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In Thumper, horror and band-night unite as one crazy experience.
Remember the days of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Dance Revolution? Those solemn evenings filled with normal, toe-tapping vibes and joyous hymns? If you’ve enjoyed rhythm games in the past, I’d like to suggest Thumper as a new entry for your repertoire. Although, I’ll also give you one teensy-tiny heads-up: Thumper is completely unlike the rhythm games from your middle-school years.
Whereas the band-sims of yesteryear heralded a fun afternoon with friends, Thumper constitutes a tense, heart-pounding evening alone. Less “Guitar Hero,” more “Amplitude on drugs.” Your “cursor” is a shining beetle, speeding through empty space along a winding track. As your musical insect treks forth, it will be met with various sharp turns, quick hops, and glowing “notes”—you’ll need to tap buttons and analog sticks on beat to pass safely. Obstacles and scenery fly by in the blink of an eye, in some brilliant mob of light.
These flurries of notes are no pushover. Thumper is seriously difficult in many spots: not because of any eccentric beats or time signatures, but solely because it’s so incredibly fast. Hitting certain obstacles will force your beetle to lose its exoskeleton—one more hit, and you’re dead. Thankfully, levels hardly last more than a minute or so, and each one becomes a new checkpoint from which you can restart.
The surreal landscape and environment around you is downright uninviting, and reverberates with a horrific cacophony of noise.
There’s no catchy, vibrant playlist underlying any point of this journey. Rather, your dashing dynastid is accompanied by fervent drumbeats and bizarre industrial noises. The soundtrack for Thumper is a unique experience all on its own. The erratic and grotesque beat emphasizes the harsh, quick graphic style in a way that’s difficult to explain. It’s a perfect example of how a track can effectively add to a title’s theme.
Quite frankly, Thumper is a rhythm horror game. The music, art, and playstyle combine to create a freakishly terrifying atmosphere. This is not a safe space: this empty void is a battlefield. The surreal landscape and environment around you is downright uninviting, and reverberates with a horrific cacophony of noise. Every corner is a new chance to die, and every note is a new opportunity to fail.
This terror is amplified in the VR versions, where the odd events are all too real. The hellish landscape becomes your world, as notes and spikes whiz past your eyes. However, in comparison, the other versions feel lacking. Perhaps it’s because my original playthrough was in VR, but Thumper seems to have some weird fisheye effect around the edges of a normal screen.
As you meander through the abyss, though, Thumper‘s charm wanes just a tad. The drums fade together, the notes become a blur, and the environments lose their pop. The experience just doesn’t vary enough to keep up with its fantastic personality. Your final levels will be just as fun as the first ones, but they will be using similar beats, props, sounds, and challenges. The only true draw is the uniqueness of the concept, the addiction of score-chasing, and the difficulty of the gameplay.
The erratic and grotesque beat emphasizes the harsh, quick graphic style in a way that’s difficult to explain.
Thumper is exciting, thrilling, and fast. It taps into the rhythmic potential you once honed with a plastic guitar, and channels it into something entirely new and different. Once that “newness” wears off, though, the journey may begin to wear thin. Thumper is ultimately a worthy experience and fantastic idea, even if you only remember it for the dreadfully exhilarating atmosphere.