Just Shapes and Beats has been on my radar since I first played it with some of my Gaming Trend colleagues at E3 years ago. Since then, I’ve been patiently waiting for Berzerk Studio to release a finished product. Just Shapes and Beats is a bullet hell game where you play as a small geometric shape, and dodge an onslaught of dangerous obstacles timed to catchy chiptune music. It’s a simple concept that ends up being a ton of fun, especially with friends, and makes the title well worth the wait.
As the name implies, Just Shapes and Beats is all about shapes and music. It’s a rhythm game that has you dodging lasers, explosions, and karate kicking martial artists. Each level presents a fresh new set of obstacles to avoid, timed to a unique song. The control are minimal, as you’re only given the options of traditional movement and dashing, which makes you immune for a brief moment. Some levels have the added benefit of doubling as boss fights, featuring a powerful baddie who throws everything they’ve got at you, making survival much more difficult.
Multiplayer is available via splitscreen or online with up to four players, which makes for increased chaos on screen. At its core, the experience is incredibly fun, especially with friends, even if it lacks variety. My only real complaint is that there simply aren’t enough levels, as I’d gotten through all of them after only a few hours of playing with a friend.
Though the multiplayer and quickplay modes offer little in the way of variety, Just Shapes and Beats also features a campaign, which helps breathe life into the game. In addition to typical bullet hell levels, the mode also introduces some light platforming and puzzle sections. The campaign’s story is minimalistic, but offers just enough to be engaging throughout, and features a fair bit of humor as well. The campaign has 35 unique levels, and can be completed in a single sitting, which ensures that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Whereas the game in general could use more levels, the campaign ends up being the perfect length for what it is.
Visually, Just Shapes and Beats nails its simplistic design, and has a kickass aesthetic. The sound design is equally impressive, and the songs and sound effects are one of the game’s core strengths. However, it lacks the same level of quality when it comes to performance, which hinders both of these aspects. The framerate stutters on a semi-regular basis, which throws off both the visuals and the sound. In a game where rhythm and timing are so crucial, it’s a damned shame that these performance issues continually crop up (at least on the Nintendo Switch).
You know that jerk online that relentlessly trash talks you after every kill? That guy was probably Travis "Tie Guy" Northup. Competitive, snarky, and constantly wearing a tie, Travis has been writing his opinions about electronic media since he was a teenager, and is pretty much the only person to hold his opinions in high regard.
Just Shapes and Beats
Just Shapes and Beats is a simplistic, entertaining game to play alone or with friends, but is held back somewhat by performance issues and lack of level variety.