If there ever was a genre that was perfect for Switch, it has to be roguelikes. The pick-up-and-play nature of them is perfect for getting a game in on your commute or on your work break. Another ironically great genre for a Nintendo platform is the First Person Shooter, thanks to the inclusion of gyro-aim. Mash these two together with a side helping of rhythm game and you get BPM: Bullets Per Minute; a game we were very excited to finally get on Switch. However, for as good of a fit as it is in theory, the little hybrid console that could struggles to keep up with this heavy metal hero.
BPM places you in control of one of the Valkyries of Norse mythology, as you battle through different realms such as Asgard and Helheim to defeat the Nidhogg. The catch is that everything you do in the game — from shooting, reloading, using abilities, and even jumping — must be done to the beat of the fantastic metal soundtrack. Much like the 'boomer shooters' that inspired it; BPM is tough as nails and lightning fast, requiring you to always keep moving or get sent back to Valhalla.
The game is difficult to get to grips with; paying attention to your rhythm while avoiding enemies in a game where taking four hits means death is tricky. However, once you get the hang of it, it feels incredibly satisfying. Each gun has a nice weight to it, and reloading to the beat feels great. There will be some who find the rhythm aspect of the game too challenging. Thankfully, there’s a host of options that let you tune how strict the timing is or even remove the rhythm requirement entirely, allowing you to play the game as a standard shooter.
Each valkyrie has its own set of abilities and modifiers. Your starting character, Göll, has a standard pistol and 100 health. There's Njord, who is unable to pick up any weapons, instead using magic hands to blast enemies away. And for those who want a challenge, there's Skuld, who loses health every second you aren’t shooting an enemy and strictly enforcing that never-stop-moving style. Each character starts with a standard dash ability at first, with their secondary abilities unlocking after completing a run with them.
In terms of performance, the game runs smoothly on Switch — an absolute requirement for any rhythm game. However, the biggest issue with this port is almost immediately apparent from the second you hit the main menu: the game is hard to look at. BPM has a high contrast art style which just doesn’t work with how low fidelity the game is on Nintendo’s hybrid, presumably a necessary sacrifice to maintain that stable frame rate. For a game that is already so difficult, visuals that make it hard to pick out enemies and upgrade altars from the scenery severely bog down the experience. It’s a bit better on handheld, but still very far from optimal.
We really like BPM; it’s a great game, but perhaps it’s one best experienced on another platform — especially if you play in docked mode.