PAX South 2018: Just Shapes and Beats

Bullet hell games are just plain fun. Sprinkle in some kick-ass music and you get… well, you get Undertale, but remove the RPG elements and instead focus on syncing up the music and gameplay, and that’s how you get Just Shapes and Beats by Berzerk Studio. I’d wanted to play the game since Friday, but there was such a long line for the last two days that I wasn’t able to until bright and early Sunday morning. It was worth it, though, because Just Shapes and Beats is awesome.

The demo I got to play consisted of three levels, two standard levels and a boss level. Each of the four players controls a different shape, and the goal is to get to the end of the level without all four shapes dying. Every time a shape gets hit by anything pink, it’ll lose a fraction of its health. Once it runs out, it’ll start scrolling off the screen, unable to move, unless another shape flies over it and brings it back to life. The first two levels were easy enough once I got used to the controls, but the boss level was brutal, throwing so much stuff at you you’re forced to rely on pure instinct and blind luck to have any hope of surviving.

That’s a bit an exaggeration, but Just Shapes and Beats was a lot of fun. As expected, you move around with the control stick to avoid the bullets, but you also get a dash that turns you invincible for the duration, allowing you to rescue your allies or escape an incoming laser. It took a little while to get used to, as I kept dashing into other obstacles, but it was a lot of fun once I mastered it.

There’s a decent collection of artists making the music, including FamilyJules, a personal favorite of mine. All the music in the demo was high-energy chiptune, so I was curious if all the music would be in a similar vein or if FantomenK would be making chiptune while Jules brought something more metal. The developer running the booth told me that the base game would be entirely chiptune, with more genres appearing in DLC packs post-release.

According to steam, Just Shapes and Beats will be releasing “someday, God please someday”, and hopefully that’s on the horizon, as I’d love to play this some more.

Maxwell Broggi-Sumner
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.

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PAX South 2018