It’s been a while since I’ve played BPM: Bullets Per Minute, the first person shooter rhythm game with Norse mythology. I’ve been a little surprised seeing the changes (and improvements) made along the way, but I’m also surprised on how much I had let BPM: Bullets Per Minute get away with without even mentioning it.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is a roguelike first person shooter plus rhythm game mash-up. It’s an insanely clever idea to mix together the rhythm of combat to the metal music blaring behind it—though its implementation, it turns out, is tricky. Everything in BPM: Bullets Per Minute must be done to the beat or off-beat. You want to shoot, reload, jump, dash or use your power? It has to sync up to the music. There is no penalty for attempting to use a weapon out of rhythm, it just won’t work—and it kills your score streak. While it sounds like a peanut butter and chocolate sort of situation, BPM: Bullets Per Minute makes some strange design choices that make it less than perfect, but it does fulfill the promise of gunplay meets rhythm game pretty well.
Shooting guns to the beat is the biggest draw of BPM: Bullets Per Minute, and it does a good job establishing what a shooting rhythm game can look like. I like the idea of only being able to shoot and reload to the rhythm—either on beat or syncopated. Guns feel good to shoot, though the enemies don’t always feel good to shoot at. For a game that requires you to essentially learn a whole new way to play a shooter, the enemies tend to be a little annoying. It took me some serious brain power to get to the point of being able to shoot consistently on the beat while avoiding damage, etc. but then BPM: Bullets Per Minute had to feature a whole bunch of enemies that were just tiny. It doesn’t help that your baseline guns, without power-ups, are weak and shoot no more than a few feet in front of you. That means you have to learn how to play to the rhythm AND deal with tiny, fast, projectile shooting enemies while you do it.
Each run in BPM: Bullets Per Minute features a randomized room configuration that reminds me a bit of how Binding of Isaac works. You walk into a room, fight the enemies until the room is cleared, and usually have a choice of a few other rooms to enter. The nature of these rooms are revealed on the minimap, and be any number of rooms, like a challenge rom, weapon or item shop, boss room, etc.
There are several characters you can play as in BPM: Bullets Per Minute, each unlockable after meeting certain criteria. These characters don’t really do too much to change up BPM: Bullet Per Minute’s gameplay, besides changing how much health your character starts with. They do have special abilities and even “Ultimates” you can earn by beating a run with them.
Like any good roguelike, there is some potential for fun synergies between abilities in a BPM: Bullets Per Minute run. Some of the abilities and upgrades BPM feel unbalanced. Getting a certain combination of abilities can make a run trivial, but sometimes not getting any overpowered abilities can make a run feel like a slog. There’s just too much of a requirement to get that sweet spot of synergy to make BPM fun.
I really dislike BPM’s visual style. I think I enjoyed it at first, but the longer I play, the more I wish I could turn off that damned filter. Enemies and projectiles are already hard to see, add to that the fact you’re concentrating on staying in rhythm, having a red glare that covers everything certainly doesn’t help matters.
As far as its transition to console, BPM: Bullets Per Minute is mostly successful. I thought the transition from keyboard and mouse to controller would make BPM’s gameplay more difficult, but I actually found myself better able to cope with moving and shooting to the rhythm while using a controller. There were some strange visual glitches, however. Moving my view too quickly reveals white boxes—possible where the world wasn’t yet rendered. Once I started noticing them, I couldn’t stop seeing it, which was a bummer.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is still the same, somewhat flawed game on console as it was on PC. There were some design changes to help people transition into its style of rhythm gameplay a little easier (notably Practice mode, a step lower than “Easy” mode) but not much else has noticeably changed from when I played it a year ago. I did find myself a bit nostalgic for its soundtrack, however—which is pretty damn good. I just wish there was a way to turn off BPM’s garish red filter. Oh well.
An Xbox Series X | S key was provided to us for this review.
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