Thumper was released today on the Nintendo Switch. This is a game that gained high praise when it was released on PSVR and received high scores from most outlets. When I saw it was being released on the Switch, my initial thoughts were that it will be great for some, but not for me. I had heard this was a rhythm game and I’m not a rhythm gamer. What I came to find out is that Thumper is a rhythmic game, not a rhythm game. The difference here being that rhythm games require you hit buttons in rhythm and rhythmic games use your in game interaction to make the rhythm. This means a portion of a song is being played in the background and the rest of the music comes from you overcoming obstacles or coming in contact with the environment. This music style can be seen in games such as Flower and Bit.Trip Runner 2, both of which I have recently fallen in love with.
I played an hour of the game to make sure I had a good feel for a first impression. I’m sure I did not get as far as most in this first hour because, as many know, I am a terrible at video games. In that hour, I played through the entire first level with the Switch docked and half of the second level with the switch in handheld mode. The game is beautiful on and off the tv. The dark and futuristic setting uses a minimalistic design that makes playing it in your hands just as nice as on a 60” HDTV. The advantage that you have in handheld mode is easy use of headphones. Being able to have the music driven directly into your ears adds to the intensity of this fast paced game.
The game starts out with a tutorial style first level in which the player learns that they hit A when crossing a lit bar, hold A while moving the stick away from a turn to survive the turn, and hold A to break through barriers. These control combinations will get the player through the first level and are not difficult to master. What does become difficult is getting the timing right when your ship is flying along the rails of this beautifully dark world.
Throughout each level, you face mini bosses. The portions of the game require you to hit each of the green lit bars, where the last one in a segment sends the blow to the boss. If you miss one of the bars, it will reset that sequence and you will repeat this until you stop screwing it up. These bosses can present sequences that feel daunting, but the feeling of nailing the sequences is one of pure accomplishment.
At the end of each stage, you are presented with your stage stats and letter grade. For some, this will show how they mastered the stage and are on their way to greatness. For me, this is just another reminder about how bad I am at games and proof that I just barely made it through. I’ll just say that I saw the letter C more than I’d like to admit. This is something that you must decide if it is a positive or negative attribute. For me, I could go without it.
One thing I found truly bothersome is that one particular animation, that comes up a lot, happens to make it difficult to see when you must hit the button or die.
All in all, I’m really enjoying Thumper. The music is what pulls me in more than anything, but the game play is there as well. My most major concern is whether or not the game will become too difficult for me to finish. If you are looking picking this up you need to consider one thing: are you ok with playing the same section of a game over and over while trying to master the sequence.
I’ll be playing through the rest of the game, if it doesn’t destroy me, and hope to have a full review up in the next couple weeks.