BeamOut is essentially a mix between Arkanoid and Pinball, except you are in control of the ‘ball’ the whole time. And there are no paddles. And no flippers. And the ball is a UFO.
You play the part of a UFO stranded on Earth, with the aim to clear each level of sheep and blocks to progress to the next. The game is viewed from above, with the option to control the craft with either touch or tilt.
Touch is definitely easier, as tilt is quite sensitive and hard to get used to, although there are settings to adjust for this. Your ship bounces off everything in the levels, so you’ll need to set the options just to your liking to prevent frustration.
There are various obstacles to get in your way, from pigs that just wander around and block your path, to barrels and black sheep that can damage your shields. There are also a variety of collectibles to aid you, such as a magnet that helps you zoom in on blocks and one that helps you go straight through them. There are also a decent array of blocks that react differently to you, as some will require one of two hits, while some will run away from you when you touch them.
The levels get more interesting as you progress, with enemy UFO’s attacking you, but the problem here is in the basic gameplay. As I said before, the craft bounces off everything, and this can be a fun element, but the inertia combined with the sluggish controls make hitting large groups of blocks something of a chore. You end up just bouncing back and forth, chipping away at them, which soon becomes boring, especially as you can sometimes feel as if your input has little to do with what’s happening onscreen when things are busy.
This would be so much better with a reduced bounce effect and far less inertia. Customisable controls help, but don’t really address the core problem.
The graphics are quite nice, and the various animals have plenty of character as you chase them around, and the action never slows down, even with a whole tonne of things on screen at once. The soundtrack is very impressive, and helps to add a lot of atmosphere to the title.
Less impressive is the fact that the game has frozen on me a couple of times, but the developer is usually quick to fix problems so hopefully this will only be a temporary issue. There are plenty of high score tables, a stats screen and 30 levels to shoot through, although as most of the levels are pretty short, it won’t take too long until you are facing the impressive final boss.
This is a fairly good arcade style game, and has a good sense of humour running throughout, but the basic gameplay issues prevent me from scoring this any higher.