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There’s a kind of hellish satisfaction in blowing up monsters to kingdom come with weapons forged by man. This is the reason why fast-paced FPS like Doom, Shadow Warrior, and Serious Sam are a thing – All of them relying on the sheer brutality of obliterating enemies with extreme gratification at the press of a button. Combine that with a hardcore metal soundtrack and you’ve got the flavor for the perfect frag party. This is where AWE Interactive ups the ante – by combining the existing shooter formula with a rhythm-based system sprinkled with roguelike mechanics to create an absolute joy of a game that is BPM: Bullets Per Minute.

Narrative, or the lack thereof

Who needs any plot when there’s an endless supply of foes to maim? Regardless, BPM: Bullets Per Minute has some background story just to set up a motive for the killing spree. You choose a Valkyrie from a roster of 5, each with their unique weaponry, strengths, and weaknesses to blast the enemies straight out of the Nine Realms of Norse Cosmology. That’s about it. Despite being a Valkyrie. you’re not immune to mortal wounds and will die without a second chance at life only to start all over again. Therefore you’ve to “git gud” with the varying arsenal and devastating powers at your disposal. But there’s a catch, and a big one that sets BPM: Bullets Per Minute apart from any shooter out there.

Hit to the beat, baby!

You see, BPM: Bullets Per Minute is a roguelike, rhythm-based shooter. That means you’ll be shooting, jumping, dodging, and reloading to the beats of an absolute head-banging soundtrack. And it’s not just you. The enemies attack in conjunction with the beats as well. It’s like Crypt of the Necrodancer but in the first person; a bit of Beat Saber if you prefer. About time someone combined rhythm mechanics to something as momentum-based as FPS, even though it creates a kind of steep learning curve – even a small mistake will set you back. Similar to something like Darkest Dungeon, you’ll take on a small wave of enemies on a room-by-room basis with the ultimate aim of beating the boss creature to move on to the next level.

Things get somewhat tedious because auto-reload is thrown out of the window; you have to press the reload button twice – once to take out the mag and second to put it back in- and this is just for the pistol. For the revolver or the shotgun, the manual reload is even uglier. You’ll be stuck in numerous instances where you’re in the middle of the frenzied fight but no bullets are coming out of the barrel. Guess they do so ‘per minute’.

BPM has quite the learning curve – It takes a bit of time to get the hang of it. A few more deaths and restarts down the line and you’ll be literally flying across the dungeons – sprinting, jumping/double-jumping, or dodging at the last moment as you get a drop on the flying bats, lunging spiders, killer worms, and whatnot. One tactic I followed on entering a room was to circle strafe at high speed and try to aim, but the pathetic starter weapon of Göll (the default Valkyrie) has a terrible range, and so I had to break off and get closer to the creatures by cutting through the crossfire. You’ll most likely die if you stand still for more than a second as the rooms are chock-full of enemies attacking simultaneously and because of the fact that you also have to pay attention to the music.

This breakneck gameplay is further encouraged by the score multiplier if you’re playing with Auto Rhythm off. The faster you kill the enemies, the more the multiplier increases, and the moment you’re idle, the numbers start decreasing, and if you get hit or miss a beat, the score resets. If that’s hard for you, you can turn on Auto Rhythm in lieu of the score multiplier. But hey, at least you’ll be enjoying the game as you won’t have to fire and reload strictly to the beats. Turning Auto Rhythm on makes the game a whole lot easier, thus making you feel like a killing machine straight outta Valhalla. And god willing, you might be able to unlock the better Valkyries the more you play. However, we do recommend playing the default way unless you’re someone who has a hard time with rhythm games.

The True Roguelike Experience

BPM: Bullets Per Minute is a roguelike, so all the rooms are procedurally generated. And it has, by far, one of the most diverse procedural generations I’ve ever seen. Although some runs may feel the same because the game only reshuffles the dungeon layouts in successive runs, I had runs where I was blasting through a completely new set of dungeons which I hadn’t seen before. And with that came access to new items or powers. There’s a room where you’ve to choose a buff item from a set of four, there’s a blacksmith/shop where you can buy new guns in exchange for gold coins, there’s one with a treasure chest which might give you a health potion, a special item or a skill upgrade, there’s a bank where you can store the accumulated gold coins and can retrieve them in successive runs post-death.

