Birds, Bullets, And Big Gambles

HIGH The characters are colorful and cute.

LOW Runs are affected strongly by luck.

WTF A frog named Newt that hatched from a cocoon?

Twin-stick shooters are one of the most popular indie genres, so Blazing Beaks tries to stand out from the pack with cute aesthetics and one big mechanical twist. While I don’t think it sticks the landing, it handles well and has some hooks to draw players in.

Beaks follows the standard formula for twin stick-shooter roguelikes. Players select a character to steer through enemy-filled rooms from a top-down perspective. All avatar choices are different adorable birds with unique powers. For example, the Duck has limited range but can fire its first couple of shots very fast. Parrot gets less gold, but can use abilities more often, and so on. There’s also an option for two players to team up, and a four-player versus mode.

Progressing through five dungeons with bosses at the end, players shoot enemies, loot money and pick up guns. The twist comes from “Artifacts”. Dropping randomly from enemies, these pickups inflict players with some kind of disadvantage. Some are minor, like not being able to pick up additional Artifacts. Some are major, like nearly halving the player’s damage. Why would players want to grab these? Because they can be traded in at the next store for power-ups…. if they survive the escalating difficulty long enough to get there.

The Artifact system is the most interesting idea Blazing Beaks has to offer by forcing players to weigh immediate disadvantages against future gains. In turn, they have to avoid overloading on Artifacts and making the game too hard — only one store spawns per dungeon, so players will usually carry the dangerous items for long stretches of time, and margins for error are already tight from the start. Unfortunately, despite being the most interesting thing, Artifacts are also the biggest failing of Blazing Beaks — they’re just too random, and I often found myself punished by the RNG of Beaks.

Loaded up with Artifacts, I’d willingly reduce my already-slim life bar or lose precious gold. When I finally traded my Artifacts, I frequently received power-ups that I didn’t need or were minimally helpful.

For example, there’s common upgrade called Bubble Wrap with the ability “If you would receive 3 or more damage, reduce it by 1”. A conditional, minor boon like this hardly makes a difference, and more often than not, I’d get a total flop like Lunch Box, which gives a chance for less enemies in secret rooms, which are already often free of enemies. 

When I hit big with a great pickup, it felt hugely empowering, but such wins were fairly rare. With such an uneven power-up spread, most runs felt like a dice roll, and I would abandon a run early on if I couldn’t land at least one decent power-up at the first store. Having more powerful upgrades unlock through progression or a more selective RNG process would improve Beaks considerably.

Despite my trouble with the randomness, Blazing Beaks handles well thanks to snappy controls and the fact that the guns players acquire are all at least serviceable. Aside from enemies being bullet sponges at times, I rarely felt like a death was unearned.

Blazing Beaks is a good first venture into console games for Applava. This team clearly loves the twin-stick roguelike genre, and despite needing some fine-tuning, I enjoyed my time with it. With just a few tweaks, this would be a solid recommendation to fans of the genre.

Rating: 7 out of 10

– Michael Prehn

Disclosures: This This game is developed and published by Applava on PC, with development assistance from QubicGames S.A. for the Switch version. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 50 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. No time was spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents:  According to the ESRB, the game is rated E and contains Fantasy Violence and Mild Blood. It does indeed, and some later areas might also be scary for kids afraid of the dark.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are no subtitle options for the game, because there is no spoken dialogue.

Remappable Controls: No, this game does not offer remappable controls. Aim assist is available and can be turned up or down.

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