The dark side of the tune.
After almost a year since its launch on PC and PlayStation 4 and a few months after it came to the Switch, Drool’s rhythm action game Thumper has finally made its way to the Xbox. Having been praised on its original release, how does this port hold up? The answer: very well, actually.
For those that haven’t already come across this game, the premise is simple, but the execution is far from ordinary. The player takes control of a metallic Scarab, those nasty little bugs from The Mummy (the good one), who is riding along a seemingly endless track. This journey is littered with dangers that can only be overcome with specific button presses, from a simple press of the A button, to far more complex maneuvers. Missing one of these prompts will damage the Scarab’s wing shield, miss another and it’s game over. But don’t worry, as the game restarts players immediately at the begin of the current section, getting right back in the action. This is by far one of the best things about Thumper, the instant restart, with little loss in progress, a system that was definitely needed as I started on level two.
Platform: PC, Playstation 4, Switch, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
The game has nine levels, each with 18 sections to it. The first level is straightforward enough, more of tutorial level to get used to how the game works and introduces the most basic of moves, but once players hit level two, the game ramps up the difficulty. Not only adding even more moves, but upping the speed of the action and reducing the gaps between moves. Each level has both a sub-boss and final boss, and in order to progress players must deflect their attacks using the rhythm prompts. Do this three or four times and it’s job done.
As players complete each section of every level, they will be rated on their performance from S rank to E, but I would recommend not chasing the S ranks until you have completed the level. Earning S ranks requires super fast reflexes, but also memory. I often found I got a better ranking after I’d played through a section multiple times, due to my getting used to the patterns. This is also one of the game’s downsides; go a few days without playing and I had to spend a bit of time remembering the button actions and the section layout. But to its credit, Thumper makes starting each level easy, and as I mentioned before, restarts are immediate.
Now, there may be a few rhythm based games out there at the moment, but Thumper is different. First of all, the visual style is like nothing I’ve seen before – dark, angry, and in places, unsettling. Each level has a slightly different look, but they all run with this kind of industrial feel and I loved it. But a rhythm game is nothing without perfect rhythm, and once again Thumper feels like no other game before it. Playing games like Rock Band Blitz, Guitar Hero or Parappa the Rapper, I always felt like I was reacting to the music that was presented to me. Thumper made me feel the opposite, like I was creating the music through my actions. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but one that made this game feel so different. The music also fits the visuals perfectly; odd, gritty and disturbing. Don’t expect some kind of Dubstep or House here, as the music is something far more abstract and has to be experienced to be understood.
After all that has been said, Thumper does have one main annoyance, but it’s one more tied to my ability than the game itself. The game gets incredibly difficult as you progress, and this can lead to some frustration. But players with a higher level of rhythm skill will probably have fewer difficulties, and of course, practice makes perfect. So with a little patience anyone can get through the tough times.
On the outside, Thumper looks bizarre with its strange design and nightmarish visuals. But don’t let that fool you, Thumper has it where it counts. Behind the game lies an incredibly deep rhythm game that invigorates the genre and will push and punish you in equal measure. Pair that with extremely quick load times and a game that flawlessly runs at a smooth 60fps, and Thumper will be music to your ears.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.