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Review

Thumper Review

  • First Released Oct 10, 2016
    released
  • Reviewed Aug 17, 2017
  • PC
  • PS4
  • NS
  • XONE
Chris Damien on Google+
58 Comments

Turn on, tune in, and drop the beat.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Update: The score now reflects the Xbox One version of Thumper, and the review text has been amended to reflect our experience with the Switch version. Please scroll to the bottom to find the updated content.

Despite recent efforts to revive brands like Rock Band and Amplitude, there's a general sense that we've been there and done that when it comes to rhythm games. The staleness of the genre was a concern going into Thumper. It's a game that runs on rails, where you have to time button presses to match a beat that grows increasingly fast and complex over time, with the primary gimmick being that it's layered with trippy visuals. But those details don't tell the whole story. Thumper is like most rhythm games you've played before, but it's also a powerful, moving experience--especially in VR--that stands out as something completely different from its forebears.

Imagine for a second that you're a chrome-plated beetle participating in a life-or-death luge race set in a tangled web of undulating cables, iridescent halos, and laser beams. In one ear, the menacing sound of taiko drums bang away, while the other is fed oppressive industrial riffs and beats. The tracks are dangerously slick and fast, and the only way to survive is to give yourself up to the beat--allow it to command your instincts to lean into sudden turns and hit markers at the right time. Anything short of a total bond between yourself and the track will lead to dimmed reflexes resulting in life-ending collisions. Success is surviving long enough to meet the the boss--a disembodied flaming head with piercing eyes and spiked florets emerging from all sides. He beckons, you respond, and you pray your muscles can react fast enough beat him senseless at his own game, matching every beat he sends your way.

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Granted, that may sound like a creative way to interpret what amounts to a simple rhythm game, but just because it sounds fantastical and flowery doesn't mean it's purely imaginative. You aren't challenged to create music in Thumper as much as you are to keep up with the obstacles it dictates; what amounts to beats or notes in other games is treated differently here.

Most of the time, you're forced to act in other ways--at an incredible rate of speed. When taking a steep curve, you have to press a button and move the analog stick to grind the wall. Fail to hold the turn long enough or hit the correct button, and you crash. Spiked sections require you to jump, while a series of barriers can only be passed when you hold down the "beat" button. You may also find your track expand to multiple lanes while a phalanx of technopedes float into your path, forcing you to shift from side to side without hesitation.

The big difference here is that you aren't forced to fill in a song to succeed. For example, you aren't always required to hit a button when a beat icon--for lack of a better term--appears on a track. The two exceptions are during the boss battle at the end of each stage and when a ring floats around the track waiting to punish you with an unavoidable attack for missing your mark under its watch. But these moments arise infrequently.

Thumper is about survival under the guidance of music--and less about actually creating music. Beats and notes telegraph incoming obstacles, planting a seed in your subconscious only fractions of a second before you have to react. Tuning into this is critical during later levels where unavoidable obstacles fly by a mile a minute, and the process is thrilling to see in action as you frantically react, somehow survive, and ultimately inform the depth of the song at hand.

If you hesitate to take action even in the slightest, Thumper will make short work of you. It's dangerously fast. In the span of a single second, you may have to take three turns, jump over a pit, and slam down from midair on top of an incoming beat marker. There are optional opportunities to improve your score or rating--such as jumping to hit floating rings--but making unnecessary moves is like tempting fate. Fail to input the correct button combinations at the precise moments that actually matter, and you're liable to hit a barrier, lose your sense of the beat and the track, and careen into a wall. That said, when you take the chance and come out unscathed, it's thoroughly rewarding to know that you went above and beyond Thumper's already challenging demands.

Immersion is a tall claim, but it’s one that Thumper realizes. As a game that's playable both on a TV and in VR, this really only holds true for the latter, but again, it's a step above most "immersive" experiences we've seen before. Thumper thumps, bangs, and pummels you with intense percussion. It's as if you're facing the front lines of an army that intimidates their enemies with massive drums, and when things are at their most intense, it lays into you with high-pitched, droning sounds that rake at your psyche.

Enveloped in corridors of light or swimming in a sea of darkness where faint, mechanical devils perform an intimidating dance, Thumper is truly captivating to behold, moving at commanding rate of speed that's difficult to shake. During a moment of solace, you may realize that you don't remember exactly what happened in the preceding moments. Yet there you are, speeding down the track to your next death-defying performance.

Thumper's only hang-up is the repeated use of musical measures or track designs. Each level, which is divided into a few dozen segments on average, occasionally bears too strong of a resemblance to past stages. This issue is softened due to the effective nature of the game at large, but when it happens, you can't help but wonder what could have been given a little more musical variety.

