Indiewatch – BPM: Bullets Per Minute is if DOOM became a music rhythm game

Have you ever seen a YouTube kill compilation that times every shot and kill in a first-person shooter to the thumping beats of an awesome metal background track? Well BPM: Bullets Per Minute is that, in-game form. Perhaps explained more clearly, BPM is Crypt of the Necrodancer but as a shooter. It’s exactly the same in a myriad of ways. It’s a rogue-lite dungeon crawler where all your actions need to be taken to the beat of the background track, but while Crypt of the Necrodancer is all about hopping around a grid and solving puzzles, BPM is about shooting, strafing, re-loading, and killing enough demons to make Doomguy blush.

There is something delightfully unique about adapting this sort of gameplay to a shooter. In Crypt of the Necrodancer, there is only ever one beat. However, the nature of the various firearms found in BPM forces you to become familiar with different rhythms in the game’s music. A shotgun might only be able to fire on each beat, but a faster weapon like a pistol or SMG can fire on the off beats as well and a slower rocket launcher style weapon might only be able to fire every other beat. The same goes for special abilities such as healing or big AOE nukes. Not only that, but each weapon’s firing beat and reloading beat are not necessarily the same. A shotgun, for example, might fire on each note but reloads with four prompts on each quarter note.

And much like Necrodancer, everything, and I mean everything, moves to the beat of the music. Enemies only attack to the beat of the music, many times telegraphing their major AOE attacks. Your dodges have to be timed to the music. Environmental hazards go off to the time of the music. Everything is governed by the music. If you get the hang of the music you understand the flow of the game.

But that’s the flow in battle, out of battle, this is basically your standard rogue-lite formula. You’ll be placed in increasingly harder dungeons with increasingly harder enemies as you try to get to the end. Die, and your run is over. Survive long enough and you might find shrines to increase your core stats, armor to give you passive bonuses, shops with new weapons, and libraries that give you new skills.

However, one thing I liked about BPM is that your runs never seem fated to die due to a bad roll of the dice. Even if you end up spawning the hardest dungeons with the weakest equipment available, you can still get quite far if you just keep to the beat. BPM rewards skill tremendously and even a slight bit of music and shooter skill pays off in a big way. This isn’t just a numbers game.

Completing a run isn’t the end of the game either. Once you get the knack of the game you can beat a run in about 40 minutes to an hour. However, each completed run unlocks something new. Maybe you want to take on the dungeon on a new difficulty level. Maybe you want to use a new character who, in the style of Binding of Isaac, fundamentally changes the rules of the game. Completing the game also unlocks new abilities for the characters you already have, making future runs slightly different.

And that’s what keeps you playing BPM, the slightly different nature of each run. After that, it’s just a matter of how much you like the music and how much you enjoy blowing the heads off demons with holy powered rifles.

It’s not a perfect game. For one, the battle arenas can use a lot of work. For the most part, they are just flat planes and you can literally play through them as if you are playing Doom 2, with no vertical looking whatsoever. The general color palette could use work too. Everything is washed out in red and yellow, which is supposed to give it a demonic look but really kind of makes it look like a glitching Virtual Boy.

But despite its flaws, there is a lot of work put into this game. Besides, even if you don’t like the rhythm gimmick you can just turn it off! In that case, the game will read your inputs and immediately make you fire and dodge to the beat. That way you get all the fun without being penalized for having no rhythm.

In short, check out BPM. It’s a great idea at a budget price with a ton of replay value. Like most rogue-lites, this won’t be the GOTY nominee that blows your mind, but it will certainly keep you occupied for several runs.