Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians is a game made of song pieces.
When crafting the music (but-not-rhythm-based) game, German indie developer Threaks dissected tracks in their traditional form and repurposed them as different gameplay elements. Music is built into the game's retro-style, 2D platforming elements — as players progress, they're steadily introduced to the song's bass, snare drums and much more.
Tale of the Guardians takes place in Beatbuddy's homeworld of Symphonia, where the evil Prince Maestro, a "dictator of music," is attempting to take control of all things audio. As one of three ethereal guardians, Beatbuddy is sworn to protect music. To do this, players must best puzzles and successfully navigate the pulsing, aquatic world.
According to Ted Lange, a representative for Threaks, Tales of the Guardian's exploration is a way for players to remix songs in a non-traditional sense. During a demo shown to Polygon, Beatbuddy encountered enemies and objects that added new musical aspects — a tapping crab, or a bass-heavy bubble blower. Every object moves in time to the music, including Beatbuddy himself. If you stop, he'll dance back and forth while you get your bearings.
We also got a look at the game's first two levels. Each is built around a song by a different artist and color palette theme. While the first level was bass-heavy and full of purple hues, the second is a wilder, jungle-themed stage. Along the way, players can hop into the hero's "Beat Buggy" at designated points. The spherical submarine can only move on the level's beat, and when players strike at just the right time it doubles its speed.
"The music was built to grow with the game," Lange told us. "As you progress through each level, it is building and building so you are getting more of that sense of urgency."
The music picks up in both tempo and its complexity as players near their destination. Puzzles get trickier and enemies become more frequent and difficult to dodge. Tales of the Guardian will have different difficulty settings for players to chose from, but this only affects the amount of damage taken. Beatbuddy can smack enemies with a light punch, but overall the game is not about fighting.
"[It's about] seeing how music can be used in a different way with games," Lange said. "It's not just in the background. It can be a key part of how the game feels, how it plays and how you can kind of use music to actually guide the player to figure out stuff."
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians will be available Aug. 6 for Windows PC, Mac and Linux. Check out the game's trailer from earlier this week.