Once upon a time, a team of developers at Applava thought that there were not enough rogue-like games that let you play as a li’l duck or bird, so they decided to make one themselves (note: this probably wasn’t what happened). Blazing Beaks may look cute, but don’t be fooled by its innocent demeanour; it’s a real toughie. Like, really tough.
This isn’t a title with a deep plot that explores philosophical themes. You play as a cute critter who wants to shoot stuff and progress through randomly-generated stages over and over until you lose all your health and must start again. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a whimsical-looking title with an eye-catching pixelated art style. The pops, crunches and squeaky noises you hear from firing a weapon or defeating a foe never gets old, and the music is a quirky selection of fittingly goofy, if forgettable, tracks. It’s all just so adorable.
Each character have a starting weapon and a few good or bad perks. The duck, for instance, has the most health and can double-tap weak starting weapon, which also suffers from a short range. Some have more health, while others might be more accurate, so there’s a neat selection on offer. An excellent addition is the ability for fans to create and import their own characters via the Steam Workshop. Plus, you can battle with, or against, four players. This can only be done locally, so it’s good for couch-play. Shame that there’s no online features yet.
Shoot all the baddies, move to the next area, rinse and repeat. That’s what Blazing Beaks is all about. Each of the zones have their own traps and plenty of mean ol’ nasties. Their attacks are pretty varied and creative, then again some of them dish out an unfair amount of damage. One slip-up could jeopardize or end your game in an instant. There’s a big selection of weapons to defend yourself with; things like the shotgun and railgun being self-explanatory. Many of them are fantastic fun to use, and may spit acid pools, bounce spread-shots off of walls, and so on, though you won’t be able to figure these things out before you actually get your hands (or wings?) on them. A single special moves can be equipped to give you a slight advantage at the press of a button, which is handy.
Hearts and coins can be found in chests and fallen enemies, the latter of which can be spent in the shop. When you defeat all enemies in a zone, try and look for an exit with a lantern above it to access the store in order to buy guns. Stealing weapons will close the weapon vendor in the next visit, so you’re cut a little slack when you’re not packing much heat, while being punished in the long-run.
Swiping power-ups to give you the edge is one thing, but collecting power-downs? Tipping the already-unbalanced odds further against your favour sounds mad, yet this is one of the most effective ways of acquiring bonus power-ups and health. With each playthrough, you’re forced to decide whether to nerf yourself with artifacts that may hinder your firing rate or lose coins when damaged, before hauling them to the shop. There, you can exchange them for a few bonus hearts and new swag. To be fair, it’s entirely optional, and serves a mischievous twist to the already-challenging gameplay.
Boss battles will appear before you transport yourself to a new zone. They can only be damaged in between their predictable attack patterns, so you need to do a lot of dodging first. They’re competent and challenging, on the whole. Once defeated, you can exit to the next area. In some levels, you’ll get the chance to face the boss early, which is nice, but not enough to prevent that monotonous feeling of having to do it all again just to see if you can get a little bit closer next time. It’s a shame you couldn’t start in a zone of your choice, so you’re not replaying chapter 1’s battle with Newt the slimy salamander for the umpteenth time. Other chapters could hold back on the tougher enemies occuring, or lower their numbers, to compensate. As it is, in retrospect, the perpetual grind that comes from playing, dying, and having to redo the bosses all over again in order to progress will no doubt aggravate anyone who’s after an easy-going or fair experience, meaning it’s best played in bursts.
Blazing Beaks is deceptively punishing stuff. It’s a bit like sweet chili sauce: deliciously irritating, and yet worth it. To its merit, It look, sounds and handles really well, plus there are some really creative weapons and artifacts on offer, with more characters to be found on the Steam workshop. Easily the stand-out feature of the title is how collecting shiny things to be traded can be such a double-edged sword. Grinding through Blazing Beaks over and over will no doubt ruffle some feathers (the pricetag is a little bit high for a game this repetitive) but it’s still a pretty fly title that’s certainly worth flocking to.