I know that “rhythm violence game” already has you scratching your head – but I promise that the concept is just as strangely cool as it sounds. Thumper, created by the two-man developer team Drool, is a blissful sound experience, a visual feast for the eyes, and the kind of game that stresses the player out in the best way possible.
Players control a silver space beetle, whooshing along a sleek track. As white lights pop up on the track, you hit the button as you cross over them (I played the demo on the PlayStation 4, so I was mashing away at the X button). Turns involve pressing X and moving the left stick in the corresponding direction, which allows you to violently slam into and bank the turn. As the game advances, you learn how to duck under obstacles, and the chains become faster and more complicated. Completing successful chains sends a ball of energy down the track towards whatever swirling boss awaits at the other end. Ultimately, that boss is Crakhed, a spikey-headed villain who reminds me a bit of Majora’s Mask.
My experience with the demo was its booth in the PlayStation area of the show floor. I met an eager Sony employee who had been grinding at the demo during his breaks – when we spoke, he held the demo’s high score of 796. Once I had headphones on, I was immediately immersed in the game. The audio design boasts a rich music experience, and I looked forward to every obstacle I hit, because that meant another metallic chime. I felt like I was charging into battle, and I was just speeding down the track.
The visuals are just as stunning as well, with a mixture of movement and color that kept my eyes glued to the screen. The background changes fast enough to create a shifting landscape which, combined with the audio, had me completely immersed from the start. And that was just the standard demo – friends told me that the VR experience was even better. Overall, Thumper is easily a game I see myself spending hours in – it hits the rare sweet spot where a game is stressful enough to stay challenging to the point of addiction.
Thumper will be released this year for PlayStation VR, PlayStation 4, and Steam.