Survival horror is not generally a term that is associated with rhythm-based games. The struggle to keep your shattered psyche together as a growing sense of unease and tension builds around you are not emotions commonly associated with rhythm games. In fact, fear, isolation and loneliness are all emotions that you would associate with games such as Silent Hill, Resident Evil or the Souls series. However, these emotions and more are all experienced whilst playing, developer Drool’s debut release, Thumper
The development studio consists of Brian Gibson and Marc Flury. Both are rhythm game veterans that have worked on the Guitar Hero series, Rock Band and Amplitude to name but a few of their credits. The game that has been born of this unholy alliance could quite easily have come from the twisted minds of H.P. Lovecraft and David Lynch. Thumper combines the abstract and cryptic to generate a sense of unease from the very beginning. A foreboding and threatening atmosphere emanates from the very moment the game begins and never relents. Moreover, when played in Virtual Reality there is quite simply nothing like it available at the moment!
The level of immersion that VR offers when playing a game like this is nothing short of incredible. This statement may sound hyperbolic, but one can only truly understand after experiencing being transported into another reality and having your brain tricked into believing that you are under threat or are moving at great speed. It is when you experience your first “VR moment,” that the eureka feeling arrives and the realisation sets in. You have been totally fooled into believing that you were an occupant in this virtual world. It is a heady and equally unnerving experience.
Thumper can be compared to the most exhilarating yet terrifying roller coaster imaginable. As a lowly space beetle, you hurtle through tunnels at breakneck speed, timing button presses to rectangle thumps on the floor, taking sharp turns and performing daring jumps, all whilst adding to the cacophony of noise that surrounds you. Every well-executed move adds to the frenetic and intimidating soundtrack. The music enhances the threatening atmosphere and builds into a frenzy during the most testing of stages. Hurtling through stages gritting your teeth, clutching your controller for dear life, whilst just trying to survive is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The sense of speed generated is overwhelming at times, pure reactions and instinct take over. Zen-like moments of clarity occur as your mind processes the required button presses to survive the next few seconds.
All the while, the foreboding void surrounds you. The tunnels undulate and morph creating strange corridors of organic ribs and psychedelic tunnels generating an even stranger and more claustrophobic environment. Tentacles and abstract life forms spew from the very levels themselves generating mini bosses and encounters with the villain of the piece Crakhed. These encounters require you to complete four increasingly difficult set combinations of button presses and manoeuvres to defeat the boss. The boss fights are challenging, highly tense affairs, testing your nerve and require all the skills you have learned in the game so far. The bosses are truly spectacular, the characters are huge and VR provides a great sense of scale and awe to each one. You really do feel like you are part of this abstract world and the sense of immersion is amazing. Throughout the eight to twelve-hour journey, you will experience the full gamut of emotions ranging from fear, exhilaration, desperation and joy. The game feels like a souls game to some degree. It is tough, brutal and unforgiving but once you learn the language of the game it is fair and possible to master.
Thumper truly is a demonstration of what can be achieved in Virtual Reality. The level of immersion and atmosphere generated by this medium is unmatched. Developer Drool has not only created an incredible game but has added a new slant on a familiar genre. The visuals and soundtrack combined with the break neck speed of the game create an exhilarating, unsettling and terrifying experience that should be played by anyone that owns a VR headset.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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