Thumper
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Thumper is a rhythm-action game unlike any other and will test players’ reflexes to the maximum. It features a unique metallic-chrome style for the visuals, which even without the disturbing bosses, makes for a slightly unsettling playing experience. This is further amplified by the aggressive music and unforgiving speed of the game. There’s no doubt that Thumper is a very challenging game, but it always draws you back in with the feeling that you can do slightly better with each try and finally conquer that one section that is preventing you from progressing.

Gameplay: Starts out relatively simple, but the speed and challenge ramps up very quickly.

Graphics: The surgically clean metallic look of the game is actually rather unsettling.

Sound: Not exactly catchy, but the music and sound effects fit the game perfectly

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Thumper

Developer: Drool | Publisher: Drool | Release Date: 2016 | Genre: Action / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Mention the rhythm-action genre and most players will picture bright, colorful visuals mixed with upbeat, energetic tunes. For a while, gimmicky plastic controllers were even involved. Thumper, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with any of this. Instead, it’s the type of rhythm-action game that would feel more at home hanging out with the survival horror crowd than the rest of the musical genre. From the get-go, players are handed control of a metallic beetle-like character speeding down an undulating road that stretches off into a void. Every now and then a lit tile appears on the horizon indicating that players must hit the “thump” button to activate it as their beetle moves over it. Holding down the “thump” button and steering off banked curves prevents your beetle from being smashed to bits. It’s all very simple and straightforward, but instead of the typical euphoria of rhythm-action games, Thumper comes with a healthy dose of growing dread that builds as you play.

It might be the slightly surreal visuals that make Thumper so unsettling or the music that is mostly loud and aggressive drum beats fueled by the thumping of your beetle. Those with strong stomachs and nerves of steel can even make use of the optional VR support to truly immerse themselves in the game. Unfortunately, screenshots can’t actually convey what it feels like to play Thumper. It all looks so clean and clinical whereas in reality you are travel through levels at such speeds that taking your eyes off the immediate track in front of you spells almost certain doom. Thumper in screenshots looks like a pretty musical visualizer. Thumper in action feels like someone injected cocaine straight into your eyeballs and your brain is going to explode if your concentration wavers for even a second.

Thumper is split into nine levels, each with numerous sub-levels. The sub-levels tend to be intense, but short, and players can continue from the start of each one if they fail. Speaking of failure, the beetle can survive one collision, which strips it of its wings, but getting hit again means instant death and a trip back to the start of the sub-level. It’s fa fair system, but our only criticism is that getting hit can be so disorienting and jarring that recovering from it in time is sometimes impossible. Completing a sub-level rewards players with a score and rating that range from C to S+. These are for bragging rights and achievements only, though, as even the lowest ranking is enough to get you to the next level. This also means that players can often ignore the notes that they have to hit and instead focus on bracing for corners or avoiding obstacles. There are a few exceptions to this though. The first is the laser barriers that pop up sometimes and instantly punish players for missing a single note. Then there’s the sub-bosses and end of level bosses that also require perfect precision to beat.

Boss fights require players to hit every note in a sequence, which then activates a special “attack” note that can be thumped to damage the boss. Do it successfully and a new section of the track appears where the process has to be repeated, often with trickier corners and obstacles. Fail, and the section will continue to loop until perfected or the player crashes, whichever comes first. It makes for a tough, but fair game that can be very frustrating if you fail yet immensely rewarding if you succeed.

Nine levels might not sound like much, but thanks to the number of sub-levels and challenging difficulty it took us more than 8 hours to complete everything. This still left open the option to go back and aim for an “S” rank on each level, which is not an easy feat. The truly dedicated can even give the “Play+” option a whirl, which removes the ability to restart from the last sub-level reached and instead requires players to complete each level in one go. It is even more anxiety-inducing than the normal mode and not recommended to the faint of heart.

We’ve already mentioned the visuals that somehow manages to be both beautiful and unnerving. The same can be said for the audio, which sounds unlike any other rhythm game out there. The soundtrack is extremely tense and aggressive, so don’t expect to be humming any of the “tunes” after playing the game. Yet, somehow, the audio matches up perfectly with the speed and intensity of the game itself. The overall experience is extremely visceral and rarely did we walk away from a playing session with dry palms. Playing Thumper with a controller is strongly recommended, despite the fact that the game only makes use of one button. Steering the beetle off banked curves feels more intuitive with analog sticks and feeling the rumple shake your pad adds to the immersion. Most of the game is played on “tracks” with single lanes, but occasionally these open up into multi-lane sections. You can be sure that when this happens there are going to be obstacles as well as notes scattered across multiple lanes, which requires you to quickly switch between them. There were a few times where it felt like the analog stick was just not quick enough to accomplish this, but switching to the D-pad briefly for these sections saw us through. Some sections of the game are also so fast and unpredictable that memorization helped us more than quick reflexes.

All in all, Thumper is an incredible game that has to be experienced to be believed. The one-button controls are deceptively simple, although the game does a good job of introducing new ways to dodge obstacles or perform thumps that can increase your score. There were moments when we had to put down the controller and walk away after struggling with the same sections repeatedly, but we always came back for more and always ended up persevering. Having said that, there was an undeniable sense of relief after completing Thumper and knowing that we didn’t have to venture back into its dark and twisted depths.

System Requirements

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit)
  • Processor: Intel Core i3
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GTX 480 / AMD Radeon 7870
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 1400 MB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit)
  • Processor: Intel i5-6400 (required for VR)
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 (required for VR)
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 1400 MB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible
  • Additional Notes: 8 GB RAM and DirectX 11 required for VR mode.

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7 Comments

  1. Tarryn Lewis February 3, 2021
    Reply

    brave the line
    don’t miss a beat
    for soon that starfish
    will know defeat

    • UglyKidJoe February 3, 2021
      Reply

      That is more poetic and calm than my experiences with the game. For me it was more like

      hammer the buttons
      scream at the screen
      if I die one more time
      imma rupture a spleen

    • Riordeen February 15, 2021
      Reply

      Would give game 0/10. Sparked eternal rage in me after just first level. I don’t know how people keep playing further. Rubbish is rubbish.

  2. Qalelith February 3, 2021
    Reply

    Controller in hand and
    flashing lights on screen
    speed is too intense
    underwear no longer clean

  3. Bleeping Shooty February 8, 2021
    Reply

    Faster beetle kill kill!
    This game has no chill!
    Glowing track and trippy beats
    Fuck this, too hard, please gib cheats

  4. VernR785 February 9, 2021
    Reply

    Ccccccombo breaker!

    • UglyKidJoe February 10, 2021
      Reply

      Combo broken but not yet beaten
      Beetle rises up to smash another cretin
      Glowing notes give way to shining star
      Smacking down another boss bizarre

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