Beatstar is the hot new mobile rhythm game in town — not to be confused with popular anime Beastar. With easy to grasp gameplay that smoothly scales up in difficulty, combined with playlists that are tailored to preferred age groups and musical eras, Beatstar will appeal to a wide range of mobile gamers. But can it keep up in a stacked category of great rhythm games, or possibly even rank among the best Android games? That depends on your musical tastes, your level of patience, and how much money you may or may not be willing to fork over.
Beatstar's gameplay presentation will look familiar to Guitar Hero fans. Three vertical musical bars stretch the length of your phone display; square music blocks drop from the top of the screen towards you to the beat of the music. You then have to tap or swipe the notes precisely as they overlap with your Perfect bar. The closer the notes to the Perfect bar's center, the better your score will be — ranging from the obvious perfect, to great, to flat-out misses.
If you miss a note entirely, the song actually stops dead in its tracks and asks the player to pay gems to get re-do on just that portion of the song. If you choose to pay up, the song rewinds just a bit and then gives you another chance to hit that note correctly this time. The cost to try again increases with each additional note missed, so precision is crucial to being able to complete tracks.
Beatstar looks and feels excellent to play. The gameplay is sleek and professional, the UI is perfectly acceptable, and the range of songs available is hard to beat. It's an especially nice touch how the background and notes will progressively glow brighter and brighter the longer you can keep a perfect streak up. It really makes you feel like you're a total rockstar when you've got a killer streak going!
Beatstar has a couple of crucial ticks against it though. The first is the more petty gripe for me: you can only play the game in online mode. This is frustrating for players like me, who travel and love to play games on planes. In-flight wifi is frequently terrible and I never want to pay for it, so mobile games without an offline mode lose serious value in my view.
My more serious complaint with Beatstar is that its monetization severely punishes hardcore players who don't pay up. The way Beatstar's progression works is that you start with about 10 songs at level 1 and then you unlock new songs through gaining XP as you complete tracks.
XP converts into genre-based lootboxes that will spit you out a random track within that category upon opening them up. This isn't so bad when you're below level 2. But once you start to actually progress beyond beginner levels, the lootbox timers ratchet up in duration, until you'll wait hours for a lootbox to open.
Worse yet, you only have 3 available slots for pending boxes; once they're all full, you quite literally cannot play the game anymore until one of your slots runs its course and becomes available again. This even includes being able to play songs that you've already unlocked. This probably won't be an issue for casual players who only play one or two songs a day, but it rapidly becomes a problem for heavy users.
This punishing paywall is an unfortunate symptom of Beatstar's terminal case of Free-To-Play Syndrome. This illness is in no way unique to Beatstar, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating, especially when you compare it to other rhythm games' more forgiving monetization schemes.
In short, I have to admit that Beatstar isn't for me, but I can easily see how this game would appeal to other players. It's an especially good choice if your main motivator for playing rhythm games lies in getting to play along to your favorite songs. Beatstar boasts a vast array of musical genres with tracks from real-life artists like Lady Gaga, Outkast, Doja Cat, and Owl City, just to name a few.
You've got pop, rock, hip-hop, alternative, electronic, and just about any other primary genre you can think of. Compare that with more heavily EDM-inspired games like Cytus II and it's easy to understand how players may gravitate more toward Beatstar than more niche music-based games.
Beatstar is free to play with ads and in-app purchases, so it's a great free game to try out — at least for a few songs. Just go into it ready to deal with some blatant monetization incentives, which isn't for everyone. If you're willing to fork over some serious cash to speed things up, then heck yeah, get in there, champ!
Just beat it!
Can you keep up?
Easy to pick up but difficult to master, Beatstar is a great new rhythm game for lovers of all types of contemporary hits.
A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.
I hate heavy monetization as much as the next guy, but I think you may have stated why there is so much of it. As a musician, I know that licensing commercial music such as what is found in this game costs a lot of money. One or two isn't cheap, but the hundreds of tracks you mention must be into the millions of dollars. So I guess you can either have the real music, or go play crap you do not recognize.
Very fair point! However, I still wish that there were alternative options like being able to purchase the game outright up to X amount of songs, for example. Additional songs could then be purchased like packs, giving the player more power to choose which genres they WANT to pay more for. I don't think there's ever going to be an ideal or perfect way to monetize a game like this, but having more choice in the matter would be a nice place to start.
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