Blazing Beaks is a colorful rogue-lite action game where you play as a variety of fearless beaked creatures attempting to take back Beak World. The procedurally-generated twin-stick shooter challenges you with the task of taking on mutants and monsters that wreak havoc in the world that these birds call home.
Developer Applava takes the traditional formula for dungeon crawlers and gives it a taste of originality. The characters, levels, and gameplay mechanics all add up to challenging but rewarding experience. Looking past some of the game’s issues and omissions, Blazing Beaks is a fluid, action-packed adventure that would win over any major fan of the rogue-lite genre.
Blazing Beaks is available for purchase on the Nintendo eShop for $14.99.
Blazing Beaks contains a story mode that can be played solo or through local cooperative play. This mode can be played in two different ways – normal or seeded.
If you choose to play through the game normally, you are tasked with playing through five stages. Each stage has a varying number of levels that are procedurally generated. Your objective is to defeat all the enemies within the level in order to advance to the next one. After progressing through several levels within the stage, you will eventually be granted access to the boss level. The first time the boss door spawns, you are not forced to go through it. Instead, you can go through two or three more levels in order to obtain more coins and loot that could aid in improving your character’s stats. Eventually, you will be required to enter the final level and battle the stage’s boss. If successful, you will advance to the next area and repeat the cycle. Be warned though, the later you enter the bosses level, the more challenging it will be to defeat; an example of how the reward over risk dynamic is particularly prevalent throughout Blazing Beaks.
In seeded mode, the game takes away the procedurally generated mechanic. If you enter the same seed number, the levels will have the same layout, the same amount of enemies, and the same specific enemy types.
Personally, I found the game more enjoyable by playing through it normally. The idea of not knowing what each level would contain added a level of excitement and anticipation. There was a large amount of suspense starting each level as you don’t know how many enemies you are about to encounter. This process helped me dial in and concentrate on the demanding combat.
Although Blazing Beak’s story mode provides some solid gameplay, it lacks any sort of narrative. At no time are you explained the world’s history and why these mutants have taken over. The only real dialogue you have with NPC’s is at the shop, but even that interaction does nothing to explain what’s going on. The exclusion of a story left me with the feeling of not caring about what was going. If the developers took the time to include a specific plot, I feel Blazing Beaks would have an easier time to be a standout video game. Even though I was bothered by this, Blazing Beak’s objective is clear: to provide an experience that provides senseless arcade fun.
To start off each run, players are given the choice of what bird they would like to play as. This character selection is more than just picking which one you think looks the coolest. Each bird has abilities that will both aid and hinder your playthrough. For example, playing as the chicken has the convenience of killing marked enemies with one shot as well as increasing your weapon range by 80%. In exchange for these advantages, the chicken is also inaccurate while shooting and moving at the same time. I give credit to the developers by adding this extra layer to the characters. It aids in allowing the player to pick a character that goes along with their play style.
In each stage, defeated enemies will sometimes drop “artifacts”. Once picked up, the artifacts will in some way negatively impact the player. Artifacts like the “Nettle” would prevent you from picking up hearts, whereas the artifact ”Death” would kill your player in one hit. But why would you want to carry something that inhibits your playthrough? These artifacts can be exchanged at the shop for items that have a positive impact. These obtained items generally improve things such as increasing your max HP, or increasing the damage or range to your weapon. This is another great example of how Blazing Beaks handles reward over risk. By picking up multiple artifacts, the levels will be much more challenging but you are later rewarded with several items that will make later stages easier. The player really has to decide if they want to make their playthrough simpler near the start of the game, or near the end. After playing through the game several times, I found it was crucial to ensure you have a decent amount of upgrades as later bosses and enemies are going to be more difficult to defeat.
Also dropped by the defeated enemies are coins. Coins can be used at the shop to buy new guns. It should be noted that each character has a specific weapon that they start off with, but the shop will provide the player with the opportunity to purchase guns that will do more damage. If you don’t have a moral compass, you can steal these guns without paying a single coin. The simple mechanic of allowing the players to override the currency system and be rewarded is absolutely genius. It gave me the chance to try out different weapons that would traditionally be difficult to obtain. Of course, with every crime comes with a consequence. Stealing a gun will prevent you from purchasing additional guns later on. So if you’re going to cheat, be prepared to stick with that gun for the remainder of your run.
One of my biggest gripes about the gameplay was its difficulty. Once you die in Blazing Beaks, you are sent back to the very beginning of the game. This was especially frustrating when you progressed to the later stages, only to be severely punished if you die. I’m sure this is familiar territory for old school gamers who grew up in a time before save states were even an option.
Although I got quite angry as my death toll continued to rise, dying over and over again had an odd appeal. Every time I was unsuccessful in my run, I become more motivated to do better the next time. I commend a game that forces me to improve my reflexes and prevent me from taking the easy way out. There is a big difference between a game that is unfair and a game that is challenging. A true difficult game leaves the player wanting more, even when they encounter the feeling of defeat. Blazing Beaks executes this principle perfectly. After successfully beating the game, I felt that it was worth going through the pain and misery that I may have felt in my first couple of hours.
If you do feel that the game is too difficult, there are some accessibility options like auto-aim and lowering the difficulty to make the experience less demanding.
Another complaint I have with Blazing Beaks is its failure to include an online multiplayer component. As mentioned earlier, the story mode can be played with a friend locally. There is another multiplayer mode called “tournament” which pairs you up with three other friends to compete in a variety of deathmatch styled game modes. This is a great addition to the game, but without the ability to play with others online, I felt that many individuals who play Blazing Beaks are not going to feel obligated to see what this mode has to offer.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
The biggest standouts for Blazing Beaks are its accomplishments on a technical level. The game is tremendously well polished and free of any interruptions. At no time did I ever experience any sort of input lag or rubber banding. This is especially crucial for a twin-stick shooter, as there is little room for error when projectiles are flying at you in every direction.
Each environment in Blazing Beaks is beautifully designed. I appreciated that the levels weren’t just replications of the four elements, but instead reached to other kinds of settings. This decision made Blazing Beaks stand out visually, which is sometimes difficult in an industry where the market is flooded by so many other options. The pixel heavy graphics make sense for this kind of genre.
The sound effects and soundtrack seem purposeful. Blazing Beaks doesn’t just include generic 16-bit music, but it includes a soundtrack that paired with each stage. For example, the graveyard stage was matched with music that was ominous and mysterious.