Beat Slayer scratches both my Hi-Fi Rush and Hades itches, even if its functional soundtrack is short a few bangers

It's not a surprise that I've enjoyed what I've played of Beat Slayer so far. I like roguelikes, I like action games—and while I'm not much of a rhythm fiend, I adored Hi-Fi Rush. After taking Beat Slayer's demo for a whirl, I'm already impressed, even if it doesn't quite fire on all cylinders.

You play Mia, a rocker chick armed with a set of headphones in a dystopic Berlin under the thrall of an evil DJ—who also happens to be holding your brother captive. That elevator pitch is stronger than the dialogue itself, unfortunately—but if you don't mind the game's 90s brand of corny then there's plenty to like. In terms of its visuals, Gorgeous character art and a snazzy UI do a lot to boost an otherwise standard grungy style.

The game succeeds in one vital area: locking into the beat. One interesting spin is that, while some enemies attack on-tempo, others don't—and many of your robotic foes even mix it up. That sounds annoying on paper, until you realise you've got a kick that you can use for crowd control. 

Unlike like Hi-Fi Rush, your defence game in Beat Slayer is less about your rhythm and more about your spacing and situational awareness. Staying on tempo does, however, put you in Tanzenreich: a flow-state that makes your axe-thwacks more powerful, and it's dang satisfying to keep that plate spinning.

Unfortunately, Beat Slayer doesn't quite bullseye a very important part of any rhythm action game—its music. It just never quite gripped me in the way that Hi-Fi Rush, Crypt of the Necrodancer, or FURI (not a rhythm game, but Carpenter Brut did some magic with its OST) did. None of it's actively bad to listen to, mind, and there's plenty of head-bopping to be had. It's supremely functional in terms of lulling you into a rhythmic trance.

Initially, I thought this was just my limited access to the demo soundtrack, but after finding some gameplay footage of later bosses, I can see the same problem rearing its head: The game's short a couple of bangers. It's not enough to spoil the experience—and I'm aware I'm setting a high bar here. But a game like Beat Slayer really needs a soundtrack that soars instead of ambles.

It might also be a touch short for its price-point of £16.75/$18 with only a trio of bosses to fight—but it is a roguelike, so there's every chance you'll be getting your money's worth if you don't mind the repetition, especially since the game requires five successful runs total to snag that genre-appropriate true ending.

Beat Slayer is available for purchase on Steam as of yesterday, though there's a free demo as well that'll take you to the first boss. Give it a spin yourself and you might find its tunes hit harder than they did for me—there's no accounting for taste, after all.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.