This is going to disappoint some Disney fans, but here’s a heads up that Thumper is not a platform game following the temperamental rabbit rescuing Bambi from a poacher, this one is a rhythm game brought to you by Drool LLC. Rhythm games can be a bit of a novelty. Sometimes they garner enough interest that publishers can make a wallet-filling franchise: Guitar Hero, Rock Band and somewhat comparable, the Just Dance series. Some smaller titles can be played on mobile that are more stripped down and focus more on the timing. Thumper is more of the latter.
It’s not a Switch exclusive, but like the aforementioned mobile games, this plays better on the handheld device (though docked is absolutely fine, and I’ve played this mostly on my TV as it deserves to be played through my subwoofer!).
As a dad, I’ve unlocked the gene where you immediately lose all coordination and dance as if at a wedding, no matter the location. On that basis, my timing is usually all out in these types of games, despite enjoying them. Thumper has very few controls and eases you into the gameplay quite well, so no need to dismiss this if you haven’t already played it. Dancing dads rejoice.
You take control of a chromium bug that elegantly glides along a monorail. It’s much like a rollercoaster, and the atmosphere and gameplay certainly complement this. The first levels ease you in; you remain on the tracks throughout, but when you pass a marking on the ground, press the A button and you will build up momentum. A few stages later, you learn to move to the left and right so you can take corners. You won’t ever come off the tracks, but the added controls are trickier than they sound.
Where most rhythm games have a goal of finishing a song and with the best high score, Thumper is about timing your actions so that you can take down bosses. If you complete a series of actions, a beam of light fires out of your bug and hits the end of the level boss square in the chops. You would need to do this a few times to progress.
Rhythm Is a Prancer
After each stage, you get a ranking for your performance. If you’re the cat’s pajamas, you’ll get an S ranking. They’re easier to get in the first few stages but much harder later on. Once you build up your confidence, you will take on the boss of the level and will keep playing until you get it right. You can afford to get your timing wrong on some markings, but if you move the wrong way on a corner, you’ll take damage and will have to restart eventually. Restart the stage, not the game!
Visually, the game is elegant but also simple, it’s very effective at setting a dark tone. It makes you feel on edge a little but in a good way. The colour palette is very dark, with purples and reds mixed with explosions and lighting effects. Equally, the music has this ongoing menace. For a game that tests your timing with the music, it’s not overpowering and works really well that you can occasionally look away from the screen and still be accurate. Not that you’d want to, it’s a lot of fun and fast-paced.
Unlike games such as Guitar Hero, all the music in Thumper is original and made for the game. It has a very industrial feel, but it’s not necessarily something you would listen to outside of the game; though if there were a more linear set of tracks, I’d be persuaded. The sound is more or less perfect, it’s just not something I could listen to in the car at the moment. The music is continually evolving as it changes in pace and intensity as you progress as if telling a story. It equally evokes a sense of urgency too when you are battling a boss or trying to get an S rank.
And the Beat Goes On
There are nine levels in the game, and these are made up of numerous stages. The theme for each stage remains the same, but the stages are relatively quick, its just depends on whether or not you want to complete the stage or get a decent ranking. I had the best intentions to get the best rankings I could but scraped through a lot of them.
If that doesn’t sound like you, and you want the challenge, you can do a + mode of the stages. This is mainly hardcore mode, and I break out in a sweat just typing this. Sadly, there isn’t a split-screen two-player mode or anything like that, but with a game like Thumper, you want to play this on your own in silence (you know what I mean) so you can get your timing perfected and experience the overall feel of this excellent rhythm-based game.
There’s a VR version of Thumper that I haven’t experienced, so I can’t comment on that. But ignoring that option, the Switch is the best platform for Thumper as you can experience on a large screen with loudspeakers or on the commute with headphones. Due to the length of each stage, your journey shouldn’t interrupt your gaming.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 18th May 2018