If there’s one thing that gets my engine running, its quirky Japanese games that seem to exist purely to make you smile. Notable releases such as Incredible Crisis, Bishi Bashi Special, PaRappa the Rapper, Katamari Damacy, Vib Ribbon, Space Channel 5 and even more Americanised titles like Crazy Taxi have been keeping the feeling alive for years, but there’s always room for more. Upon reading the description of Beat Sketcher, I was under the impression that it would happily join the list.
Describing Beat Sketcher in a way that will make you understand what you actually have to do is quite difficult, so bear with me. A peppy synth-pop beat plays in the background, and the game paints a line on the screen in time with that music, blaring out a synthesizer sound as it does so – one that fits in with the background track. You then have to copy the game and draw that line yourself with the Motion Controller, also in time with the music. The game then moves on to draw another line, and another, and another, until you’ve finished drawing a picture of a bee, a snowman, or something else that the game challenges you to attempt. In the game’s Challenge Mode, going off course or painting your line out of time with the music causes your life bar to deplete. Adversely, keeping in perfect time and painting like Picasso will give that bar a good shot in the arm, and give you a bit of breathing room that could be the difference between winning and losing.
Beat Sketcher sounds strange, and it is. Essentially, you’re watching the game do something, and then copying it, over and over until the game tells you to stop. Other challenges are available to add a touch of variety, such as filling a shape with a certain colour within a time limit – and that’s not to mention the freestyle drawing modes, which allow you to draw over any pictures you may have saved on your PS3, creating music tracks as you go. It’s all very colourful and upbeat, but if I’m brutally honest, it all feels very, very lightweight.
An attempt at a multiplayer mode has been made but, to be honest, the options are weak at best. Myself and a friend first had a crack at a mode entitled “Four Frame Relay”, and had no idea what to expect. I drew a picture. Then, the screen was wiped and he drew a picture. Once again, the screen cleared down and I was asked to draw, before the same thing happened and he had another crack at it. Then, the game showed us all four pictures, with each one taking up a quarter of the screen. And…that was it. For the YouTube/Facebook/Twitter generation who have to document EVERYTHING THEY EVER DO via a social network, lest they lose their relevancy, the resulting four-panel comic can be uploaded to Facebook directly. That’s about all you can do with it, though.
Other multiplayer offerings are just as pointless, with the exceptions being Paint Battle and Line Battle. Paint Battle gets you to both try and colour as much of the screen as possible, whilst Line Battle pits you in a Tron-style drawing challenge, where you have to draw for as long as you can, without crashing into your own line. To be fair though, both of these games are available as single-player efforts, with the only difference in multiplayer being that you take turns, and the game shows you a comparative score at the end. Not a great deal of thought has been put into the multiplayer side of things at all, and when the single player modes are as devoid of any hooks as they are, that’s not a good thing.
The simple fact is that whichever game mode you go in to, you feel as if you’ve gone to the trouble of buying a PS3 and investing in the Move controllers, only for a Sony rep to turn up at your door and tell you to make your own game up using the box of crayons and massive sheet of paper that he’s brought for you. The music you make is incredibly limited and repetitive, and the images you can create aren’t anything special, and could easily be done in Microsoft Paint. Beat Sketcher is initially a decent laugh for a few minutes, but that fun soon turns into boredom. With more flesh, Beat Sketcher could be a decent game providing infinite possibilities and – subsequently – infinite replayability. As it stands, nearly every game mode has been criminally underdone to the point that you’ll wonder whether or not they’ve purposefully left bits out so that they’ve got some unique selling points for a sequel.
Review contributed by: Ken Barnes