There’s a certain type of game that captures your heart, even when it’s tearing it apart. There’s a certain type of game that makes you want to throw the controller through the window, but you still wonder that if you spend just five minutes more with it, it might just get a little bit better. There’s a certain type of game that can make you feel like you have feet for hands, whilst on another day, when the sun is shining, you have become the god of gaming.
That type of game is Thumper.
Developers Drool released Thumper to critical acclaim in an award dripping 2016. Now it’s available on Xbox One, and it’s up to us to see what all the fuss has been about.
Well the premise is as simple as eggs, whereby you play a chrome space beetle that is travelling through a hellish void while fighting a giant demon head. And that’s all you need to know about the story.
The developer describes Thumper as a “rhythm violence” game and I feel that sums up the experience perfectly. Your chrome space beetle zooms along an on-rails track at a fair old crack of pace and you have to either turn, jump or fly over obstacles coming your way. You have two lives to waste – although you may never need them – in order to progress through each section. A life is generally replenished after each section is completed, so it’s not as hard as it sounds. The music arrives fast, as does the action, and you should be able to time your movement with the rhythm of the track. But of course, as you progress the action gets faster, the obstacles get trickier and your brain begins to melt out of your ears.
There are nine levels in all, but those nine have about 20 or so subsections to complete. You have mini-boss battles in these sections and of course an end of level boss level where you fight the hellish skull head. This is basically done by not missing any beats and hitting a power up that fires some damage at the boss itself. These get harder and harder as you progress, but if you can keep your mind together, you will end up victorious.
I really do love this game and that’s even with me probably not being anywhere near its target market. That market is for someone with a decent level of gaming skill and more rhythm than a ten year old at a school disco. It’s a game that is so easy to pick up at the start, where it convinces you from the beginning that you’re okay at this game. Then when it has you fully hooked on it, the pain comes hard and fast. By that point you don’t care anymore because Thumper has you addicted to its fast paced lunacy and seat of your pants reaction gaming.
There are times where you question your sanity and the game starts to become too familiar, and maybe a bit samey in places, but the overall level design is so sublime and simple that you just have to keep going back for more. Thumper is also a game that you can easily dip in and out of if you have the willpower to walk away from it. It saves your progress after each section and each can take between one and two minutes to complete, depending on your skill level. Then after each section you get a grade depending on how your timings, reactions and rhythm skills are. To get the S grade on each of the nine levels acquires a god-like skill level and there are well earned achievements to reflect this.
The looks of Thumper are astonishing. Colours, abstract images and fast whirling lights fly past your eyes, wrecking your senses as you zoom through the game at high speed. It reminds me of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick, but in HD. Play it with the lights off and some headphones on, because the sound also delivers an outstanding mixture of violent beats and electronic rushes that work brilliantly within the game. Like me, you might not remember a single track outside of your experience, but the minute you start the gameplay up again it all comes rushing back.
To conclude, I have loved my time with Thumper and will carry on loving this mad, mental, skill based music mayhem of a game. There are moments when you might feel it all gets too much and too similar, but take a break before going back and you’ve fall in love with it once again.
If you like skill based rhythm games then you have to purchase Thumper.