Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome enough to keep you busy until Monday, at least.
Beat Hazard Ultra ($0.99, Universal, $9.99 Mac) is an asteroid-style, shoot-from-the-middle, space arcade game for iOS that can satisfy the most extreme, old-school Galaga addictions. What makes Beat Hazard Ultra stand out is the fact that game play is set to your music library. With each track in your iTunes music library, you have a new game to experience. Trying to figure out just how each track influences gameplay really adds to the longevity of the game.
On iOS you can control your ship with one controller and let the device automatically aim your weapons, or use two controllers and navigate your ship as well as aim your weapons. On the Mac it’s a little different. Here you use both the keyboard and mouse to both navigate the ship and aim your weapons. Of the three different size platforms and different control choices, I found using one control to navigate my ship on the larger iPad touch screen to be the best overall experience.
What ends up making a level hard to beat is not as strongly tied to the speed or tempo of the track you select as to how the track inspires you and pulls you into the game play. I found that Beat Hazard Ultra did have a problem accessing remote tracks in my iTunes Match library when connected to the Internet. Only tracks on the device were playable. You also have the option of selecting one of several different Internet radio stations if you find that your personal listening tastes are not what you are seeking for the type gaming experience you want. What is interesting is that Beat Hazard Ultra will even keep track of your highest scores for each of the tracks in your iTunes library. That way you can see which style of music brings out the best you have to offer.
There are four modes you can select to play. In standard play mode, each track is an individual game. Your goal is to stay alive and score as many points as you can during the playback of a single track. The length of the game is limited to the time duration of the track. In survival mode, you attempt to play through as many tracks as possible without any time limits. Then there is Boss Mode which will place you against a neverending attack of increasingly difficult boss ships. And finally, for those among us with too much time on their hands, there is Chill Out Mode. This mode has the opportunity of creating a real Zen-like moment between you, your music and the game. If you are not careful, Chill Out Mode will devour your entire weekend.
As you strive to become an elite pilot, you learn about the point system, in-game pickups and perks. The points you earn increase your rank, and the dollars you collect allow you to purchase perks like stronger weapons. More important than the weapon, bomb, shield and missile pickups in the game are the score multipliers. These multipliers affect how quickly your points rack up. You can even earn more points by not firing your weapons. This will earn you the titles of daredevil and survivor, depending on how long you can last. One thing is for certain, if you enjoy your music, you will most definitely enjoy this game.