A rhythm game like no other, Thumper is more likely to have you cowering under the bed sheets than it is have you bopping along to the music.
Rhythm games have never really interested me. I’ve much preferred to pick up an instrument and play or write a song myself, but Thumper isn’t your typical rhythm game, (the developers have even said it’s not a rhythm game.) You’re not so much re-creating notes on a chart-topping pop song, or creating your own; you’re trying to stay alive in a frightening universe where the overriding emotion you’ll feel is existential dread. And it’s great.
You play as a ‘space beetle’ zipping along a single track towards oblivion. As you hurtle along you come across various obstacles or cues that indicate which button to press. When you do this correctly you’ll add beats or sounds to the music, fail twice and you’ll explode. It sounds simple enough, and it does start out that way, but this is one of the more difficult VR launch titles, especially towards its almost-impossible end. The game slowly drips you new combos for you to master and the pace at which you learn these new moves is expertly delivered. The controls as a whole are very well implemented, though for some reason I kept trying to turn into the corners when I first played, rather than turning with them.
When I first got sucked into the universe of Thumper, it was very difficult to come out again. The gameplay is simple and addictive which helps no end. It does of course get harder, and you will die, yet when you finally succeed it feels amazing. It really scratches the reward centre of your brain. The combination of intense speed, bizarre world, repetitive but fun action and VR creates an experience like no other. I haven’t played the game without VR and although I’m sure it’s still fun, I can’t imagine not being in the game.
The music itself is difficult to describe – I’m not particularly au fait with music genres these days – but I would say it is some sort of Industrial-lite. There aren’t any melodies per se, more an intense warble of screams that you’d expect to hear in hell. I’m aware that sounds rather off-putting, and in a way it is, but once you’re playing you won’t want to stop – you’ll only end up doing so when the controller slips out your hand because it’s dripping with fear-induced sweat.
The less said about the boss battles the better; they’re really something you should experience for yourself but suffice to say I’m still not completely sure I’ve recovered from the nightmarishness of it all. I actually found myself having intense Thumper dreams after my first few playthroughs and whilst I’ve enjoyed the game I’m glad they went away.
You’re definitely getting your bang for your buck with Thumper. There are enough levels and challenge to keep you going for a while. And if you do manage to complete it, there’s always the challenge of attaining that coveted S rank on all levels, and there’s even worldwide leaderboards.
If you want an intense and challenging VR experience, and one that won’t break the bank, you should definitely give Thumper a try. It’s another game you’ll find yourself coming back to every so often, months if not years down the line.
Verdict: 8/10 – Must-buy.
Just as I finished writing this review I was alerted that an update had downloaded. The main add-ons being a “Play +” mode, which is faster and more “violent,” and ‘optimised post-processing effects for 4K rendering on PS4PRO.’