Thumper is a rhythmic based action game developed by Drool.
Thumper is one of those rare games that makes me absolutely obsessed with it until the next impressive game comes along. I’ve enjoyed my time with Thumper, and have shared the game with as many people as I could, to see their initial impressions. Thumper has left a lasting impression on me with it’s simple, addictive gameplay and abstract, psychedelic, and ominous presentation. Even for a person like myself with no talent for rhythm or timing, Thumper is a sheer joy to play.
Thumper immediately puts the player on a mysterious track in a dark void surrounded by abstract, transforming shapes. You play as a shiny, silver beetle moving at blazing fast speeds down a haunting track. There is no explanation for why any of this is happening, but soon you will realize that you can’t stop and there are obstacles in your path that will threaten your life. If you survive these obstacles, large entities of various shapes will deploy obstacles and attacks in your direction that you must send back. Even after you defeat these large bosses, your path on the track never ends as you continue to the next level.
There isn’t much story or explanation at all in this game. Despite being cryptic and mysterious, the premise is simple and works well. Thumper’s premise is original, ominous, and allows the focus to be placed on the excellent presentation and gameplay.
Thumper has an art and presentation style that is elaborate while being simple. This can be seen by the way the transforming shapes around the track are presented and reveal themselves as you ride along. They are an intricate variety of designs and shapes that move in a threatening manner as you progress along the track. The shapes themselves are designed simply and are sparingly detailed. The track itself is a shiny, spotless path that changes color. Thumper gives the sensation that you are trapped in a deep and dark void with the only hope of escaping being to continue on the path you’re already on.
Because Thumper is a rhythm game, the music is an important aspect of its presentation. The music itself is loud, industrial, and alarming. The music swells as more obstacles come your way and the actions of the game become complex. The music is made complete by the sound effects you create when completing turns and hitting obstacles. They provide the thick punches and noises that satisfy your efforts.
Finally, Thumper uses the Nintendo Switch’s HD Rumble feature in a great manner. When you slide to the left of a wall, you feel its impact on the left joy-con. When you burst through obstacles, you feel the vibrations in both hands. The sensation is best felt when you don’t even realize it. In the more complex portions of the game where actions and movements must be made in split seconds, the vibrations are satisfyingly matched to your actions and it’s a feeling that must be experienced to understand why it’s great. Of course, like with all of my experiences with implementations of HD Rumble, they do not affect the gameplay. They offer an interesting sensation for each game, and it’s great to see a variety of indie developers making use of the feature.
The gameplay of Thumper is described as “rhythm violence”. Before actually playing the game, I did not understand what was meant by the “violence” part of the description. At first glance, the gameplay of Thumper seems like a traditional rhythm game. The controls are simple: all you press is the A button and move left or right with the left analog stick. Notes come down a track and you have to press a command in order to get credit. The difference between that and Thumper is that you do more than just time your commands with the notes. Thumper expects you to constantly be aware of blockades, sharp turns and jumps one must complete in order to survive. The “violence” part comes in how brutal and punishing these obstacles come in. If you mess up, the shell of your beetle is removed, leaving you with tolerance for one more impact. But violence does not go one way; you’re a part of the violence. As you follow the commands, you break barriers with brute force, make sharp turns that sound like scraping metal, and you defiantly return the attacks sent to you by the large evil entities.
Thumper features 9 levels with several level sections in each one. If you don’t think that’s enough, there is a + version of each level that provides a different challenge. Thumper rates your timing, movement, and whether you break all of the obstacles in your path. At the end of each section, it shows you how well you did and at the end of the level, it tells you your overall score, comparing it to everyone else’s in the world. You can view global, local, and friend leaderboards in order to compete for the highest score.
One of my concerns with Thumper is the repetitive presentation of the abstract figures that appear around the track. Don’t get me wrong; they’re impressive, psychedelic formations that help fit the ominous, mysterious void vibe the game goes for. Unfortunately, these formations tend to blend in with all of the other levels; especially, in the later levels when the game becomes faster and more complex. I appreciate the times the game slows down and gives you time to view the formations, but in actual gameplay, you just focus on the track. It’s the smallest possible concern I have and, honestly, it does not make the game any less great.
My other concern is the possibility of this game causing some players to suffer motion sickness. This game is fast, intense, and requires a lot of focus. After playing the game for more than an hour, I found myself feeling motion sick. This concern might not apply to everyone, but I feel it’s important to note for those players that are susceptible to this feeling.
Thumper’s hauntingly addictive gameplay and mysteriously chilling presentation makes it the most unique rhythm game I’ve ever experienced. In my first review for NinMobileNews, I wrote about how Hotline Miami is my favorite indie game of all time. After spending time with Thumper, I must say that this is now my favorite indie game. Thumper is thrilling, challenging, and leaves a lasting impression long after you finish playing. If you enjoy rhythm games or want to have an experience like no other, Thumper deserves your attention.
Thumper is available now for download on Nintendo Switch via eShop for $19.99!