Version Reviewed: 1.0
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There are a ton of music/rhythm games these days, but none quite like Beat It!. Instead of tapping a button while some song plays in the background, Beat It! asks you to reconstruct its tracks from their core instruments. It's like using a beat machine to solve an audio puzzle. It's a cool concept that is made even more impressive by the vibrant pixel art theme strewn throughout the app. As the throbbing music builds in complexity, the backgrounds come to life with an ever-increasing array of fanciful characters and animations. When you combine the unique gameplay and art style, you get a game with a very high level of personality and creativity that just can't be ignored.
Each stage in Beat It! starts with a short musical track that loops a few times for you to listen to. You're then presented with a 16 column grid that has a row for each instrument in the track. You can lay down a beat simply by picking a square on the grid. You need to correctly place all the beats of the song in order to complete the stage. In order to help you with this task, the grid itself is sectioned into 4 measures. When you place the correct beats in one of the measures for a particular instrument, those beats sparkle accordingly. This gives you an indication of how you are doing, and helps you to tackle the track in smaller chunks. There is a blue line that travels across the screen as well that visually indicates where the looping song is within the track, and you can switch back and forth from the completed song to your work in progress. You can also mute any of the instruments in order to single out particular sounds.
At certain points throughout the stages, one of the rows will light up and give you a limited time to complete it in order to receive a power-up. The two power-ups in the game are Bomb and Lock, and they help you by either removing or filling in random parts of the grid. Once you complete a track, you are given a score based on your time, accuracy, and obtained power-ups. Each stage increases in general complexity and number of instruments, often building on the previous one, and will sometimes page across two screens worth of beats.
Beat It! comes with a total of 50 levels spread across 5 uniquely-themed worlds. These worlds are The City Part 1, Bunnies, Candy Heaven, Glu Office, and The City Part 2, and they come with their own particular instrument sets. As you can imagine from the names alone, each new world is also loaded with their own collection of over-the-top visuals. If you want to create some of your own tracks, Beat It! lets you use any of the unlocked instrument sets and backgrounds in an included Free Play Mode. You can create songs that span up to 8 pages, and record them for future listening.
Since a lot of Beat It! is about listening to and distinguishing layers of sound, you will definitely want to play with headphones as the game itself suggests. Since it is really a must for doing well, the game might not be the best experience for commuters with lots of background noise, etc. Hints will eventually appear in the form of glistening squares, but could maybe be doled out a bit quicker at times, or via a limited use option for when you are frustratingly stuck on a section. Switching between pages can be a bit sluggish as well, and could maybe be sped up by allowing you to skip looping through the entire track when you just want to hear a specific page.
The Free Play mode is also barebones at this point, and is an obvious future avenue for user-created levels. Glu Mobile has already indicated a desire to provide such a collaborative experience in an eventual update, and have shared some mock-ups with the user community regarding an area to listen, play, rate, and delete shared content. This would be a great boon for the app, and would really make it an elite title. Besides user-created levels, more official worlds, levels, and instrument sets would be great as well, even as a paid download.
Beat It! is ultimately a treat for the eyes and ears. The marriage of pixel art and beat machine is a match made in heaven, and brings some welcome innovation to the rhythm game genre. The whole experience feels fresh from the start, and has great potential to evolve into even more. If the concept of the games sounds at all intriguing, grab your headphones and proceed to download. Beat It! may not be the best game you play this year, but it will definitely be one of the coolest.
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