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Review: Thumper (Nintendo Switch)By Phoenom At 11.08.2017 20:07

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The goal and narrative of Thumper is short and sweet, given without words or dialogue. Taking control of a silver beetle-like creature, the task given is to reach the end of a linear course, beginning with simple turns and straightforward boss interludes, and accumulating in immediate hazards, spike pits to jump, and shields to break down in later stages. Levels have multiple stages, with each being separated by checkpoint-like barriers, and bosses defend both mid- and end-of-level areas. Reaching the end of these levels is the main task, but each stage offers a score system that rates on player performance; obstacles cleared, notes hit, and overall timing. Controls are very simple, and mostly consist of a single button and directional input. As a potential counterpoint to more story-driven games on the eShop, Thumper's basic approach to its narrative is refreshing.

Notorious for its hard difficulty on other machines, Thumper is no less difficult on Nintendo Switch, providing a strong degree of challenge even in the early levels. Luckily, the game is very generous with retries, giving an unlimited number of them and restarting only at the beginning of the current stage. Also, the beetle has an outer shell of defence, good for one hit, and this can be replenished at interval points of the levels. Although Thumper in general is a very fast-paced experience and doesn't let up even between stage checkpoints on a continuous play, the game will allow the player to catch their breath in the event of a wipe out and restart.

Each time a new mechanic is introduced, be it a new type of obstacle, or a new way to use one of the notes on the track, there are handy pop-up icons to help familiarise the player with it. These pop-ups also show up if too many deaths occur on the same obstacle in later levels, providing a handy reference for long stretches of play absence. Waiting for these to trigger can be quite annoying, though, and it does encourage replaying earlier levels again for familiarisation, which can be both helpful as a reference, and troublesome as slightly forced backtracking.

Upon the initial reveal of the Switch, there were a great many download games listed that would be perfect for the device, and seeing how well Thumper has ended up, there's little surprise that it was on a great many wish lists. Taking full advantage of the 720p display on the unit, Thumper outputs at a solid 60 frames per second, and fills the screen with psychedelic, otherworldly visuals, whilst doing the same through docked mode, but at a greater 1080p. Glorious dynamic music plays along with the beetle's journey, and is given more oomph with efficient level play. The smaller screen estate of handheld mode can make incoming turns a little more difficult to see, admittedly, but the musical cues given within the game can usually make up for this - and Thumper played on the go with headphones is quite the experience.

HD Rumble is implemented brilliantly, and can be an effective tech showcase in the hands of a good player. The left and right Joy-Con, or the two sides of the Switch Pro Controller, vibrate in lower or greater intensity depending on the tilt of the analogue stick into walls and obstacles, and hitting notes with good timing and rhythm compliments the music with resonating shakes. Even with bosses, when certain notes are required to be hit and sent back to the blocking foe, the HD Rumble adds to the sensation of the note rocketing back up the path.

Even with only a dozen levels, Thumper's high level of difficulty will provide countless hours of play just to complete them. When bringing high scores into consideration, the challenge is vast, giving worldwide and friend tables to compare and contrast.

Then there's Play+, a new mode that unlocks partway into the level number, and this is the equivalent of Thumper's hard mode; one life per level, a shiny golden colour for the beetle, and an adaptive speed that increases or lowers depending on ease of progress. Completing this mode is where the true insanity of the game lies, and finishing it is an achievement all in itself. Not for the faint of heart, Thumper is a unique experience, and one that fits the Switch like a glove.

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Final Score
More than living up to the "rhythm violence" tagline, [i]Thumper[/i] leaves a lasting impression. Presenting a distinctive and adaptive score, together with an insane visual style and a difficulty level that rarely shows mercy, [i]Thumper[/i] is a very effective showcase for the hardware abilities of the Switch, and a highly engaging experience on its own merits.



User Comments
#1 Adam Riley (News Editor) - on 13.08.2017 at 12:28

I love it and then I hate it, then I love it again! It's a fantastic experience, but I'm just so bad at it Smilie

#2 Flynnie - on 14.08.2017 at 00:34

I looked at this when it launched, however the price point put me off. When I look at the value in games like Snake Pass, Blastermaster and FAST Remix I think that a game like this is just too overpriced. I'd probably pick it up if it was 9.99.

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