Once in a while, I take a chance to dip my toes into something new, something unfamiliar or uncommon. Rogue-likes have never been my cup of tea and as a person who would much rather watch someone play Dark Souls than play it themselves, punishing difficulty is not my cup of tea either. Blazing Beaks landed in my inbox (pun fully intended) and though I knew what was in store for me, I took that chance. What resulted was several hours of me being miserable but to no fault of the game. I am, and always will be honest with my reviews, and this is one of the rare ones where my critiques are positively negative.
In this Rogue-like twin stick shooter, shooting and looting is the name of the game. You will tackle procedurally generated levels where the landscape changes every so often after a set boss fight. UNLIKE other looters, being greedy can really have an impact on your gameplay in Blazing Beaks. Almost every artifact picked up from the corpses of your pesky enemies has a negative status effect that can really damper your ability to survive. Remember: in a game like this, death means starting back from square one, so one wrong decision or move after picking up these devilish treasures can blow your playthrough to smithereens. I usually went for the less punishing ones considering my aforementioned timid nature with the genre, so I tended to only take movement, gold, or shot distance reductions. Other more punishing ones would make you lose your special ability, die upon being hit, or even reduce your max health with each hit. OUCH. But without trading these items, you will really have to grind for gold to get anything worth a damn in the seldom seen shops.
Now as I mentioned, die and it is back to square one. I have no major quarrel with the game except for this notion, which I find disrupts my enjoyment most. If anything has a “campaign”, I prefer if it allows me to truly progress through that in an inviting way. The game does offer a “seeded” mode, which allows you to play out the levels in the same way they were presented instead of being freshly generated each time, but this only allows you to train and memorize that level set. It would have been again a bit more approachable from my end if it also let you revisit a section with said code, much like older games ala Zombies Ate My Neighbors did. At least it has co-op like the aforementioned zombie shooter, which can ease the pain a bit.
The combat is rock solid. Each of the eight unique birds have different health, starting weapons, and abilities to play around with before finding your desired feathered friend of choice. My preference of those I was able to play with was the penguin, who started off with four hearts instead of two or three. The shooting and dodge rolling work really well and each area is pretty tightly confined, so knowing your bearings in the movement department is a must. Boss battles can be challenging and new enemies await in each new landscape, so getting to know them is just another way to increase the length of your run. I never made it really far, and can’t see myself going back for more since I experienced what the game has to offer in the first section over and over again, but what I did play was solid.
Where the game really won me over was in its surprisingly fun tournament mode. These mini-multiplayer modes are a real treat. With up to four players, you can duke it out in some small arena PVP. The tight areas and dodge abilities make this a hectic, fun time. The deathmatch modes were actually my least favorite, with the best, in my opinion, being the spears only mode. Every player gets one spear and only so much health. Upon throwing your spear you have to physically retrieve it before being able to attack it again. This is a very twitchy-instinct style of gameplay, so it gets even more hectic when it boils down to the last two players. I also liked the Skull Keeper mode, where you have to try and hang on to a lone skull long enough to drain the other player's health. What I did not like about this mode was the accessibility. There is no simple way to return to the matchmaking and change some settings. You can either do one match and get kicked back to the title screen or you can do a set length of matches and get kicked back to the title screen once those are up, again without being able to adjust any kind of settings in the meantime. It is just an odd choice.
Aesthetically, Blazing Beaks gets the job done. I love the cute, plushy, armed to the teeth bird sprites, and the enemies don’t look half bad themselves. The bit style works well for the game and it is detailed enough to give your pickups some substance. But again, you probably have a guess as to how I feel about the gameplay. If there is a story here, I did not get to see much of it at all. But mechanically, at its core, Blazing Beaks is a solid game and I like a lot of the bits and pieces. For me though, it is highly inaccessible and easy to get burnt out on, which may also be the case for general audiences. But fans of the genre should have no problem getting along with the difficulty and challenge at hand. Is it rewarding? Eh, maybe, but not so sure after you have unlocked all the characters. Is it fun? It can be, especially the multiplayer options. Is it for everyone? Certainly not, but the game can stack up if you are in the right market for it. As for this writer, it’s not my nest to roost in, but I can appreciate what it offers from a distance.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
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