Review – BPM: Bullets Per Minute
I was immediately interested in BPM: Bullets Per Minute. It basically combines two of my favorite genres: FPS and Rhythm games. Not only does it take two of my favorite game genres, but its soundtrack is to my favorite music genre as well: METAL! Essentially, take DOOM ‘s FPS gameplay and match up every shot, jump, dash, and reload to the beat of its soundtrack. Does BPM hit every note? Or does it fall flat? Let’s find out.
BPM doesn’t offer any sort of story or dialogue. Awe Interactive knows you’re here for the fast paced gameplay and kick ass soundtrack, and they deliver on that. You won’t know why you’re slaughtering all these demons, but you’ll be too much in the zone to care. There are four main realms with two levels in each realm. As I mentioned above, BPM is a roguelike FPS rhythm game, so you’ll be doing multiple runs until things click.
There is a bit of a learning curve matching all of your actions to the beat of the song. However, once you learn the song tempo and what actions you can complete at half tempo, the gameplay is addictive. Even simple things like reloading your gun mid fight feels nice when you’re in the flow. There is something very hypnotic and relaxing about timing everything to the beat and extremely rewarding when you flawlessly clear a room.
Since BPM is a roguelike, the gameplay and your survivability comes down to RNG and randomly generated levels; mastering the songs beat is only one aspect. Unfortunately, the roguelike elements is where it fails a bit, but it’s not all bad. For the most part you have experienced the general level layout if you have played any other roguelike. You’ll have standard rooms, challenge rooms, store rooms, and of course boss rooms. Collecting keys and coins throughout the level allows you to unlock or purchase various items and weapons.
One aspect that I do enjoy is that even most of the normal rooms offer some sort of reward. Rewards can be a key, a coin, or even a shrine you can drop a coin into to increase your base stats. Stats range from Luck, Damage, Accuracy, Abilities, Range, and more. There are even some shrines that ask you to risk a bit more on a chance for a high level piece of gear, weapon, or ability. Do you risk offering three of your precious keys in hopes of one good item? Sometimes it will be worth it, like when I got a Skeleton Key that allowed me to open all locks.
The stores are actually the only aspect of your gameplay that will unlock something permanent through other playthroughs. As you spend money at the general store and the armory you will gain favor with the merchants and more items will become available to you. Of course, the increased tiers come with increased prices, but generally the items are better. For example, at the general store you may start seeing base health increases along with armor. The armory will offer more weapons as well as attachments like increased mag sizes. Unfortunately, there isn’t any menu that will show stat increases with weapons or gear. Does the fifteen coin shotgun do more than the five coin shotgun? The five coin shotgun has a quicker reload time because it uses a magazine, but I couldn’t tell if it did less damage.
You’ll live and die by the RNG, and unfortunately, you’ll mostly die. This is where BPM does need some work. The first four levels become pretty easy once you get in the zone. However, even memorizing the song and boss patterns you can run into major trouble if RNG does not favor you. There are times where you’ll barely get any keys or coins which means you aren’t purchasing anything good. The only thing you can bank for other playthroughs are coins, but you can only deposit or withdraw when you finally get a bank. At one point I deposited a handful of coins, but it wasn’t until five other runs that I got the bank to withdraw them. There needs to be a more reliable way to get a bank other than RNG or else banking coins seems pointless when you don’t know when you’ll get them back.
It may seem like I am harping on BPM’s gameplay a lot, but only because the roguelike elements play a major role and it can turn some people off at first. However, if you stick with it through the intense learning curve and figuring out the nuances of the combat, there is a very fun and rewarding game. Shredding enemies with the beat of an intense metal track feels so nice. The boss battles offer a bit more variety in offense and defense requiring you to dodge and jump to avoid attacks. Boss fights start making more sense when you notice all their attacks also time to the beat of the song. When RNG blesses you with unlimited ammo, luck bonuses, and awesome gear, it feels like classic DOOM.
I feel that the weakest aspect of BPM is its visuals. I typically really enjoy interesting art designs or poppy visuals, but this style doesn’t work for me. The color pallet is monochromatic and only changes main colors between realms. The monochromatic look itself isn’t a huge deal, but its lighting and texture work looks blown out. It almost looks like there is a bloom effect on the environment. On top of that, the saturation levels are on full blast which creates this completely blown out look. There is an option to lower the saturation for each realm, but this only resulted in muted colors.
Besides the art design, the actual character and weapon designs I do enjoy. The weapon designs are all great and offer some badass looks. The enemy designs are great, but they do repeat a bit too much. Some monsters reminded me of a mix of DOOM and Serious Sam, and new enemies get introduced in each realm. The boss fights aren’t quite as epic as even some of the mini bosses, but they do offer unique elements. Unfortunately, the level design falls short compared to the weapons and enemies. Small rooms made of bricks to focus on close quarter combat. The later realms start incorporating some environmental dangers, but still have a similar style.
The sound design is easily the best part of BPM and it is infused in everything you do. The heavy rock and metal soundtrack fits perfectly with the intense FPS combat and hellish creatures. Matching your actions with the tempo of the songs is well executed and feels amazing. Each level has its own songs, but I still never got tired of them. In fact, it only got more enjoyable as you memorize the beats and flow perfectly through fights. Sound effects of various weapons, actions, and abilities are also well designed.
BPM is a a combination of great ideas and for the most part it nails what it’s going for. The melding of the intense FPS combat set to the beat of metal makes for some really great moments. Unfortunately, the roguelike and RNG aspects that rule the game need a bit of work. Also, the art design could use a bit of rethinking. However, when it all works together and the RNG god gives you some love, it is a symphony of destruction.
Visuals are a bit of an eyesore for me. The blown out look of the texture shading, the extremely saturated lighting, and the color pallet being mostly monochromatic doesn’t leave a great impression.
The DOOM-esque fast paced first person shooting is fun and timing it with the soundtrack creates some really cool moments. However, the roguelike elements need some work.
The soundtrack is amazing and features some really punchy metal tracks. The guns, enemies, and general sound effects are also excellent.
When you’re blasting baddies perfectly to the beat of a kickass metal song, and the RNG decides to favor you, BPM is fantastic. However, the roguelike elements need work and lead to a lot of annoyances.
Final Verdict: 7.5
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is available now on PC.
Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, 16gb RAM, at 1440p and Ultra settings.
A copy of BPM: Bullets Per Minute was provided by the publisher.