Genre: Music rhythm first-person shooter with metal Norse infused within.
Ever wondered what happened if 2016’s Doom was a musical where the lyrics are replaced with your gunshots made in sync with the bass and drums of the soundtrack? Bullets Per Minute (BPM) from Awe Interactive is just that, and it’s quite a thrill ride that’s mostly fun and slightly frustrating enough to be memorable.
In BPM, you control gun-toting valkyries who have to navigate through a bunch of randomly-generated dungeons per stage, defeat the boss, and move on until you reach the last king Nidhogg. Since it’s a first-person shooter, you’ll have to gun your way through the hordes of enemies to progress.
It’s an arcade-style first-person shooter, but with a twist: you can only shoot and reload to the beat of the rock song that’s playing in the background. As cool as it sounds, it’s the thing that’s keeping your skills and bullet-spamming in check. Clicking or reloading out of sync will not make you fire or reload. Coupled with the enemy’s unwavering onslaught, your frail body that can take up to four hits by default, and death setting you back at the start of the run, and you can see how difficult BPM can be.
You’ll die a number of times just getting the hang of the game. A lot. Be it a fly’s super-fast fireball or a tiny scorpion’s sting, staying still and not being in motion means you’re an easy target for the bad guys.
However, the more you play through the game and practice “getting good”, you’ll learn the rhythm, the ins and outs of the levels and structure. Enemies only attack and fire their projectiles to the game’s music too, and you can dodge & double-jump, so it’s just a matter of being agile and relying on twitch-like reflexes to survive as long as possible. Each stage will also feature a room that is either a weapon or item shop -run by a robot dog and giant chick respectively- a library that houses a spell which requires a key to unlock, a chest that requires a key as well, and a bonus room that lets you pick between four different armour power-ups.
Killing enemies will net you gold, which you can then spend on either the aforementioned shops or at random shrines that give you a permanent stat boost per coin. There are even special plates that take in a random amount of coins in exchange for a boost or health-slash-armour, and even a bank where you can store your excess coins for safekeeping in case you die. All in all, you have the tools here to survive and conquer BPM over and over.
And then you have the weapons and armour combos; they’re fun and practical to use. In BPM, you get to use revolvers, rocket launchers, and plasma guns that explode on impact. They all come with their own reload rhythm and cost, but the most expensive boomsticks will deal massive damage if you know how they work. You’ll have to buy them and experiment to see if it’s right for you. Personally, I’m a fan of the rocket launcher because it hits hard, I can get the hang of the reload rhythm, and I can rocket jump like a champ for speed and killing enemies point-blank.
Those spells in the library? They can also help and they come with generous cooldown times. Examples include a close-ranged “shotgun blast” spell to a summon red barrel spell that you can shoot to blow up anything within its vicinity. Armour you collect for your head, hands, legs, and additional protection (shield) can bolster your abilities and even let you create different playstyles. If you get a life-leeching helmet, you can match it with a long-ranged weapon to get back more life. You can also equip leggings that kill weaker enemies by simply going near them, or equip a shield that gives you infinite ammo (ie: no reloading), which is perfect for 3-beat reload weapons like the revolver or plasma launcher.
Eventually, you’ll learn to be a better twitch shooter player from BPM’s punishing-yet-satisfying gameplay, as well as get the best gear and weapons by playing smart and knowing what to keep in a particular run. In fact, once you’ve played the game for four to five hours, you should be able to conquer the default mode, which brings up BPM’s replayability.
There’s a Hard mode that brings in later-game enemies early in your run and buffs up bosses and mid-bosses. Progressing far enough in the default setting will net you morevalkyries with different loadouts and attributes. Your default valkyrie has a regular short-ranged handgun, but the others come with better starting firepower and speed, as well as even a starting key or pocket change, at the cost of a smaller health bar.
There’s even one warrior that can’t pick up weapons, but his default attack has good range & doesn’t need reloading. BPM’s replayability is its smoking gun: you won’t be happy with your current run even if you beat the game, so you’re given an incentive to play more and more until you’re satisfied, as well as try out each different valkyrie to suit your playstyle.
I do have a few gripes. The game’s art style, while necessary in highlighting enemies and hazards, can be very striking & mesmerizing to the point where you can miss out on shrines if you blaze through the game. Luckily, there are graphic options to tone down the saturation, though at the cost of everything blending in and being hard to spot if you’re speeding through each dungeon. Also, if you like your shooters less punishing and requires checkpoints, this is not your jam.
Similar to 2018’s challenging roguelike Dead Cells, BPM’s simple yet hard gameplay is satisfying, balanced well, and is pretty fair. I guarantee that your mechanical shooter skills will improve if you can endure its design and challenge. Still, it’s not for the faint of heart, especially if you like your shooters more casual and Call of Duty-like.
For the rest of you looking for a challenging 2020 game right off the bat and don’t mind investing 20 to 30 hours getting good, dig into BPM. You won’t regret it.
- Challenging & inventive gameplay.
- Awesome & tight controls.
- More bonuses & secrets open up as you keep playing.
- Huge replayability from harder levels to new characters with different playstyles.
- Brutally difficult, but fair.
- Game’s art style can be distracting.