As far as bonkers but brilliant genre mash-ups go, BPM: Bullets Per Minute hits all the right notes. Casting you as a Valkyrie warrior traversing seven rhythmic levels of the underworld, it’s your job to blast your way through legions of demonic creatures, with the gimmick being you can only do so by dodging, jumping, and shooting to the beat. What follows is a flurry of fast-paced FPS madness backed up by a soundtrack dominated by aggressive guitar riffs, acting as the closest thing we’ll ever see to an official DOOM musical.
BPM no doubt owes a great deal to id Software’s classic hellish shooter in terms of its visual and audio design, but by randomising each run with different guns and passive abilities, there’s a sheer unpredictability here you won’t find in an authored single-player campaign. Any roguelike rightly lives or dies on its ability to keep things fresh, so it’s good that despite the order of end-level bosses and their attack patterns never changing, almost every other design element – including vendors, room layouts, and enemy types – is set to shuffle with each new descent.
There’s a definite learning curve to knowing when exactly to fire, but Sam Houghton and Joe Collinson’s procedural score has been designed in such a way that shooting on the on- or off-beat (depending on your weapon) eventually becomes second nature. Initial runs were tough as I had to fight my natural instinct to spam the fire button after taking too many hits. However, after realising BPM better-rewards patient players that can stay in the metrical flow instead of those with an itchy trigger finger, eventually I was treating my gamepad more like a dance mat.
Fire-throwing monkeys, acid-spitting bats – BPM’s various foes all have their ways to land a crafty hit, especially when you first start out with a pistol lacking in range and damage. Survive long enough to gain improved buffs and a better weapon though, having to reload it on the beat three times instead of two often proves to be worth it in the long run.
All your basic actions like run, double-jump, and dash stay consistent across runs, and can be chained together until you’re waltzing around stages for as long as you maintain ownership of the beat. This sense of speed proves invaluable since almost none of your progress in BPM transfers to the next run, and in this way, you’re very much at the mercy of what the game’s algorithm is willing to spit out. Still, given that it only takes 30 or so minutes to finish a run, you’re sure to find a sweet loadout at least once every session.
Initial punishing difficulty aside, BPM: Bullets Per Minute’s fast-paced firing mixes with demonic beats to always keep the action rocking. It’s a masterclass in rhythmic shooter design, and another excellent addition to 2020’s already great roster of roguelikes.
One of BPM’s coolest passive skills is the ability to summon an angelic helper upon recharge. Powers like this can help make the difference between a doubtful or decent run in the underworld, with the most useful discoverable in golden chests unlocked using a precious golden key.
Easily living up to its name and ambitious premise, BPM offers up enough hellish variety to keep you rocking and gunning for hours.
Genre: FPS, Rhythm, Roguelike | Format: PC (tested) | Developer: Awe Interactive | Publisher: Awe Interactive | Price: £15.49 | Release: Out now