Slay the Beat is a rarity in the world of mobile gaming. Developed by Gosiha – a studio with a few idle clickers under its belt – Slay the Beat is a completely free experience. You can download it without opening your wallet, there are no ads, and it lacks an in-game store with microtransactions. It's certainly a breath of fresh air in the often-greedy world of gaming but, in this case, you're getting exactly what you paid for.
Slay the Beat is more like an extended tech demo than an actual game. You're given a brief introduction to the story – which is about four lines of text – before landing in the main menu. From here you can check your achievements, view unlockable skills, or manage a spartan options menu. Right away issues start to arise, as the "Calibrate" button – used to sync the on-screen action with the soundtrack – doesn't actually take you to a calibration menu. Instead, it brings you to your list of achievements. It's a small bug, but one that should have been ironed out before releasing Slay the Beat into the wild, as the entire game revolves around rhythm – proper calibration is critical to the entire operation.
Once you dive into the actual gameplay of Slay the Beat you'll be face to face with a mission map, one that's nearly identical to that of Slay the Spire – albeit on a much smaller scale. You'll choose between various nodes, giving you access to health regeneration, upgrade shops, or battles. Node selection is supposed to be important, as once you complete the battle, shopping spree, or health boost, you'll only have access to other nodes in contact with your current selection. However, most paths are almost identical to each other. Regardless of your choices on this map, you'll end up running through around six battles and one or two shops or health regen locations before facing off against the boss. It leaves a lot to be desired from a strategic standpoint and doesn’t feel very satisfying to navigate.
The same is true of combat – which is unfortunate, because Slay the Beat has a lot of potential. You'll be tasked with attacking enemies to the beat of the music, tapping to attack, swiping up to block, and scribbling a 'Z' pattern on the screen to cast a powerful special ability. It's a fun gimmick for the first 15 minutes, but the game doesn't do enough to keep you interested beyond a single playthrough. In fact, there are only about four different types of enemies across the entire game. Even more frustrating is the soundtrack, which will cycle through songs before you've even made it to the boss. The more you play, the more you truly start to feel as if this is just a tech demo for a larger game. In fact, when I beat the first boss, I was shocked to find out that he was also the final boss.
Slay the Beat wants to bill itself as a roguelike, meaning subsequent playthroughs and reruns are to be expected. However, unlike most games in the genre, Slay the Beat simply doesn't have the content to make this an enticing option. Sure, there are a few collectibles and upgradable skills, but they don't seem to significantly impact how you play the game – and they certainly don't make the lackluster combat system any more exciting.
Although Slay the Beat has plenty of potential, there's not much to hold your interest in its current state. Throw in some new enemies, fix a few of the bugs, and give us a more thoughtfully developed node system, and Slay the Beat could be a great casual game. But the lack of variety in combat, soundtrack, and upgrades makes this a free-to-play game that's barely worth the price of admission.