Then there are rooms where you’ll have to fight a mini-boss. But don’t get your hopes high as they don’t necessarily drop anything worthy. It’s always a gold coin, a health potion, or a key. These keys can be used to unlock treasure chests or the Library, and the Library always grants you dope powers like damaging the enemies with an area-denial swipe, teleporting where you’re aiming or draining their health for each damage you take.

Some rooms will have shrines located in one corner where you can tribute a gold coin to skill-up the range, damage, speed, or even your luck. Some will offer you a deal – your health for a bag of coins – accepting which, the Sword of Damocles will pierce you negating a portion of your health. Though you can always buy health potions from that big, chain-bound chicken’s shop. Some rooms offer three chests – one containing an actual treasure and the other two containing a  … surprise, though they offer little to no challenge.

Then there are rooms where you can grind endlessly. These are the Challenge Rooms wherein upon entering and pulling a lever, the game spawns new types of enemies. Frankly, it’s more of a suicide than grind as the end result will be one or two coins or a health potion. Things like this become more hardcore when the procedural generation throws different scenarios at your face. For example, there’ll be instances where the first level is plunged in nigh-darkness (Dark Asgard) and you’ve to use your auto-flashlight to fight. Good luck mapping out those bats and worms in the dark. Then there’s Frozen Asgard where the ground will be frozen with slippery ice. This is where your momentum becomes your biggest enemy. I also came across Space Asgard where gravity seemed to be nerfed. Oh, and don’t get me started on Inverted Asgard. That’s the stuff of nightmares!

You wanna go one on one with me? 

The boss battles in BPM: Bullets Per Minute are something to behold and really feel like goddamn “boss battles”. The game’s music goes completely nuts and so do your fingers as you try to match your pace to the rhythm all while shooting and dodging their area-denial barrage. Only one objective in mind, get a drop on them before they obliterate you. And when the bosses are on low health, the music rises into a dramatic finale of strings as they stand stunned for you to finish them off, with each shot pertaining to a strike of the heavy-metal guitar riff. BPM: Bullets Per Minute has by far some of the best boss killing themes you’ll find in the shooter genre. Seven boss types corresponding to seven levels (and each sub-level within having different variations of the same boss) and a final big boss to kill at the endgame. Each boss has its unique moveset and attack patterns that you must learn to exploit without dying lest you’ll have to start afresh.

Red is the color of blood. Not yours though.

BPM: Bullets Per Minute has this invasive, oversaturation of red, orange, and yellow coating everything in pixelated textures. In fact, you’ll feel right back at Hell from Doom when it’s just Asgard. The final enemy within each room explodes into a bright flaming red indicating the area is clear and the small chest is open. However, do note that BPM: Bullets Per Minute uses assets like character models and weapons from the canceled F2P multiplayer Paragon, but that can be overlooked considering how properly the devs have utilized this. This is because the aggressive visuals are further intensified by the background score, an epic playlist of rock opera playing as you pulverize the demons of hell. I might as well say that this is on par with that of Doom.

In terms of performance, there were no issues except for the choppy sounds during the developer logo. In addition to that, even though the main game doesn’t suffer from long loading times, the menu screen does. Many times I had to wait nearly a minute staring at the black screen after the studio intro to get to the menu screen.


Real Talk

BPM: Bullets Per Minute is super-stylized, visceral, and aggressive to the core, first because of its hellish visuals and second because of its pure “metal as frag” background score right from the menu screen. Playing as an angry Valkyrie to fight demonic forces while jamming to guitar riffs is the epitome of badassery that few shooters manage to convey. The procedural generation is by far one of the best I’ve seen. The boss battles are truculent and bombastic. The only downside is you’ve to keep playing and dying to get a hang of it. Don’t fear that you’ll lose your dignity if you play this on easy mode with Auto Rhythm on as rhythm shooting is a new thing and might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you want a challenging and refreshing take on the FPS formula, BPM: Bullets Per Minute is your game.

  1. Can we stop calling stuff like this roguelikes?

    Roguelikes are a genre built from the ground up on tiles and turns.
    You wouldnt call World of Warcraft a MUD. You wouldnt call CoD a point and click adventure. You wouldnt call mario 64 a text adventure, and you wouldnt call Dark Souls a racing game. Why then would you call this a roguelike when it’s literally nothing of relation to the game “Rogue” and thus “unlike” Rogue?

    “BEHOLD! A man!”~Diogenes, yelling sarcastically while holding a plucked chicken.

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