It's all about the music.

Music and rhythm games have always been a popular genre to play on console. Thumper brings you the best of rhythm based games in a new format that works beautifully in VR. You'll ride down a track frantically hitting buttons to keep from dashing against a wall during a sharp turn, or from pummeling into a wall that appears on the track in front of you. This is a fantastically fun game that will have you asking for one more level long before you manage to put the game down and return to the real world.

Enchanting and eye opening.

Thumper has crazy graphics

Thumper on PlayStation VR is a ridiculously fun and addictive rhythm game that will hook you in within minutes. There aren't 360 degrees of graphics, unlike many VR games, but it still makes you feel as though you are hurtling through space. All of the gameplay takes place on a track, where you'll be dealing with the various obstacles thrown at you.

Your environment changes as you rocket down the track, and it may well steal your attention for the first few levels. For the most part, the background is fairly dark, to ensure that you can see the obstacles on the track in front of you as you ride down the light track. Each obstacle or power up will glow on the track in front of you. Whether it's the walls you'll need to ride along in blues and whites, or the glowing dots along the track itself which can restore your armor.

Occasionally the background will smear from your speed

You'll also notice that various elements will crop up around the track. These include long waving tendrils that might remind you of seaweed if they didn't look so otherworldly. They'll open and close, occasionally creating tunnels that you will rocket through. While the game starts out at a pretty easy pace, it quickly picks up and before you know it you'll barely be able to keep track of the environment. That's because keeping your eyes glued to the track is absolutely necessary.

The thing to remember about the graphics in this game is that they are seriously trippy. From waving tendrils, to beasties that fly at you. It's got a psychedelic vibe that may take you a few minutes to get used to. Likewise, don't be surprised if every now and again you get distracted by the graphics swaying in front of you. Sometimes it really is fun to just stop and stare at the pretty lights.

Rhythm hell has arrived

Meet one of the bosses inside Thumper

Thumper uses your DualShock 4 controller to play, and is definitely a game that is playable while sitting down. In fact playing while seated should probably be the default, just so you can soak it all in. It's controls are quite simple, having you hit a thumbpad, or button to complete actions when you come across specific obstacles. Don't think that this means this game is a breeze to play though. While the developers ease you into it to make sure you know what's going on, they quickly amp up the challenge.

This is also a game where sound is absolutely mandatory. You'll get an idea of the experience without headphones on, but it's with them in that you really get sucked into this world. Your actions play directly into the music as well. Successfully running a wall, or flying to grab loops will play into the music. Failing to do so will not only tear up your space beetle, but you'll also hear the discord from your botched attempt.

By keeping the controls deceptively easy, Thumper manages to make you think you've got everything handled only to disabuse you of that notion. Each level is broken down into a series of smaller chunks. When you complete each one you'll get a grade based on how well you did, along with a numerical score. At the beginning of each set of levels, the game will also introduce a new gameplay aspect. In the second level, it's walls. In the third, you'll learn how to fly to get over obstacles, or collect rings as you play.

There is only one way to die within the game. You play through as a space beetle hurtling down a track, and if you fail to deal with an obstacle you will take damage. If you fail to deal with enough obstacles, you'll simply break apart into a thousand different pieces. Thankfully, you'll only have to replay the stage, and each stage is fairly short.

Bite size levels

The number of stages within a given level will also increase as you go. Level 1 has 13 stages, but by Level 3 there are more than twenty. Each level also has a boss that you will have to defeat as well. In some cases you'll have to fight the boss across 2 or 3 stages in order to finally defeat it. You'll also have to master the obstacles from each level in order to take that boss — variations on a giant floating head — down for the count.

By focusing on very few gameplay aspects, the developers have delivered a game that will suck you in almost immediately. When I initially sat down to play, I'd planned to go for about 45 minutes before taking a break to get some lunch. Instead I wound up playing for over an hour, and never once thinking I'd been in there for as long as I had. It was ridiculosuly addictive, because even if I died I'd just restart the same stage over again.

Breaking things out into stages also means it's really easy to jump in and play however long you like without getting stuck in the middle of a stage. Each stage was no longer than 3 to 4 minutes, with the exception of Boss stages. Even though were pretty quick, provided that you managed to hit everything on your first try. This means that even if you only have 15 minutes to spare, it's easy to jump in and play without getting bogged down for too long.

While it took a few stages to get the hang of everything, soon I was pulling off grade S on multiple levels. I played through all of Level 1-3 in a single sitting, and had to convince myself to take a break and check the time. I could have happily continued to play without any issues or discomfort at all.

While the gameplay is very simple, it also quickly becomes quite difficult. That's because your speed will increase, as will the number and variety of obstacles that you need to deal with. It's not unheard of to dash yourself against a wall because you didn't manage to see it in time. However, you don't really notice at first when things start to speed up. It's a somewhat gradual procession, which makes the learning curve a bit easier on folks who haven't played a game of this kind before.

Conclusion

Thumper is a wickedly fun, and relentlessly addictive game that makes even simple controls challenging. It delivers on great graphics that never take away from the actual gameplay, controls that are easy to pick up and hard to master, and gameplay that gradually gets more difficult without ever making things easy on you. Available on the PlayStation Store for just $19.99, it's well worth the money for the enjoyment you will get out of it.

Pros:

  • beautiful but muted graphics
  • addictive, short stages
  • gameplay that keeps challenging you without becoming too frustrating

Cons:

  • figuring out how to deal some obstacles can be frustrating
  • dealing with a faster game can be frustrating at time

Outstanding

4.5/5

Thumper does an amazing job of blending gameplay and music for a fun, addictive rhythm game.

See at PlayStation Store