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Reviews Free to Play PS4 PSVR

Thumper Free to Play Review

Thumper is a rhythm game and it reminds me a lot of other games like Rez Infinite and even Guitar Hero, only in this game beats are known as notes. You play as a space beetle and have to guide it through space and time and fight an insane giant head from the future. Thumper is free until 22 April with the Play at Home 2021 program and all inputs center around one button.

Tapping it on the notes, hold it to break through barriers, use it with left or right on the analog stick to get around curves or press it with up when you hit a note to launch into the air avoiding spikes and to get these ring things. Thumper has 9 levels which progressively ramp up to a frenetic pace and a there’s a play+ mode for the truly sadistic who like increased speeds and permadeath’s. It took me under 5 hours to complete Thumper on my first run but this was strewn over the course of a few days since my thumb kept getting sore while playing.

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Although Thumper isn’t impossible it’s definitely challenging, you either achieve enlightenment allowing you to see through space and time, get crushed by the brutal chicanes or difficult input combinations. Thumper does a decent job of introducing new mechanics and relative safety only to implement them again later on which helps because the game relies on swift reaction time and precise inputs.

There are these snake things for example and they’re first introduced in a boss fight in small numbers but eventually they come in greater and greater numbers even outside of boss fights. Another example is a metallic-like ring known as a Laser Sentry. It loads up notes with anti-miss technology causing it to shoot at you and it does in fact make you miss. At first it only loads up a few notes and then it goes away but eventually it loads up large swaths of levels and appears even during boss battles.

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This sentry thing really stressed me out and you know you bought into a game’s immersion when the mere sight and sound of a sentry approaching causes you to tense up and get serious. Thumper rarely slows down once you pass the fourth level and there are times when the next beat or obstacle appears almost immediately after completing a checkpoint within a level. At other times Thumper gives you a brief lull in which you can relax, breath and compose yourself for the relentless rapid dash through the psychotropic landscape to come.

The visuals in Thumper are decidedly simple and yet attractive. The stark contrast between the nebulous space surrounding you and the clear linear and geographical designs, obstacles and bosses provide your eyes with a feast of color and movement. You’ll barely have time to notice them as you are laser focused on what obstacles are placed ahead to kill you.

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Your bug ship thing can survive one hit and there’s no user interface to show you your health but you can tell if your ship can take a hit by whether or not it has these shiny wings. The wings are like a shield protecting you from one hit and getting hit without the wings brings swift death. Later on, as I improved, I began mastering more difficult combinations of inputs for example eventually you realize that there are way more rings floating around that you can possibly hit.

Some exist even around corners which I’ve never been able to hit before and in order to get these rings I needed to learn how to sustain flight as I went around corners which requires some precise timing. This is only useful to increase your score at the end of a level and personally I didn’t care for my final score that much as long as I completed the level. I did learn a lifesaving technique which in conjunction with flying around corners can be very tricky to pull off.

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By jumping off a note and then slamming down on the next bug causes a crazy and satisfying shockwave which kills all these little tentacle things that appear on the side of the track. If you slam down with a high enough score multiplier you will imbue the next note with a visible glow and if you manage to hit that glowing note you’ll get your shielded wings back if you lost them earlier.

This becomes very hard even too risky to pull off in later levels but it definitely raised the ceiling of difficulty when I felt that a level became stale or repetitive. There were a couple times where Thumper surprised me as when the boss fights required a series of inputs that the game had not explicitly taught me yet which I figured out by virtue of the game mechanics I’d be using the entire game.

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These moments of insight were a pleasant surprise but this only happened once or twice for me. Despite the simple controls and your improvements as you play you will crash and burn often. Thumper is just too frantic and fast paced and there are timings that you can barely see what’s coming next giving you mere milliseconds to react or die. But at least the game doesn’t make you restart the entire level as you restart at relatively frequent checkpoints which is nice. This is where PSVR actually helps.

Playing on a monitor works well but in VR I found a distinct advantage which made the levels easier in my opinion. One level for example on the monitor, the camera perspective automatically snaps to the orientation of the track and this is clearly done on purpose to increase the challenge as it reduces visibility of future obstacles. However, in VR I’m free to look ahead and change the perspective at will.

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This doesn’t make the game a breeze by any stretch of the imagination but it gives you the player a better chance to deal with what the game dishes out. In the end I found Thumper to be one of the few games that definitely benefits from VR implementation. I had no trouble running it and being able to scout ahead on a track is a real bonus to the player. I also experienced a couple bouts of goose bumps while playing this game but this only occurred in VR and only when the music matched the beats and actions.

Unfortunately, I found this perfect synergy between actions and music to be rarer than I would expect from a game like this. Also, I seem to be immune to artificial movement in VR but I imagine that this game would probably destroy new PSVR players or anyone who can’t take large doses of speed, jostling and or turns. If you’re in too fast paced twitch reactions, psychedelic music and rhythm-based games you’ll find a lot of satisfaction in Thumper and the game is rather polished, pretty and definitely challenging especially if you’re going for those high scores or all the trophies.

Available to download and play for free until 22 April 2021

Great

If you're in too fast paced twitch reactions, psychedelic music and rhythm-based games you'll find a lot of satisfaction in Thumper and the game is rather polished, pretty and definitely challenging with the added benefit of it being a bit easier with VR.

8.5
Gameplay:
8.5
Graphics:
8
Soundtrack:
9

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