Last year at PAX East, I encountered a difficult game that I immediately fell in love with, Thumper. Something about this difficult, rhythm-based game hooked me and wouldn’t let go, while it was constantly punching me in the face. I loved it. Naturally, when it was announced for the Switch, I was thrilled and curious. This meant I could take it everywhere to play, but how well could it be executed? Would there be stutters? I am happy to report that Thumper is ready to punch you in the face, only now its on the go.
For those of you that do not know the basic concept of Thumper, players control a beetle on a track. As nodules and turns pop up down the lane, one must “thump” to the rhythm to survive to the end. Each level has multiple stages that lead to a ‘boss fight’ at the end, where players must perfectly perform the rhythm before attacking. It is a fascinating combination of genres that just works.
The real shining star of this title is the music. Tribal drum beats will have players bobbing their heads while mashing buttons trying to stay alive. Each stage has its own song theme that will be revisited throughout the stages, almost like a chorus from Hell. Each time I repeated one of this sections, I got a stupid grin on my face because of how catchy these hooks were. Level 2’s “chorus” was probably my favorite just from the rhythm. I always describe this title to friends as “Simon says from Hell.” As you are playing in the forefront, you can hear, as well as see, the upcoming rhythms as the track lays them out.
The major catch to this game is the difficulty. The first three levels are fun and great for mastering and having a good musical time. However, once you get past those, good luck. The game starts getting more and more difficult with speed, rhythms, as well as concepts. For example, starting with level 4, there are multiple tracks to focus on. While I personally enjoy the challenge, it can be a turn off for some folks since they will likely struggle, not even halfway through the game. It even gets difficult to the point of ridiculous. Another downside is that sometimes when the track is blazing past, turns will blur into the background due to color schemes.
What impressed me with the Switch version (and makes me say outside of VR, this is THE version to get) is how silky smooth it performs not only on the TV, but as a handheld. I was concerned about the calibration when I first started because of how many times I died in Level 1, but then I realized I was just sucking at the game. It feels just as good in handheld mode as it does in console mode. It runs at a rock-solid 60 fps on both console and handheld, as well as 1080p/720p respectively. The game is just as gorgeous as the first time around.
So what makes the Switch edition different other than the handheld features? As tiny as it is, Thumper on Switch sells me on HD Rumble. With the accuracy of the HD Rumble, it effectively adds to the immersion experience. I tested it in multiple scenarios during gameplay, but one thoroughly impressed me. While you play you can grind against the left or right wall. Along with this, you can alter how soft or hard you touch the wall. This is accurately portrayed through the joy-cons, surprisingly enough. As I gently touched the left wall, the left joy-con lightly rumbled, and as I transitioned to the right wall, it was almost as if you could feel the beetle transfer from one hand to the other. As you press harder on the joystick, the harder it rumbles. Accurately. Like I said, it is not a major feature, but a nice little immersive touch that completely adds to the gameplay.
Not much has changed with Thumper in the jump from 2016 to 2017, but the little changes as well as accessibility options makes it so much more enjoyable. This is one of the must have titles if you care about music at all for the Switch.
For more information on Thumper, check out the official website.