Melbourne-made The Beat is a confusing, gay noir directed by your choices

Posted on September 6, 2022

The Beat: A Glam Noir Game is an adventure noir release where you balance a murder investigation with your personal life, building or destroying relationships in the process. The game is made by Up Multimedia, a Melbourne studio with a focus on niche gay releases that has previously made My Ex-Boyfriend the Space Tyrant and Escape from Pleasure Planet.

There has been a murder in the local gay community, and you take the role of Leo, a police officer in charge of the investigation. Leo’s personal life isn’t doing well at the moment, as his wife Emma is starting to suspect that he is gay. The murderer contacts Leo, stating that he will take someone’s life in 7 days. Leo must look for clues leading to the murderer, but will also have to make a decision between saving his marriage or embracing his newfound sexuality.

Leo’s growing sexuality is properly investigated and developed throughout the week. Rather than being thrown in or forced upon you, you get to see Leo work with his feelings and control how he reacts. Whether it is the freedom he gains while dancing at a gay bar, or learning that it’s okay to be gay from other men, Leo can slowly break out of his repressed feelings and embrace his true self. Your sexual encounters are also dependent on the choices that you make, whether you stick with Emma or decide to enter a new relationship with one of your new male friends.

There is no way to please everyone. Emma is keen on the relationship which puts pressure on Leo’s growing feelings. Your friends and new acquaintances all have their own feelings and expectations when it comes to Leo’s sexuality. Your choice affects your social standing as well, alienating Emma or simply remaining friends with the men in your life.

The Beat’s environment visuals blend together like liquid, but you aren’t told that this is normal at the beginning. Upon seeing the environments for the first time, you might assume that the game didn’t load correctly, or that something horribly wrong has happened. There also isn’t a tutorial or a guide to help you learn how to play, which adds to the confusion. You might spend the first few minutes wondering why you can’t move, how to progress, or if what you’re seeing is intentional design.

The choices you make aren’t based on dialogue but instead based on the people you meet. You have a schedule where you see what events characters have invited you to or appointments you make with them. You get to see which destinations are open and get a summary of the activity taking place. You can build a new relationship, or strengthen existing ones. Some meetings will clash with each other, and who you prioritise will affect how future events play out.

It’s an interesting way of making your choices matter, but it can feel inadequate at times. Multiple characters can be present at a location, but you only seem to interact with one of them. This is true even if you wanted to interact with someone else. Making appointments doesn’t seem to lead to anything significant either, which makes it feel like the only major events are those that the game marks on your calendar.

You can’t do any activities other than talking to people, and a set time where Leo can pull someone in for an interrogation. It feels less like you’re actually investigating a murder and more like you are watching a movie play out. You don’t inspect a murder site, you don’t question suspects, and you don’t get to interact with the environment. It makes you wonder why the environments are there in the first place, given that there is almost no interaction other than walking around and talking to characters.

What the story does well is show the consequences of your actions. The ruined relationships do have an impact on how characters interact with you, and future events are properly influenced by the actions you take. You feel the consequences of skipping out on a meeting, or choosing one meeting for another. It’s a pity that the dialogue isn’t more advanced than a few lines, which prevents you from really understanding someone’s feelings.

A strange but intriguing affair, The Beat may have its players question both their sexuality and their sanity. Potentially a confusing release for those who were expecting a traditional noir game, this experimental title if nothing else is memorable and unique.