It sounds odd to claim that a lack of consistently original music wouldn't be a major problem for a rhythm game, but music isn't the point. Thumper thrives due to the way it marries speed, simple controls, and mesmerizing atmosphere. It's far more convincing in VR, where you're enveloped in the game's space and free of distractions from the outside world, but it shouldn't be ignored by those without the appropriate hardware. Thumper, no matter how you play it, is too good to miss.

Thumper has now made its way to Nintendo Switch, where it remains every bit as enjoyable to play on a monitor (at 1080p 60fps) as it is on PS4 and PC. Surprisingly little has been sacrificed in the transition to the portable console, and in some ways the fact that you can now hold it close by undocking the Switch makes it a slightly more immersive experience than sitting feet away from your TV. If VR isn't something you have access to or want to invest in, the Switch version of Thumper is arguably the second best route to experience everything this impressive and brutal rhythm game has to offer.

Back To Top
The Good
Playing in VR is a truly immersive experience
Stages brim with creepy and foreboding atmosphere
Harrowing music that sticks with you
Delivers an incredible sense of speed
The Bad
Repeated use of some song measures, visuals, and obstacles
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Peter made it to the final stage of Thumper over the course of eight hours before writing this review. It made his heart race, his complexion fade, and his eyes widen. He loved every minute of it. GameSpot was provided with a complimentary copy of the game for the purpose of this review.
58 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for TruSake
TruSake

This game, VR, and some mushrooms.

Avatar image for snugglebear
snugglebear

I'm always thumpin. Yeah, it's always something.

Avatar image for rossiko
rossiko

I thought this game is ok, i play it in vr. I think its overrated though because for me the music doesn't change a great deal & its pretty much the same visually all the way through it just gets more intense.

Avatar image for ekolite
ekolite

Can´t wait to try this one out.

Avatar image for StephenSays
StephenSays

Someone tell me I am wrong.

I believe this game can only play with VR set up. (PS4)

limited

Avatar image for bryanweary
BryanWeary

@StephenSays: You are indeed wrong. It can be played without VR on PS4(I've played it both ways). It is also available on PC, Switch, and now XB1.

Avatar image for retromarket_es
Retromarket_es

Tempest meets Guitar Hero. I can program this mechanics (not graphics of course) in a 80' PC with CGA and 512Kb ram.

Nothing new.

Avatar image for skipper847
skipper847

I thought it was going to be about a Rabbit :(

Avatar image for hollywood1
hollywood1

Is this a video review? or just a video clip showing the game?? 2:42 min in and Pete hasn't said a word. Seems like Pete needs to learn how to use an editing program. Can I recommend Final Cut Pro! It's very easy to pick up and cut and paste. :) Cheers, if you need some help learning how to edit a "VIDEO review" there are plenty of Tutorials on YouTube.

Avatar image for tjb90
tjb90

@hollywood1: It's say gameplay in the first 5 seconds

Avatar image for alkaabi_of_war
alkaabi_of_war

switch time ^^

Avatar image for christianyonas
christianyonas

*put on VR, play for 5 mins*

.

.

anddddddddd.......... vomit

Avatar image for hollywood1
hollywood1

@christianyonas: or seizure

Avatar image for RadPro
RadPro

@christianyonas: I've no problems playing this game in VR, I don't what you're going on about.

Avatar image for aross2004
aross2004

@christianyonas: Anndddd, there is absolutely nothing about this game in VR that is uncomfortable. It's actually more comfortable in VR whereas the track you are on stays centered in you view as opposed to out of VR where the track moves left and right.

Wish people would have a little more knowledge before speaking up.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

Cool

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

I'm glad the Switch got this game, but it simply is NOT the same out of VR.

Avatar image for GarGx1
GarGx1

Am I stuck in a time bubble? The games review date is today but the comments below mine are 5+ months old. Did that video melt my few remaining brain cells?

Avatar image for brandsome
Brandsome

@GarGx1: They just updated the original review, so those are the original comments

Avatar image for jakesnakeel
jakesnakeel

One of my most disappointing psvr purchases. Super simplistic and monotonous. The music all sounds the same.

Avatar image for cjtopspin
cjtopspin

Yep. Its official. I'm old.

Avatar image for ederfb
Ederfb

I have no idea how the game feels when playing on a regular TV. But, as a PSVR owner, playing it in VR is an amazing experience, and really fun game! I tried the demo, and once completed, it was enough to convice me to buy it! I know I'll repeat what many have said already, but you really need to try it to understand. The immersion in this weird world is way above many games I tried. Personaly, I'm giving it a 9.5/10. I'm at work now, and I cannot wait to be back home to put my VR on and be back in this crazy world - its the sign of a very good game! If you have a PSVR, you must, at least, try to demo! This $25 game alone convinced me that I made a good choice at buying the PSVR.

