If someone told me that this would be the year of the unique rhythm game in January, I would have laughed at them. However, here we are. A while back I reviewed a rhythm RPG game, and now we have Thumper, a self titled “rhythm Hell” game.
Drool, the developers behind Thumper, have a gem on their hands for sure. It is a difficult tribal take on what is essentially an “on the rails” simon-says. Each movement you make in the game is cued by a rhythm that goes along with the backing track. As the level progresses, the music and rhythms get more and more difficult with fast paced action and unique psychedelic patterns. I know, I am saying a lot of things that don’t 100% make sense since I have never experienced a game that is like this before. Just trust me, it is great.
The premise of the game is simple. You’re a “beetle” on a runway progressing into infinity. Before you, a path is materialized. On said path, there are notes, bars, and slides. Notes, you simple tap A to activate. Bars, you have to hold the A button in until the rhythm is complete. Slides, you hold A and move the analog stick in the direction you are travelling. After a set number of sections, you will fact a boss. This boss will throw a set pattern at you that you must hit perfectly. At the end of the rhythm, you will perform an attack. After three or four attacks, you progress. At the end of each level, (named the omega section) you face off with the “antagonist” of the game, if you want to call it that: Crakhed. The rhythm is usually more difficult, but behaves the same as a boss fight. Each time you face Crakhed, his image gets more ridiculous and (honestly) frightening.
With it being a rhythm game, the main question is “how is the music?” Unique, and spectacular. I remember while trying this game out at PAX East 2016, I was just sitting there bobbing my head to the rhythm, and I didn’t even realize it until halfway through. It leaves a lasting impressing, not just because it is good music, but you experience the rhythms that alter it. Those notes, bars, and slides (and other cues as you progress) will add snares, bass, wubs, claps, etc. to the underlying beat. The song gives you cues, and you complete the song with said cues being added. It is a unique back and forth. Each stage has a new track, and each track has a unique feel and time signature to it. This difference in songs gives each stage a different feel, which is important for rhythm games. No one wants to play the same game over and over with just a different song.
With the genre of this game having “Hell” in it, it must make you wonder if it is actually that difficult. At first, no it is relatively simple. However, as the stages progress, you get more tracks you must bounce around on, obstacles you must jump over, and levitating bars you must hit. The game takes a simple approach, and makes it progressively difficult. The game only uses the analog stick, and the A button. Sounds simple. Four directions, one button. However, they use these limited controls to make the game difficult. You will be scrambling around of the controller to bounce from one direction to the next, up into the air, to slam to the ground. Like I said, unique, but intuitive.
With there being no deep story, that is about all there is to the game. Which is nice. It doesn’t throw a ton of information at the player to ingest. It is a pure rhythm game in its essence, where you could play without the audio, but no well. You need those cues to be prepared for some of the faster transitions. The only downside is how incredibly difficult some sections are. For those of you who are perfectionists, you can start checkpoints over to try to get the perfect “S” ranking, however you will lose the multiplier for high score. There is a major leaderboard to compare your rankings in each stage and overall. In these leaderboards, you can see the top players, where you rank in that course, and where you are compared to your friends.
Thumper is a great game that is unique and difficult. Of course it is a specialty game, since rhythm isn’t a lot of people’s “thing,” but for what it is, it does it well. It is a game of pure rhythm that made me bob my head and try, try again.