BPM: Bullets Per Minute review: Boom eternal

by Lars
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BPM: Bullets Per Minute is unholy. It is an often frustrating, mind-boggling union of the rhythm and FPS genres, challenging anyone who steps through its booby-trapped doors to set aside every instinct they’ve honed over their gaming journey and learn it all again. There have been many times where I’ve booted it up only to feel discouraged and inadequate within the first five minutes of play. But, like an abusive polyamorous relationship, I keep going back to get the rebellion kicked out of me by the multiple, deftly woven genres that come together to deliver BPM.

A pounding electronic metal soundtrack accompanies some stylistically oversaturated visuals as the game demands you – a heavily armed valkyrie – save Asgard from a hellish invasion. Really, the theme is some admittedly awesome window dressing, because BPM is all about the mastering of its core gameplay hook.

Everything moves in time to the music – your attacks, reloading, enemy attacks, punishing boss moves that demand rhythmic compliance to avoid. Try to brute force your way through Asgard’s roguelike halls (even with the game’s friendly auto-rhythm setting) and it will kick you back out on your ass on the first level. Multiple times. This game is not beginner-friendly – you can’t progress out of the first level until you’ve mastered the beat, but it does make the process of trying enjoyable.

BPM: Bullets Per Minute gameplay showing a firefight with the enemy

When it all finally starts to click, your gunshots/reloads become part of the soundtrack that’s noodling on behind everything you do, and swarms of enemies fall before a perfectly timed onslaught. And then you move onto the next level, and the challenge begins anew. It was developed with that fast and furious classic shooter mentality, and it does marry very well with the rhythm element. It’s just uniquely challenging and doesn’t compromise on that punishing core value.

The two-person team behind the game wanted to make something that would have a cult following – something that a select few would really get the most enjoyment out of, and I feel like they’ve certainly achieved that. I love the game’s music, I love the aesthetic, I love the adapted Norse mythological backdrop they’ve employed to bring it all together – but I don’t see myself persisting with BPM beyond the time I’ve already spent with it. It’s beautifully crafted, but I’m just not very good at it, and I suspect a lot of people will feel that way.

There are tons of upgrades to acquire along the way – your attributes will all be increased by pick-ups, weapons regularly rotate, and power-ups can change the way your attacks behave. Much like Binding of Isaac, it’s hard to find two runs exactly alike. During my time in the first dungeon, I had one run which lavished me with easy rooms to clear and bountiful coins/upgrades but still perished within seconds of fighting the first boss because I hadn’t figured out his mechanic properly yet.

BPM: Bullets Per Minute gameplay showing a gun blowing the enemy to bits

You can’t really “luck out” with builds as you might in other roguelikes, because no matter how powerful your character becomes, you’re still enslaved by the rhythm. As a result, the gameplay feels tense and frantic, but it really all comes down to a 4/4 measure you’ve got to pay attention to. Once you’ve forced your brain around that, you don’t get your ass handed to you as often, but it was hard – for me, at least – to get out of the mindset of blasting anything that moved as quickly as possible. The soundtrack is perfectly executed, and discovering more of it was a big motivator in clearing the levels.

BPM: Bullets per Minute overall thoughts

So BPM: Bullets per Minute – it’s not a game for everyone. It’s not even a game for everyone who likes Norse mythology, roguelikes and rhythm games. But for the people this game was made for – those select few with either the natural timing or saintly patience required to master it – BPM is probably gonna be something of a rare treasure, handcrafted to deliver an enthralling, punishing experience. Despite loving all of its individual parts, I can’t bring myself to be one of those people, so I will admire this gorgeous, pulsing challenge from afar, and watch better players than me kick its ass on YouTube.

BPM: Bullets per Minute is developed and published by indie studio Awe Interactive. The game is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. You can find more info about the game on the official website HERE, and more of our reviews on our site HERE.

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