Review: Beat Hazard Ultra (iOS)

We take a look at the freshly-released Beat Hazard Ultra for iOS devices, to see if the music-based shooter transitions gracefully to a handheld environment.


Cold Beam Games' Beat Hazard has been turning beautiful music into twin-stick bullet hell for over two years. It went Ultra via DLC in June 2011, and has slowly made its way across several platforms, from PC to PS3. Shockingly, Beat Hazard had yet to make the leap to handheld devices. Fortunately for iOS owners, that's no longer the case. Beat Hazard Ultra is now available for iOS and the transition couldn't have gone any smoother.

For those new to the game, Beat Hazard Ultra is a twin-stick space shooter played atop an isometric playing field. Obstacles and enemy ships are generated based on the tracks in your own personal music library. It's a concept that feels like it was made for a portable music player. The only concern I had was whether the shooting mechanics would work with the iOS touch screen.

Beat Hazard Ultra allows for two control methods — single-stick and twin-stick. Twin-stick controls offer a more traditional control scheme, using the bottom corners of the touch screen to move the ship and shoot in any direction. The touch controls are responsive and carry over the PC/console experience seamlessly to the iOS platform.

iPad owners looking for a traditional Beat Hazard experience will love the twin-stick controls, but they can be problematic for iPhone users. Players' thumbs can obstruct parts of the screen on the smaller iPhone/iPod Touch screen. The single-stick controls help alleviate this issue slightly by requiring only a single thumb for movement, while the player's ship shoots automatically. This solves the visibility problem and the auto-shooting mechanic works more often than not, with only a few instances of my ship shooting away from my intended target.

Ideally, Beat Hazard Ultra works best as a pick-up-and-play title. Quick Play sessions last only the length of a song and will likely be the way most people experience the game, because of the portable nature of the iOS platform. I also had a blast with the game's extended game modes, like Survival and Boss Rush. Boss Rush changed things up from the other game modes by using the Horde-style wave system. It felt like Boss Rush was less dependent on my music, but I enjoyed the structure of the time-based wave system. I particularly liked that later waves would arrive, whether I cleared out the previous wave or not.

What makes Beat Hazard Ultra feel unique is that the atmosphere changes based on your own music. I had different enemies spawn in depending on whether I played The Beatles, Iron Maiden, or Jay-Z, with some songs ushering in boss ships as their beats changed. The game even compelled me to hit the iTunes app and buy new songs just to see how they would fit the Beat Hazard experience. One issue I've noticed, however, is that there's no way to filter the random song setting. I have an eclectic music collection and it's a little jarring for the game to transition from Mastodon to Bruno Mars. I tried getting around this by using the Internet Radio feature, but those songs varied wildly in quality. A playlist feature would have been ideal in this instance.

As much as I enjoyed Beat Hazard Ultra on PC and PSN, there's no better way to experience it than on iOS. With a personal music library at your fingertips, there's plenty of reason to grab a good shooter to go along with it. Beat Hazard Ultra will fit whatever musical mood you're in, whether you’re on-the-go or looking to plunge into a whole album.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 13, 2012 11:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Review: Beat Hazard Ultra (iOS).

    We take a look at the freshly-released Beat Hazard Ultra for iOS devices, to see if the music-based shooter transitions gracefully to a handheld environment.

    • reply
      February 13, 2012 3:39 PM

      Awful, awful game.

      Downloaded it after seeing this review, and everyone I showed it to hated it.

      The UI is the worst I've ever seen. Took several minutes to even get into a game, and then it was only by luck.

      Once you're in game, the virtual joysticks move around with your fingers, making them practically unusable.

      Add to that, your choice of music track doesn't even affect the gameplay at all. It only affects the seizure inducing lights.

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        February 13, 2012 4:03 PM

        i cant imagine this game working with touchscreen TBH. its all about ultrafast and precise reactions and reflexes. its a fucking fantastic game with a MKB, and i guess it plays ok on a gamepad though i cannot fathom how people could do so, but on touch screen i would probably want to pull y hair out

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          February 13, 2012 8:44 PM

          I absolutely cannot play this game with a MKB, but it plays beautifully with a pad. Its one of the best games I've ever bought off of Steam.

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        February 13, 2012 4:18 PM

        Lock the joysticks. The menus works fine

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        February 15, 2012 5:07 PM

        lol what a joke.

        1. If you can't find the "Play" button, then good luck with gaming.
        2. Lock the joysticks, its in the options
        3. The song very much influences the gameplay, what enemies appear, where they appear, how fast they move, how much damage your weapons do, and where bosses appear. Try playing a voice over track or a track with down times or speech.

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          February 16, 2012 7:14 AM

          Oh, the music also influences how fast projectiles move, how strong the push/pull of those force ships is, how quick the dare devil bonus charges and so on. Basically if you play an MP3 where there is no sound in it, nothing is happening. At all.

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      November 17, 2013 4:14 PM

      I've tried this game on my android phone and it's nowhere near as good as playing on PC with a controller. Being a twin stick shooter it pretty much requires a controller with two joysticks, it's part of the genre! Playing this on a touch interface is torture, the way the special skill controls are located you constantly pop them off unintentionally, but trying to figure out how to enable one of these skills when you actually need it takes much too long. This is a very very good game, endless fun can be had, especially if you enjoy music, but if you're unable to play it with a twin stick controller I'd recommend playing something else. Otherwise you'll get mostly frustration instead of the fast-paced fun this game is made for.

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