Shield the Beat

I really suck at music games.  Yea, I likely should have mentioned that before slamming Sequence in a review last month, but I just have no rhythm.  Like everything else that’s wrong with my life, I attribute this to my Cuban genetics.  My DNA is coded for three things: tobacco use, the ability to make boats out of some of the flimsiest shit available, and my ass inevitably doubling in size somewhere around age 35 if my mother is any indication.  Nowhere in there is the ability to keep a beat.  I’ve brought up my theory that Cubans are inferior at music to people before and it’s usually followed by me saying “No, he’s Mexican. No, she’s Puerto Rican. No, that dude isn’t even Hispanic..”

So I’m likely not the best person to review Shield the Beat, a music game where you control the shield of a spaceship that absorbs enemy fire to the beat of generic songs.  Using the left analog stick, you rotate the shield around the ship trying to hit as many bullets as possible.  For a greater challenge, you can play a mode where two different colored bullets are shot.  In this one, you use the left stick to suck up white bullets and the right stick to suck up red ones.  You also have to absorb missiles, occasionally by using the trigger buttons which offer a full-ship shield for about a nano-second.  There’s also a multiplayer mode which I didn’t get to, but I doubt it would have made that much a difference.  Besides, I really don’t want anyone else to see how bad I am at these things.  Likely some post-traumatic stress thing from when I slipped off the platform of a Dance Dance Revolution coin-op back when I was fifteen and suffered a hair-line fracture of my ankle.  That’s true, sadly.  Now you can see why I go under a pseudonym here. Between that story and my admission that I can’t throw a Dragon Punch in Street Fighter II, I’m swiftly losing my gamer cred.

Honestly, I thought Shield the Beat was okay.  It has a few things that could be tweaked, like maybe moving the action closer to the camera.  Even on a sixty-inch television screen it can be a bit difficult to see whether or not you’re really about to catch a bullet with the shield, or what angle the bullet is coming from.  This is especially problematic when the enemy ships start firing spirals at you while the background makes a sudden shift out of nowhere.  I also hate to say it, but the game should have been 80MSP.  It feels more like a mini-game and it’s 240MSP price tag kind of stings a little.

The music is hit and miss, but that’s par for the course from anything in this genre.  Hell, even when playing stuff from really good bands like Beatles Rock Band or Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, I’m often left saying “Jesus, these guys really put out a lot of mediocre shit over the years.”  Shield the Beat has no recognizable songs of course, but that’s fine.  What’s here is generic but never really offensive or awful. It sounds like the kind of stuff you hear when you’re put on hold by Microsoft while trying to find out what you do with your freshly bricked Xbox.  Overall, the guys at Detour Games might be on to something here, and with the right adjustments this could actually be one of the better engines for a rhythm game to come along in a while.

Of course, that doesn’t mean as much now as it did a couple of years ago.  The music game fad seems to be on its last legs.  Walk down the aisle of any Toys ‘R Us and you’ll see cobwebs and tumble weeds next to complete sets of Rock Band or Guitar Hero World Tour with 90%-off clearance stickers on them that STILL won’t sell.  Which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that people realized these things are just glorified games of Simon with the notes rarely having anything to do with the actual music playing.  Or the fact that the instruments are so brittle that they break if you sneeze on them.  Or the fact that most of the songs on the discs these days  are crap and they nickle-and-dime you for the good stuff via DLC.  Seriously, raise your hand if you’re absolutely loving the entire collapse of this genre.

Shield the Beat was developed by Detour Games

240 Microsoft Points are actually likely of Colombian descent, but they’re even less musically inclined so that doesn’t really help all that much in the making of this review.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

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