Developed By: Applava
Published By: QubicGames
Category: Action, Multiplayer, Party, Twin Stick Shooter
Release Date: 05.10.19
Why do these birds (and one platypus) have guns? I’ve played Blazing Beaks for the Nintendo Switch for several hours, and I have no answer to that question. I mean, it’s a twin stick shooter so someone has to have guns I guess, but why birds? What do they hope to accomplish? Clearly they want money and guns for something, which gives the game a subtle aura of dread. I’ve never trusted birds; certainly I don’t trust birds with lasers. I don’t care that I had a lot of fun playing Blazing Beaks. I don’t care that the colorful graphics, fast-paced gameplay, and just-rewarding-enough loot system combine to create an engaging experience. I’ll find out what these birds are up to. I’ll learn their tactics. And I’ll stop them.
Duck, Duck, Shoot
Blazing Beaks builds the meat of its gameplay around a fairly familiar twin stick shooter formula. You move with the left stick and aim with right from a top-down perspective; in most games that would be a bird’s-eye view, but in this one the birds are at ground level. The triggers control both your regular attack and whichever special ability you have equipped. The default ability is a dodge roll, but you can acquire new abilities to replace that during a play session – but we’ll get to loot in a second. Each level takes up the whole game screen, and the objective of each level is to clear the screen of enemies. Each level has a door that remains locked until all enemies are cleared – some levels have multiple doors, but we’ll get to room types later, too. There’s lots of stuff to get to, so make yourself comfortable. This could take a minute. Anyway, after a few doors you get to a boss fight. Once you kill the boss, you move to a new area and repeat the whole process, and that’s called a loop.
Duck, Duck, Loot
There are four different types of items to collect in Blazing Beaks. You’ve got coins, guns, keys, items and artifacts. The drop rates of all the different items are tantalizingly low; they don’t feel like they show up enough, but when they do drop it’s an exciting feeling. Coins are money; everyone knows what coins do. Guns are different weapons that you can collect to vary the way you deal damage. Guns vary in damage, range, rate of fire, and reload speed; the goal is to get a gun that maximizes everything, or at least to find one that fits the way you like to play. Personally, I preferred guns that fired quickly with a decent range to make up for the fact that I’ve got the aim of a blind guy with uncontrollable muscle spasms. You can obtain guns from chests, at shops, or by defeating bosses. Keys open locked doors. Obviously. They’re keys.
Artifacts and items are a lot more fun. Artifacts are gained by killing enemies; they drop said loot, and you can collect it. You need to be careful with artifacts; they pretty much exclusively have harmful attributes. You can see a description of an artifact’s attributes before you pick it up, so always be sure to use that to gauge what you’re getting into. Artifacts are generally worth picking up despite their negative traits, however, because you can trade them in at a trading post for items which only have good effects… mostly. Some items have a cost, but that cost is generally inconsequential compared to the benefits. Finally, you can collect ability items, which I have only seen drop from boss fights or in chests behind hidden or locked doors. These items switch up the special ability tied to your left trigger. The default ability, as I’ve said, is a dodge roll, but you can also get stuff like a force field and the ability to freeze all of your enemies for a short time.
Duck, Duck, Door
Most levels only have one door that automatically opens when you have killed every enemy in the stage. There are a few special door types, however, which have their own unique rewards. A door with a lantern over it leads to a trading post where you can trade cursed items for useful artifacts. You can also buy new weapons, provided you have the gold. Doors with a giant monster skull around them lead to boss fights; they will show up a few times before you make it to the end of a certain area, so to a certain extent you can control how long you stay in one location. Sometimes on a wall you can see a twinkling blue spot; that is the entrance to a hidden door. Shooting the sparkly bit will reveal the door. All of these types of doors will automatically unlock (as long as you’ve shot the twinkly thing for hidden doors) as soon as you’ve defeated all of your enemies. Some levels will have a door with a padlock on it; you need to have a key on you to open those. Hidden doors and locked doors both lead to special areas with guaranteed loot, most often a new gun.
Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck
The action and loot systems add up to a fun time all on their own, but Blazing Beaks also features a multiplayer component that’s quite fun. In the game’s tournament mode you can play with up to four friends in an arena shooter setup which lets you choose one of five different game modes. Multiplayer is local only from what I can tell, which is just fine by me. It’s made to be a party game and random matchmaking is such a hit or miss proposition that it’s just not worth the hassle most of the time. The basics of gameplay are pretty much the same, with a slightly different loot system. Guns and artifacts drop randomly rather than from defeated enemies or chests, since none of those things really exist in the multiplayer mode. You can also do play the regular mode co-op. I slightly preferred single player to multi, because I am addicted to loot and I do not share well, but your mileage may vary.
Duck, Duck, Looks
The graphics take full advantage of the minimalist benefits of the pixel. The eight unlockable birds (well, seven birds and a platypus) and dozens of different enemies are smoothly animated and attractively colorful. The game’s overall aesthetic is vibrant and visually engaging, even the cemetery levels which use a colder, duller color palette. Even though the guns are just tiny blocks of pixels, each weapon looks and feels unique. The soundtrack is full of fast-paced, catchy electronic beats that accentuate the action well and help to craft a fun atmosphere. Like everything else in the game, the graphics and music are just a lot of fun.
Blazing Beaks doesn’t have any touch or motion controls, so you can play it docked or undocked as you prefer. Personally, I found the gameplay a lot smoother with a Pro controller than I did with the Joycons. I generally find that to be the case with action games, though, so if you don’t normally see a difference between the two you probably won’t her either. The graphics looked just as good undocked as they did docked, so that’s a wash. I guess I recommend Blazing Beaks for docked play over undocked, but that’s a very slight preference. It’s a good time either way.
TL;DR: Fun twin stick shooter and loot generator… with birds. And a platypus.