Described as a “rhythm violence” game by its developer Drool, Thumper is unlike anything else you’ve ever played.
It’s been around the block a few times by now: first released back in 2016, it’s been on just about every format, both in VR and non-VR forms. And so, there’s a good chance you have already played it. Now available on PSVR 2, Thumper doesn’t exactly offer anything new, then. But the extra clarity offered by the headset’s much-improved screens accompanied by the haptic feedback makes this perhaps the best way to play.
But it’s those who are new to Thumper who are going to get the most out of this PS5 release. This is a tense, heart-pounding experience that, yes, technically is a rhythm game. But one so dark, violent and at times veering into abstract horror that it subverts everything you expect from the music-rhythm genre. Its soundtrack isn’t so much about a beat as it is about a visceral feeling; it’s the kind of sound that leaves you uncomfortable and on edge, like the soundtrack to a Gaspar Noé movie.
You don’t have multiple lines of notes to chase after, either. Thumper has just one track and you, as a metal beetle, must speed along it, hitting a button at the right time, leaning into corners, and avoiding obstacles as necessary. It’s in time to the music, but that’s about all it has in common with a typical music rhythm game.
That’s not to Thumper‘s detriment, either. Watching your beetle speed down the track is exhilarating, and reacting at just the right time will put you in a trance-like state. Hold the button, dodge, lean, jump, rinse and repeat. When you get it all just right, it’s a dark, transformative dance that completely absorbs you. Get it wrong, though, and it can be a frustrating experience: Thumper isn’t easy, and your timing and reactions are everything.
Each level of Thumper is made up of multiple short stages, designed to be played in one sitting. Coming at the end of each level is a boss fight; a face-off against a horrifying beast laying in wait for you at the end of your track. By hitting notes at just the right time, you’ll fire them down the track, damaging the beast before it has chance to retaliate. These are perhaps the most tense stages of all, but they’re also the most visually stunning.
Indeed, all of Thumper is quite the sight, particularly in VR. It’s dark and moody; blacks and reds fill your screen, transporting you to some sort of ethereal nightmare. But you’ll likely be transfixed on the action, completely absorbed in Thumper‘s strange but fascinating world. There really is nothing else like it. And try as we might, it truly is impossible to fully summarise the wonder of Thumper into words. It’s one that really does need to be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated.