While checking out indie games at Atlanta, Georgia’s Momocon, one game was absolutely hard to miss. That game was Berzerk Studios’ Just Shapes & Beats. After playing an early build of the game, I can already tell Just Shapes & Beats can crescendo into something special when it launches this winter.
Shapes & Beats is a rhythm game like no other. Instead of trying to maintain a rhythm, like in Rock Band or Guitar Hero, you are at odds with it. Gameplay is designed so that levels directly correlate to gaming-inspired music. So while your senses are bombarded with an intense array of pink particle effects and the perfectly synchronized tunes of artists like Danimal Cannon and Zef, your job is to avoid it all till the song is over. The controls are simple (i.e. left stick to move and a button to dash through obstacles) but they are enough to weave your way through the songs’ attacks as if it were a complex bullet-hell game.
Strategy also plays a big factor in the game. Just Shapes & Beats forces you to think fast and think critically. When playing with up to three other players, only one has to reach the end of the song to beat the level. This makes it tough to decide if you should dash into a dangerous area to revive a fallen comrade, or let them drift away as the song moves on. You can risk your own life to let your friends keep going through the level, or try to be the hero by carrying your team to the end. No matter the decision, it is always satisfying when it works out, but if not, you and your team will just start again at the last checkpoint.
The only levels that don’t have checkpoints are the intense boss battles. Fortunately for you, you are given extra lives to compensate, but this mechanic prevents the interruption of the action. I had the pleasure of playing one of these boss battles and it was phenomenal. Unlike the other levels, this one had an actual monster who moved, and attacked with the music. While it wasn’t as flashy as some of the dazzling obstacles in previous levels, the hulking figure was just as impressive and fun to watch.
The only issues I experienced with the game happened when the action was too much for the frame rate. This issue was not frequent but certainly noticeable when it occurred.
Just Shapes & Beats is setting up for a winter release date on all platforms, but Berzerk is focused on PC first. The current build features music from four different artists, but the team is planning on having 16 for the final release.
Just Shapes & Beats is an impressive amalgamation of rhythm games, bullet-hell games, and endless runners. If you can get your hands on it before the release, I would recommend it. Every level is a spectacle, a challenge, and an overall delight to those playing and spectating.