Avatar image for psn_m1nat3k
PSN_M1NAT3K

I have NO IDEA what's going on with this game. They need someone talking on one of these videos to explain what's happening on-screen better. To me, it looks like a rails game where the one thing you do is press some trigger when a bar on the rail slides under you. Looks like a hard pass to me, but GS gave it a 9?

Avatar image for heisenbird
Heisenbird

@psn_m1nat3k: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh1vYUxXvmA

Avatar image for psn_m1nat3k
PSN_M1NAT3K

@heisenbird: Thanks! That's a much clearer explanation of the game. Now I'm actually interested in picking it up.

Avatar image for medafor
medafor

@psn_m1nat3k My thoughts exactly.

Avatar image for louixiii
LouiXIII

Wow...that final boss video gave me a headache. If this is what VR is all about, I'll pass xD

Avatar image for d3ad4ng3l
d3ad4ng3l

Is this even a game? Soon or later Microsoft PowerPoint will be a game too because you can do animation and add music and add buttons. Game these days...

Avatar image for Itzsfo0
Itzsfo0

@d3ad4ng3l: maaybe its not for you...games these days...no diff then any other time period

Avatar image for Glic2K
Glic2K

Came to the comments section to see people talking trash about a game they've never played and wasn't disappointed.

Avatar image for Warsilver
Warsilver

This is one of those games where if you are high while in VR it seems pretty cool, otherwise it's shit.

Avatar image for aross2004
aross2004

@Warsilver: It's an awesome game regardless.

But I will say that I tripped out on this game for like 6 hours one night in PSVR, and the experience was as close to true Zen as I've ever been.

It certainly didn't hurt that the dose was so ridiculously pure, but this game has a special place in my heart now.

Avatar image for horosavinXX
horosavinXX

gamespot+score 9=arty crap

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

The above is coming from a dude who gave Duke Nukem Forever a tenner - such fucking bullshit.

Avatar image for bfa1509
bfa1509

This looks horrific...

Avatar image for Utnayan
Utnayan

This looks like a seizure waiting to happen.

Avatar image for NiteX
NiteX

Oh wow this is about to release already? Been looking for to it for years. Good to see it got a 9 as well.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a1d4b615a3a3

It's situations like this that make you realise just how obsolete scoring systems are in modern gaming. I'm sure this game is great fun and is a great example of the genre but if I had the choice between this and another 9 scoring big budget game, i'd go for the latter without hesitation.

Avatar image for ewjiml
ewjiml

@pspearman: Why? Because the score 9 doesn't fit your perception of what "great" gaming is? Congratulations on making the rest of us realize you can't wait for the next COD...or Assassins Creed...or Far Cry 10. This game tries something new and looks awesome if I had VR. The comment boards on Gamespot have desolved into whiny gamers expressing their hurt feelings.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a1d4b615a3a3

@ewjiml: No, I even said the game is likely great in my comment. I just don't think the scoring system these days really means anything as the spectrum of games is so vast that trying to quantify a games quality in such a limited way doesn't achieve anything.

This game may very well be worth it's 9 rating but what the developers tried to achieve to reach this 9 rating and what, for example, Rockstar tried to achieve to get GTAV's rating etc are so wide apart that a simple score cannot reflect that.

Avatar image for ederfb
Ederfb

@pspearman: I think that the scoring is still valid, you just need to compare apples with apples... Meaning that this game, in the category of 'musical beats' game, it's a 9 vs other games in the genre. But, going back to your example above, you will not compare GTA with Thumper - completely 2 different game styles. GTA will needs to be compared to other big open world games. Just like movies... I will never compare an horror movie with a big drama one - 2 different things.

Avatar image for hushed_kasket
hushed_kasket

When a game gets 9/10, I usually make it a point to at least try it.

Feel pretty at ease passing on this one though.

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Thumper More Info

Follow
  • First Released Oct 10, 2016
    released
    • Android
    • Google Stadia
    • + 6 more
    • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
    • Nintendo Switch
    • Oculus Go
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Thumper is rhythm violence: classic rhythm-action, blistering speed, and brutal physicality.
    6.8
    Average Rating20 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Thumper
    Developed by:
    Drool
    Published by:
    Drool, Limited Run Games
    Genre(s):
    VR, Music/Rhythm
    Theme(s):
    VR
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+