Ever since I first watched the debut trailer a long time even before the festival, I couldn’t wait for my chance to play Thumper, the game in development by two veteran rhythm game developers, Brian Gibson and Marc Flury. Described as “a rhythm violence game,” the idea couldn’t be more appealing to me as both a huge fan of games like Guitar Hero and Rhythm Heaven and an enthusiast of fresh concepts. Of course, I was expecting a completely different game from those two even before I got my hands on Thumper, and it really exceeded those expectations from the moment I started playing.
The player controls a metallic space beetle sliding roughly through iron tracks. The beetle’s mission is to defeat a giant enemy who remains disguised as a weird, giant triangle at the beginning of the game, but reveals itself after some time. The game slowly introduces the controls, which require using side arrows to move the beetle and pressing “A” for making sharp turns and hitting buttons on the tracks. These buttons are how the player attacks the master enemy, and each time the player perfectly hits the beat, a pulse is thrown at the boss to damage it. Most of the time, I had to combine the timing of hitting these buttons and making sharp turns to defeat a boss stage, which was when things got serious and scary.
The game’s mood is terrifying, although it’s not a horror game and there’s no blood. This feeling, rather, is conveyed by one of the most expressive soundtracks I’ve ever listened to in an indie game. All the game’s tension, relief, anxiety and intensity is expressed through a soundtrack that can be compared to the darkest electronic tunes. Whenever I had to get a beat or streak of beats right, I could feel my hands getting more tense and my button pressing getting harsher. The game really messed with my mind and body.
What is most impressive about Thumper is that the rhythm and beats are subtle and even imperceptible during the first runs. Though it makes the game very difficult at first sight, once I got the hang of it, the next beats felt instinctive and natural, although they weren’t really any clearer at this point. It was understandable that this is what the developers wanted to achieve, to make a different rhythm game that won’t show you the exact timing of the beats, but instead will make you look for them and learn the game’s patterns with each new hit.
Despite this completely new take on the genre, I felt like Thumper could be limiting its potential if the final game is just the beetle sliding on a single iron track. What was presented to me back when I played it is already great and innovative, but luckily it seems from the trailer that the definitive version will also have larger tracks, obstacles, and some new challenges to add even more intensity to the game. With that said, I can’t wait for my chance to play Thumper again.
Thumper was a nominee for Best Sound at the BIG Festival and will be released sometime in 2016 for PC and PS4. Those interested can find out more at Drool’s website. You can also stay here and check out our other BIG Festival Previews.