I first got hands on with Thumper at E3 2015. I heard about this new style rhythm game that was being shown at the show from a friend and I immediately had to jump on any opportunity to try it. Brian Gibson, the musician behind the game, was showing it off and from there it became an amazing journey through many different shows, incredible press reception and curious questioning. Thumper is releasing on October 13 for PS4, PlayStation VR and Steam and just until now we’re being opened up to a whole lot more than what the guys at Drool have given us at trade shows and kiosk demos. We absolutely love it.
Basically you’re this space beetle flying down a sort of tunnel which serves as your rhythm highway. You speed at insane rates rapidly down this path which eventually leads to a massive boss. Patterns are thrown at you to the rhythm, that when executed properly, will fire a shot down this highway at the enemy. If you fail to execute them, you will take damage. While it’s a simple concept, there is a whole lot going on that truly elevates the experience to something special, and that’s what seemed so mysterious to me up until this point.
The visuals in both 2D and 3D are next level. Particle effects and dark imagery fill your screen in nine levels of what may make some people uneasy on how horror-like it feels. Seriously. The game feels like a psychedelic haunted house. You start off pressing a button to jump as well as holding it to pass through objects that would otherwise damage you. Two hits and you need to replay the sequence stretch you failed on, and later in the game, you’ll be replaying sequences for awhile depending on your memorization skills. Trust me.
The music in Thumper gives the title it’s very dark theme I grew to love, especially on the later challenging levels where each jump, slide and attack is back to back. It’s easily a soundtrack you can lay back and get lost in. There’s no variety, but I feel as if that wasn’t an issue during development. There’s no need for any upbeat synths here, the game is hyper violent and this style of music is certainly the most appropriate. You don’t create the music in Thumper, you just need to be able to keep up with the beats and notes headed toward you.
While there is no detailed variety in the fixed track you’re on, the games many visual styles help distract you from that which can be daunting at times you need to grind alongside a wall. You’ll die. A lot. You’re going to need to adapt and react to split second decisions at some insane rate of speed, and there’s no way to slow it down. Luckily, you aren’t always able to hit a beat square in some cases to proceed, but during boss battles and at the end of each stage as the beat square has a glow around it, you’re going to have to hit it to complete the stage.
Scoring well in Thumper is incredibly difficult at first and should be for those tempting fate. Typically within 1-2 seconds, to full perfect levels you’re going to need to be able to jump, hit floating rings, grind a wall at just the right time and hit your beats on point is challenging in it’s own right. Now add this to already playing at high speeds and continuing your sequence as you would. The leaderboards for the game can be seen on a global scale, personal ranking, and friend ranking. You’ll receive a high score at the end of each sequence, as well as a high score at the end of each level. The rankings range from C to an S.
Thumper’s difficulty continues to put a knife up to me and my ‘X’ button, but it’s a rewarding payoff when completing tough sections. The game thrives in it’s mesmerizing atmosphere, soundtrack and difficulty, which is really all you need. You really don’t know what lies ahead, but you give it your best shot going into any stage. The game should not be shadowed by a typical rhythm game player, specially if difficulty and dark synths are what you crave in your rhythm game of choice. Thumper is compatible with PlayStation VR and it puts you closer to your beetle, making it seem you’re right on it’s tail, motion blur and all.
* Review copy provided by the development team or publisher