Rhythm games have been around for a while. But BPM: Bullets Per Minute might be the first time the genre has extended to first-person shooters. Someone at Awe Interactive must’ve had a bit of an epiphany. Combining old-school first-person shooters with the mechanics of something like Crypt Of The Necrodancer.
The result is an FPS rogue-lite dungeon-crawl that mixes in elements from rhythm games. But how does it play, I hear you ask? Let’s discuss as we take a look at BPM: Bullets Per Minute.
Kicking Ass To The Beat
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is rather light on story. Which is fine, the game doesn’t really need much of a story. The basic gist is that you’re playing a Valkyrie who must fight off an invasion of Asgard. The twist is that you must do so to the beat of the soundtrack.
I’ve heard people call BPM “a DOOM musical” which… on a surface level might seem apt. But when you play the game, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I wouldn’t really compare this to DOOM at all, given DOOM is a very different kind of game.
DOOM is more of a traditional FPS, where you build up a growing arsenal of weapons and hunt for keys. I mean, you do that in BPM too but in a very different way. BPM is more akin to a first-person Crypt Of The Necrodancer, to be honest. You play in a randomly generated dungeon, with no saves and only a single life. Lose your life and you have to start a new game from the beginning. The game isn’t that long in terms of progression. But depending on your luck with the RNG, you may have trouble even getting past the first level.
Each room can either be a monster arena or a special room. Monster arenas are simple. Just clear them out, grab the loot, and move on. The special rooms can hold either a chest, upgrades, the shop vendor, the blacksmith, a library with a secondary ability, or a boss.
A Modern Shooter At Heart
Despite its obvious retro influences, BPM is a very modern FPS. More akin to Devolver’s Strafe, it doesn’t really work to call it an old-school FPS. You can only carry a single gun, the game is structured as a rogue-lite dungeoncrawl, and every aspect of the game is modernized.
This is the biggest thing that bothers me about BPM. It’s not really old-school and is clearly made with modern sensibilities in mind. It feels artificially difficult and unfair at times. The randomization makes you feel discouraged from playing a lot, as your progression is largely based on luck. Sure, you may get lucky and get a good weapon. Or get enough health to get through the levels. But the only way to really progress through the game is to play it non-stop until you just get good by playing. And that’s when repetition sets in.
Constantly being booted back to the first level is one of the most discouraging things that can happen on a good run. And while this may appeal to a certain demographic, I wouldn’t say it does to me. As much fun as BPM can be at times, the fact it is designed as a rogue-lite just kills a lot of enjoyment for me.
You’re most likely going to replay that first level a whole lot before you can make it further in the game. Unless you’re just extremely lucky. Which is not really the hallmark of most great shooters. It is however the hallmark of 90% of indie games that clog up Steam’s library, as it is an excuse to not really put effort into crafting levels or make a lot of them.
Just make a bunch of rooms, randomly throw them together, change up the aesthetic, and make the game artificially difficult to excuse its short length. That seems to be the order of the day. Which I guess is fine for an indie title. But when you have indie games like DUSK, Amid Evil, and Ion Fury that does the retro shooter thing much more authentic, it comes off as lazy. And that’s what sadly makes BPM more of just a novelty than a legit FPS.
Norsepunk – BPM Aesthetics
The graphics I’m a little torn on. While I enjoy the setting and the designs, I do find the filter put on everything kind of obnoxious. I’m not sure why it’s there, what its purpose is. Like, is this how Valkyries see the world? Do they just have a big threshold filter over their vision?
It makes the game kind of difficult to look at in the long run. Everything ends up just… looking the same with different color shades for each dungeon. It doesn’t really look old school or retro. It just kinda looks distracting, the designs are fine though. The guns in particular have very neat designs for them. I kinda dig the Norse mythology mixed with modern DOOM aesthetic on the guns. And the magic abilities kinda add a bit of a Hexen feel as well.
Though like I said, the filter put on everything definitely holds everything back in terms of visuals. I get it’s an artistic choice but I just for the life of me can’t understand why it’s there.
The Epic Sound Of BPM
If there is one aspect about BPM that it does well, it’s the music. Which of course is a bit important in a rhythm game. But BPM excels in this area.
Composer Sam Houghton did an excellent job with the soundtrack. It’s a nice blend of melodic rock with some synth elements. And while I wouldn’t exactly call it “rock opera” as the game has marketed itself with, it is still great. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get far enough to hear a lot of the soundtrack. Only the first couple of levels really. But what I heard was definitely really good and up my alley. It’s definitely good enough to warrant more playthroughs.
In a lot of ways, I feel the music is what truly carries BPM. It is the core and soul of the whole experience. And I feel without the music and rhythm aspect, BPM would be a very mediocre shooter.
A Great Rhythm Game, A Mediocre FPS
In conclusion, as a rhythm game, I think BPM: Bullets Per Minute is great. The music and gameplay work in tandem to create unique and engaging combat. And the designs of the characters are all great.
However, as an FPS I think it falls short. It relies far too much on modern RNG rogue-lite mechanics to feel old-school enough. And with the rhythm gameplay being the only thing setting it apart from the sea of other similar games, it doesn’t have all that original to offer.
I’d say pick it up for the music. But just beware that this is no DOOM or Quake with rhythm elements. But if randomized dungeon crawlers are your cup of tea, then this might scratch the itch if you dig rhythm games as well.
This review is based on a review build provided by the developer