Switch version tested
Review code provided
Blazing Beaks is a Gungeon style roguelike and another welcomed Steam port that flaps its way onto the Nintendo Switch. Daring you to risk it all as you progress through 6 worlds filled with all manner of nasty villains and bosses to overcome, in this land death is permanent and Groundhog Day syndrome is not too far away. The six worlds feature procedurally generated levels, so no two runs are ever truly the same as you may be fighting through multiple levels armed and buffed like Schwarzenegger eating green berets for breakfast before reaching a boss chamber in one playthrough only to reach it on your next play with only 1HP and a pistol to your name. Each world has its specific enemy types, but these will also spawn in different formations and quantities to keep you on your toes.
A wide selection of loot is on offer to help and hinder you ensuring the tone of risk and reward is ever present, gaining abilities is a no brainer but taking on a few “artefacts” as they drop may slow movement speed, reduce weapon range or cause insta-death if an enemy touches you, but survive long enough to make it to a shop (highlighted with a handy lantern) and you can trade these in for some truly useful yet randomised items from increase in overall HP, special weapons, increased damage or loot drops and so on. Enemies will also drop coins to spend in these shops along with keys to unlock bonus levels which all feature a chest of loot. Certain buffs may reward you with a coin for each new level you enter increasing your chances to purchase to juicy firepower sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, you have a selection of eight feathered friends to tackle these devious dungeons, five are available from the start with three to be unlocked. Like most elements of BB, there is always some give and take, each character has buff and a weakness so experimentation with each character will be the key to finding which one suits you best. To start with I found myself gravitating towards the chicken who begins with 4HP and wields a long-range starter weapon with the ability to one hit kill a highlighted enemy, the downside to this is a reduced accuracy when running which you will be doing a lot, this forced me to favour the dodge roll ability to survive chaotic encounters.
As my playstyle developed I soon moved onto experimenting with the other birds finding the most success with the Parrot and Penguin. Some characters may start with powerful weapons and pre-given keys but low HP, depending on your style you may wish to utilise these abilities in the hope that your run might see you finding a few HP increases or shield abilities and therein lies the beauty of BB, everything is a gamble that forces you to navigate the path as it unfolds, inspiring experimentation with different abilities and artefacts. Given the option of entering a boss chamber based on your current loadout or heading into another level in the hope of finding more health or abilities yet not knowing how long it may be before the boss reappears or if you can survive that long is a choice you will have to make and stand by.
BB is a challenging game but in the right way, frustration is sure to occur but not to the extent that you will want to give up entirely, me being a seasoned gamer of mature mind opted for the age-old tactic of swearing while pulling a stupid face, turning it off while I threw a paddy, receiving a disapproving look from my cat then turning it back on with renewed determination to do better and get further. The gameplay is precise and learning enemy attack patterns will not only help you save yourself, but you can also turn these attacks against other foes. If an enemy explodes into a pool of acid this will hurt the creatures that touch it as will explosions and traps so be inventive, experiment and on occasion just appreciate your luck.
I had levels where every enemy died in an instant due to a chain reaction of one walking over a trap and exploding in a blaze of guts and glory taking out all its minions leaving me to stroll through like Mr Soft and collect the loot without firing a shot. Knowing which foliage can be destroyed and hidden behind will also benefit your strategy, even if you find yourself dying quickly to begin with you will always be taking something away with you to aid in your next attempt which adds a genuine sense of achievement to progression.
Bosses are fun, inventive and complete bastards, each will have a randomly chosen difficulty reflected in the number of skulls in its health bar. Like all good boss designs from Devil May Cry to Mario it’s down to learning attack patterns and weaknesses, once you have faced off against the first couple of bosses a few times you will know what to expect and if you have been lucky with your loot, despatch them quickly making having to start again less of a grind but don’t let your overconfidence become your weakness.
Despite the challenge that faces you, Applava has been sure to give everyone a fair crack at success. Three difficulty options are available, all of which are balanced accordingly, Easy isn’t a breeze by any stretch but perfect if you find yourself struggling and want to learn enemy patterns before tackling the harder settings. Up to four player local co-op features meaning all your friends can get in on the action and if you want to go for bragging rights why not take them on in a number of head-to-head battles to determine who stays regular or extra crispy!
Graphics and sound design are right on the money in BB. Opting for a retro look that sometimes overstays it’s welcome among indie titles, this colourful and precise style thankfully works wonders here. Whether playing in docked or handheld mode everything stands out nicely and oozes with charm. Each world features a catchy theme that builds the atmosphere and personality of its creatures while the title screen theme will likely be your next ringtone! Controls are simple, move with the left stick, aim with the right stick, fire with R and use abilities with L while grabbing pickups and using doors with A.
It’s hard to remember the last time a game hooked me the way Blazing Beaks has, odd as it may seem I find myself in mind of the original Diablo with multiple playthroughs always feeling new but familiar. This simple yet charismatic title really delivers everything it sets out to achieve and has been a big talking point among the bearded ones throughout the review period. The retro look and instant challenge will likely put a few people off, but for those who see past the throwback design will find a challenging but rewarding title. With a simple playstyle for gamers of all ages to enjoy, Blazing Beaks is the ideal title to have on your switch memory card for either long or short gaming sessions. Plus, you can play as a shotgun-wielding duck!
TBG Score: 9/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch, Steam
Release Date: 10/05/2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Action, Arcade, Role-Playing
Download link: eShop