time. Survival mode continuously plays new songs at random until you die. Boss Rush mode has you take on nothing but in-game bosses until you die. Chill Out mode loads you up with power-ups, even if you haven't unlocked them for the other modes, and gives you unlimited lives so you can just enjoy the gameplay. The cash you earn across each mode (except Chill Out) lets you unlock and upgrade various perks, such as extra volume pick-ups and score multipliers at the start, or more effective reflecting shields and laser beams.

The seizure-iffic visuals are great, and their dynamic nature definitely makes the game stand out. The game obviously boasts the best soundtrack of all time, with only music of the finest in refined taste and sophistication. There are plenty of Game Center achievements to grab and leaderboards to climb, but in the end, the whole experience becomes very tiresome. Once you intelligently select a few key perks and play Boss Rush mode several times in a row, you'll easily be at the Elite rank. The game isn't really about unlocks or progression though, and is more meant to be enjoyed for what it is. Much like Audio Surf, the novelty can quickly wear off, but it's great to jump in from time to time and take a load off. Considering the game is now portable, iOS Universal, and only one single dollar, I'd definitely grab it ASAP.

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