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Thumper Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . I really enjoyed Thumper. It's challenging in all the right ways and a near perfect game to be played in the Switch's handheld mode. The action comes at you so fast that you can't look away for a second and the presentation can be downright hypnotic at times. And while there are elements that remind me of other rhythm games, Thumper does an excellent job of bringing something new and unique to the genre. Just don't go in expecting a casual, stress-relieving music game. Rating: 78%
Thumper
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  • Review Score:

  • B+
Music games are my stress reliever. When I've had a bad day or just need to relax, I'll boot up Rock Band 4 and go through a few of my favorite songs and suddenly everything is better. This is not true of Thumper. Instead of calming me and making the troubles of adulthood go away, this brand new rhythm game from developer Drool stresses me out. I became a nervous wreck as I skidded my way around every turn and desperately tried to keep up with the music. And you know what? I loved every second of it.

Thumper is basically a mix between a rhythm game and a racing game. You play a space beetle that speeds down the track in an attempt to hit all the white notes that fly by. While this may sound like a simple job, I assure you that it's anything but. You'll have to navigate past tricky turns, smash through obstacles and leap over thorny bushes that line the track. Hit any of these things wrong and you'll lose your protective shell, followed by a game over if you hit the obstacles again.


We're introduced to the basics in the first couple stages, but each subsequent track has our beetle learning a new lesson. We'll go from simply jumping over items to pulling off a ground pound in order to break barriers attached to the course. You'll also run into laser fields where missing a white note will result in certain doom. And then there are levels where you'll need to switch between multiple tracks. The game does a good job of easing you into the new mechanics from one level to the next, gearing you up for what are some truly epic (and epically difficult) final stages.

To make things even more challenging, each level will have you fighting multiple bosses. Regardless of whether it's the final boss or a mid-level boss, the tactics are always the same. You'll need to hit every white note perfectly in order to send a powerful charge attack down the track and make contact. The tricky part is that you'll have to keep replaying the same section over and over until you get it 100% right. Do this four times and you'll defeat the boss and move on to whatever is next.

I'll admit that I went into this game a little cocky. I mean, I've spent thousands of hours playing rhythm games throughout my life and often feel like I'm ready for anything. But I was not ready for Thumper. This is a tough game, and I don't mean that as a criticism. One of the things I liked the most about this game is how it bucks the cliches and feels fresh and original. I liked that it humbled me and forced me to relearn everything I thought I knew. There's no easy mode here, it just throws you into the deep end and hopes your eyes will adjust to the breakneck speed. Mine did, but not before slamming into thorn bushes and screwing up the cornering.

For as much as I loved playing through Thumper and recommend it to any Switch owner with even a passing interest in rhythm games, I do have a few nitpicky gripes about the way the adventure unfolds. For one thing, I'm not a big fan of the music. This is more about personal taste than anything, but a lot of the tunes started to blur together after a while. I wish there was a little more variety to the soundtrack, even if they kept the beat-heavy theme.

Thumper (Switch)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The same can be said about the backgrounds. While I love the way the game looks and moves, I started to notice some of the designs repeated throughout the stages. This isn't a big deal (and you'll barely be looking at them as you dodge obstacles and hit notes), but it would have been nice to see big sweeping changes to the visuals from one level to the next. The same goes for the bosses, which tend to get recycled more than I would have liked. Thumper has a habit of reaching into its bag of tricks a few too many times, but that never gets in the way of the speedy gameplay and visceral feel.

Nitpicking aside, I really enjoyed Thumper. It's challenging in all the right ways and a near perfect game to be played in the Switch's handheld mode. The action comes at you so fast that you can't look away for a second and the presentation can be downright hypnotic at times. And while there are elements that remind me of other rhythm games, Thumper does an excellent job of bringing something new and unique to the genre. Just don't go in expecting a casual, stress-relieving music game.
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