Sony's music games are legendary. From the talents of Masaya Matsuura and his team Nana-On Sha we received the groundbreaking Parappa and Lammy, as well as the instant cult-classic vib-ribbon. The standard has been raised again and again, and, unfortunately, Beat Planet Music is a tired exercise in shallow gameplay, with more style than substance. A music game-cum-music editor, this non-Nana product fails to deliver in a variety of respects.
At first, BPM seems very promising - the opening is a bit corny, but the style is there, and the interface and graphics are hot. Design work on this game is provided by Me Company, the graphic designers responsible for the amazing artwork featured on Bjork's album covers. Unfortunately, while style abounds, just about nothing else does. The game tries to go in two directions at once, and its viability is hampered by its abysmal failure to come up with a reasonable gameplay model to complement the decent music-editing.
The core of the game portion of BPM rests on the uncreative analogy of traveling down a network cable from one glamorous international city to the next. What you control is essentially a cursor, hurtling ever forward through the blackness. The track you travel down has six parallel channels; moving left or right moves over a section. Where pulsating green arrows point, you must move into and hit the circle button as flowerlike packets appear on the screen. If you hit the packet exactly as you pass into it, it will dissolve into a green octagonal burst. The point of the game is to go as green as possible, without missing packets. The packets represent notes and appear on beats of the songs. The velocity you stream through the data tube depends on the BPM - beats per minute - of the song being played.
The graphics are wild. Colorful, dancing abstract designs surround the track while your cursor hurtles down it and provide an extremely appealing, sometimes visually stunning background to the sadly simplistic action of hitting the circle button repeatedly. Neat fact: You can get a decent score if you have an autofire joypad. Unfortunately, you'll still have to move the cursor to the left and right, so you can't just watch the pretty graphics and munch a snack. The music burbles along, a sonically mediocre ambient mishmash that is generated by the large sample library contained on the disc. While your cursor flies along, packets are generated in vague tandem with this predictable melody, and you simply tap the circle button. You might want to try to look at the pretty graphics, but you're going to have to concentrate on the packets. On the harder levels, you'll barely have the peripheral vision to spare.That's all there is to it - the game scrolls by itself, and you don't have to change directions very frequently. The graphics swirl and coruscate vibrantly while the track zooms past - it seems as if the engine would have been better used for an F-Zero clone. The music that's supposed to engage your attention while you push the buttons that allegedly relate to it is extremely basic ambient techno. In each city you travel to you'll have to beat two trials on the "local network" and then a third trial on the "global network," which serves as the pathway between the two cities. When you arrive at a new city, you're greeted by an extremely hideous plastic person with a deathlike grimace frozen on his face. Each of these charactershas an excessively cute handle, such as Dex, Dogstar, Souljah, or Smoothie. These techno-mannequins have helpful hints and tips, which they post in the BBS section of the "BPM-OS." Unfortunately, while the bulk of the game is in English, these snippets are in Japanese. All dialogue originating from the international coalition of rave-bots is unreadable to English speakers.
And now we come to the second function of BPM. Not only must you suffer through dull-as-dishwater ambient music as you play the game, you can generate it! Once you've played through all the courses, which range from absurdly easy to extremely easy to pretty damn easy to spontaneously so hard you'll want to bludgeon the developers for making you concentrate on such a dull game, you get the full version of the music software. The software is a decent tracker made up of all of the instrument samples you've unlocked by playing the game through. If you combine them randomly, you get a vaguely listenable ambient track - not unlike every other second of the game's music. You can actually generate samples from your own CDs, and it's obvious that the developers put effort into this section of the game. The big problem with this feature is going to be competition from MTV Music Generator and the hideous task of completing all of the levels in order to unlock this beast. Another problem with BPM is that you had better like this game - because it snarfs down 15 memory-card blocks no matter what. That's right, even if you're just saving so you can continue later in the game, and you haven't generated any of your own music, you have to devote an entire memory card to it. The main problem with BPM is competition. The gameplay is so mediocre that you would be well-advised to pick any other music game over it; if you're import-shopping, the excellent and recent vib-ribbon is an obvious choice. If you're looking to create your own songs on the PS, MTV Music Generator would definitely be a wiser purchase. While BPM's English text and ease of use speak highly of it in terms of import gaming, it's really not worth it with better games out. Avoid it.