Rhythm violence. The words echoed in my mind as I lost myself in the visual euphoria that is Thumper. Playing with or without PlayStation VR, it has become my life. As you are on-rails, I wasn’t expecting too much, as the reboot for Amplitude, a game in the same genre failed to grasp my interest. Thumper relishes in the fact that it provides a truly psychedelic experience while keeping the gameplay elements faithful to the genre; timing button presses to the beat of the music. There is something to say about the inclusion of a VR mode, which cranks up the visuals and even the game’s beefy metallic audio.
As a shiny metallic plated beetle, you must maneuver through what appears to be a futuristic luge course set across bright neon lights and powerful lasers shooting across surreal backdrops. You automatically move through the lane, and from the start, it became apparent that Thumper is fast. The further along in the game you go, the faster it becomes. Your only saving grace, listening to the steel drums beat and trusting your survival instincts. It isn’t a guarantee, especially when the blistering speed requires you to combine multiple button presses in a fraction of a second.
Thumper does do a good job and getting the player acclimated to the different gameplay elements. But then you meet the game’s challenging bosses, taunting you to come forth, and extinguish the fire that burns inside their demonic appearances. Unlike other games in the same genre, Thumper isn’t necessarily about creating music. In fact, it never even crossed my mind that some would consider it part of the music genre. Instead, I used the deep beats to enhance my ability to time when I should jump, thump and turn on a dime. Hesitation or missing a beat could prove fatal. Thumper is hard, really hard if you want to acquire S ranks on all of the levels. Levels are broken up into different segments, some of which feature multiple bosses. There are optional collectibles to increase your score, but I found I needed to focus on completing the level without any temptations.
If there is one complaint to be had with Thumper, the game's levels almost seem too similar to past stages. Even the game's musical score lacks variety, and you'll be listening for the same sound effects on every level to telegraph what you need to accomplish. I would have liked to see the audio have more of an impact on the game's environment. There are some awestricken moments in the game, such as when debris from exploding bosses flies past you in VR.
Thumper is a thriving rhythm game that includes an incredible VR mode. That's not to say the game isn't worth it if you have no interest in virtual reality, but indie developer Drool takes the game to new heights when you find yourself enveloped in the game's 3D space. Even being mediocre when it goes to playing on the leaderboards, I keep going back to Thumper every night for just one more run.
Note: The review for Thumper is based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.