Many people believe rhythm games are a dying genre. Ever since the release (and subsequent demise) of the Guitar Hero series, no other rhythm game has ever reached the same level of success. There have been a few remarkable rhythm indies in the last few years (such as Audiosurf or Beat Hazard), proving that indies have a chance to succeed in the rhythm genre. After playing Rush Bros, a rhythm platforming title developed by XYLA Entertainment, I learned that they have a chance to fail, too.
In theory, Rush Bros sounds fantastic. It’s a racing/platforming game with colorful visuals, revolving around traps and obstacles that match with the rhythm of the background music. The game focuses on speed runs, and the gameplay looks a lot like Super Meat Boy. There’s around 40 levels in the game, and they’re varied enough to have their own atmosphere. No level feels like a repeat. Rush Bros also comes with support for split-screen multiplayer (something you don’t see very often in PC games) and Steam multiplayer.
You’re given the option to import your own music into the game to play with as well, but it’s not very simple: you’ll have to navigate through your hard drive to find it, which could cripple the less tech-savvy players. After you import your own tracks, the game doesn’t seem to recognize their beats too well. The obstacles seem to pop out randomly, and it’s tough to predict when to dodge them. Some obstacles are still hard to dodge even with the main soundtrack playing in the background. There are a few levels that force you to die to advance, which really bugged me. That really interrupts the pace of what’s supposed to be a speed run.
The single-player mode, entitled “Arcade Mode” in the game is pretty lackluster. There’s no storyline (outside of the opening cut-scene) and completing levels doesn’t unlock anything, except achievements. The meat of this game is in the multiplayer. You can compete with another player to get the best time on a course. As I mentioned before, the inclusion of offline split-screen is a huge plus, but it simply doesn’t make up for the lack of varied gameplay.
A controller is recommended for Rush Bros, not just because the game recommends it, but because it makes the already sticky and unresponsive controls a little more bearable. Games that focus on speed running need to have quick and calculated controls, not the messy wall jumping that comes with this game. Using a controller will create somewhat of a remedy, but there’s only so much you can do to take care of game mechanics that are inherently flawed. Compare Rush Bros to a game like Super Meat Boy, and the winner is clear. Even if Rush Bros had the same features as Super Meat Boy, it just wouldn’t work as well.
Rush Bros focuses on high-energy gameplay. I’ll admit it achieves that, and the music goes a long way to helping you get there. The soundtrack features a nice handful of trance and house songs to keep your blood pumping. This was the best part of the game. Having thumping bass and playful, crazy melodies going in the background really goes a long way to immersing the player into the experience. If there’s one thing that indie developers can learn from this game, it’s this: sound can add a lot more value to your game than you think.
I don’t want to completely dissuade people from checking out this game. If you’re a fan of high-energy rhythm games, and you have friends that are too, I recommend you take a look at Rush Bros. If you’re looking for a platforming game with some interesting elements, there are many more games out there that do what Rush Bros does and then some. This one’s worth a look, at the very least. Rush Bros is available on Steam for $8.99 this week. You can keep up to date with the game on Twitter at @RushBrothers.[review pros="Fantastic soundtrack, decent level design, local splitscreen multiplayer" cons="Sticky controls, minimal content, unreliable obstacles, importing songs doesn’t work well" score=47]