BPM: Bullets Per Minute – Fight of the Valkyries
BPM: Bullets Per Minute
I wouldn’t say I am really into rhythm games. I played games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and I love playing Beat Saber, but I wouldn’t say they are necessarily my forte. But I do commend when people try to mix other genres with that of rhythm, such as Crypt of the Necrodancer, even if I am rather bad at it. However, it’s games like that that allow others to open up and create similar works, like BPM: Bullets Per Minute.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute is a first-person rhythm shooter developed and published by AWE Interactive. BPM is that mixture of Crypt of the Necrodancer and DOOM that people have been looking for. But did they deliver upon such a hype premise?
Choose Your Valkyrie
The story of BPM: Bullets Per Minute is rather simple, and is the least prevalent I’ve ever seen a story in a video game. You play as a Valkyrie who is trying to repel the forces of the underworld from Asgard. Begin game.
Before you begin a game, you get to choose your Valkyrie. The only one available at the start is Goll, who is armed with the basic pistol. As you go through the game, you’ll unlock other Valkyries once certain conditions are met. Each Valkyrie has their own starting weapon and their own beginning stats. For example, Goll starts with 100 Health, while Hildr starts with 50 Health and 25 Shield, but has a huge starting boost in Speed.
Shoot to the Beat
In the same vein of Crypt of the Necrodancer, BPM is a shooter where almost everything you do, from jumping, to dashing, to shooting, to even reloading, is done to a beat or a half-beat. If you can’t manage to keep it in rhythm, it won’t happen. You just won’t do it.
Now, thanks to the kindness of the devs, they have added accessibility options for those who aren’t as musically compatible. Not only do they have an option to lower the strict nature of the beats, but you can also just switch it off completely with Auto-Rhythm. For transparency, I put mine to Loose. So I still needed to be on beat, but it wasn’t that strict.
As for the weapons, I will say that I enjoy a good percentage of them. Each of them feel unique enough to never feel similar to another, and their differing reloading rhythms do make you consider which one to prefer. Some guns will even require an extra click to rack the pump or use the lever, and some will even require you to reload one bullet at a time. So to be quick on the buttons is a necessity, especially in the middle of combat.
Your Song Starts Now
Every BPM run is going to be made up of eight procedurally-generated levels, with each two levels making up a specific setting like Asgard, Vanaheim, Svartalfheim, and Helheim. Each level can have it’s own modifier, like being dark so you use a flashlight or being in space so you can jump higher.
As you go through the level, you’ll be fighting enemies, collecting coins and keys while finding items that’ll help you on your journey. While you can only carry one weapon at a time, items will take up a slot somewhere on your character. These will be either one of the two ability slots or one of the four armor slots: helmet, shield, boots, and gauntlets. You can’t have more than one of any item that is meant specifically for a slot, so you’ll have to consider the benefits of taking one over the other. Do you want the shield that gives you one more life, or the one that gives you infinite ammo?
You’ll acquire these items through a modicum of means. There are rooms dedicated to receiving items, some will require a key and some will not. There are shrines where you give multiple coins or keys for an item. You can also enter challenge rooms where you face off against enemies for rewards. And then there are the shops, both headed by a raven of Odin: Muninn, who is the blacksmith, and Huginn, who is the shopkeep.
In the beginning, these shops will seem rather barebones, only allowing you very little items to buy. However, as you play the game, and continue to purchase from them, you’ll gain loyalty with them, and thus they will start providing more things to buy and even upgrades to stats.
Building Your Stats
Speaking of stats, peppered throughout the levels will be shrines that will give you one point in a certain stat like damage or range in exchange for a single coin. They can be fairly hard to spot considering the art direction of the game, but finding one pertaining to a stat that you really need to upgrade is always a good feeling. And requiring only one coin makes it almost a no-brainer if you’re not strapped for cash.
If you are low on coin, there are banks where you can deposit and withdraw coins. They will only allow you to deposit ten coins each level, but these coins will stay there until you pick them back up, and that includes different runs. Also the bankers are pretty cute.
Lastly, you will come across rooms that will have little platforming challenges that are completely optional, but might provide you something special, like a shrine or a chest. These platforming challenges can be tough, but it’s a fun little addition to a rogue-like that I can appreciate.
At the end of each level, you’ll face that level’s boss. Now, the boss is fixed to each level, so you’ll always face Draugr in Asgard I. However, they also have modifiers that make the fight go in unexpected directions, like being near invisible or on fire.
Once the boss is defeated, they’ll stand there as they await the final shots that will end their life in a spectacular climax. Each bullet will come with its own beat, but it’s to your own rhythm, so you can execute a boss in whatever crescendo you want. It’s a good feeling.
A Track For Every Stage
Overall, the music of BPM is amazing. They did a really good job making each level’s background sound unique to it, and keeping the beat up so it can match up with the high pace of the combat. They make sure every shot, every reload, every sound you make can match up to the beat and sound good. Additionally, I appreciate the little bits where they allow the player to add additional instruments or sounds to the fight. Explosions cause claps to join in, and there’s even an ability that produces a drum-roll that will repeatedly damage the enemy.
What I enjoy the most about this game is that, even though it’s a rogue-like, and receiving the best items is still important, there is still a good amount of skill needed that will carry you through to the end. In my first successful run, I didn’t even have the Skeleton Key or the Infinite Ammo shield. I did have a Gauss Gun, which is pretty OP, but I was able to get through it all without needing some of the more useful items.
A run won’t last that long. My first successful run took me less than an hour, so it’s a game you could easily just put on and play for an hour to get a few runs in. To make things easier for the next run, you’ll gain a secondary and ultimate ability for each character you finish a run with, giving them something extra to nudge the odds in your favor. Also, you’ll unlock challenges throughout your run to play separate from it to challenge yourself in other ways. These include making the game look retro, or even having your movement restricted by the beat.
Now on to the cons. While I do love the art direction of the game, it’s obvious most of it is carried by the high saturation filter. You can lower it, but it will make the game look gray and boring, so it is almost a requirement if you want to keep enjoying the game. The graphics are fine, but I can’t say most of them were up to the developers since most of the models are Paragon assets they recycled (which is fine, those assets are royalty-free).
Because of this, I also found the enemies to be somewhat lacking in terms of context. For example, there aren’t really any scorpions in Norse Mythology, so to be fighting scorpion enemies later in the game made this feel less like a Norse game where you play as a Valkyrie, and just a regular shooter where you are fighting random enemies.
Lastly, I think this game could use some help with its optimization. Later on, you’ll obviously encounter more enemies in each room as you go. Even though my laptop is pretty powerful, it does begin to chug a bit during these last sections. While these haven’t caused my death, it really shouldn’t be running that badly.
Despite all this, I can say I heavily enjoyed my time with BPM: Bullets Per Minute. It’s a fun game with a genre mashup that fits extremely well. And to know that the devs want to add more to the game, it gets me excited for what I will see next time I start a run. No matter what you do in this game, you’ll feel pretty awesome, and that’s what I look for the most in games such as these.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on PC. Game provided by Awe Interactive.