Game of the Year Thumper

first_imgStay on target Review: ‘Fantasy Strike’ Is A Fighting Game That Understands…Game of the Year: Jordan Minor’s Best Video Games of 2018 For too long the definition of “Game of the Year” has been unfairly narrow. How boring is it to see every website shower the same stale AAA games with praise at the end of each holiday season? So at Geek.com we’re doing what we can to put a stop to this in Game of the Year, a new column celebrating worthy alternative picks for the year’s greatest game regardless of genre, platform, year of release, or even quality. Here, any game can be Game of the Year!Recently I was shocked when I learned that cult classic dog-rapping game PaRappa the Rapper is, in fact, the first rhythm game. I always assumed the game, with its talking flowers and onion masters, was a purposefully strange reaction to more traditional older rhythm games. But unless you count toys like Simon, the 1996 PlayStation 1 game is considered the first modern rhythm video game.The history of rhythm games is rooted in the weirdness of games like PaRappa and Elite Beat Agents and more esoteric editions of Dance Dance Revolution, not more mainstream hits like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Thumper, this week’s Game of the Year and a great game that actually came out this year, comes from former Rock Band developers at Drool. After years of plastic guitars and Top 40 hits, Thumper feels like the team communing with the rhythm game genre’s bizarre beating heart, and the game is all the better for it.Thumper’s spooky vibe would’ve made it a great fit for a Halloween game of the year. Drool was smart enough to drop it in October. But if The Simpsons can do Halloween episodes in early November so can we. Thumper’s gameplay isn’t too far from a standard, Amplitude-style rhythm game, but it immediately sets itself apart with its oppressive tone. Music games are typically party games, and they help bring people together with cheery visuals. Thumper is a strictly single-player affair, and it’s as harsh and isolating as watching a grindhouse movie alone.In fact, Thumper would probably make a good grindhouse movie. The woozy psychedelic colors and filthy subtle film grain overlay look like you’re racing through 1970s logos and movie trailer content warnings. It’s truly a beautiful series of deaths. Meanwhile, the premise totally sounds like some vaguely Lovecraftian horror schlock Quentin Tarantino would’ve referenced by now. Players control a chrome scarab beetle zooming through grungy neon hell blasting floating heads in the sky while keeping pace with industrial music.Thumper’s Butthole Surfers-esque noise rock soundtrack isn’t exactly my jam. I’m not even entirely confident that comparison is accurate, so feel free to snobbishly correct me in the comments. But I do admire how the game commits to that specific musical stylistic choice and lets it inform every aspect of this “rhythm violence game.”Beyond pairing spectacularly with the nightmare visuals, the way you hit the notes makes sense for this soundscape. In most rhythm games crisply matching beats on time provides a pleasant steady stream of synesthesia. But in Thumper plowing through sticks, scraping against walls, and performing the various other crunchy, gnarly ways you hit beats always add a little pain to that simple pleasure. It’s rhythm game sadomasochism, especially if you play with PlayStation VR.That pain isn’t always for the best, though. Besides being very difficult, the songs are so arrhythmic that often I felt I was just matching visuals cues instead of falling into a groove. I get that discomfort is the point… but it’s still discomfort. Fortunately, the game’s nine lengthy levels/songs are chopped into manageable sections you can easily repeat. Thumper does have a heart, however shriveled.Along with being a Game of the Year, Thumper is also now a Nintendo Switch Game That Isn’t Zelda, and the port has gotten me to revisit the game in a big way. I prefer playing PC games in long stretches, but playing Thumper like that frequently led to stressful quitting. That problem evaporates on Switch where I can play the game portably in short bursts, providing just the right amount of tension without making me want to kill myself. It runs great on the system and HD Rumble is the perfect feature for a game all about feeling rhythm as violently as possible.If I wanted to go full-on video game journalist cliche, I would call Thumper the Dark Souls of rhythm games. But that’s not even accurate. Dark Souls is bad. Thumper is the Game of the Year.Check back next week to read about the next Game of the Year!last_img