Thumper - Review

Author: Marco Mottura
Date: 2020-07-30 18:15:14
The spark with Thumper was triggered immediately, even starting from the title screen: that highly perspective glimpse, with that formal elegance that refers to certain unforgettable Kubrickian shots of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the letters that slowly approach in a abstract reddish limbo, he immediately made me understand that I would find bread for my teeth. In hindsight, however, not only was it so, but it also went much better, well beyond my wildest expectations: Thumper took my heart and banged it with contemptuous left and right, crashing it against parabolic neon and cutting my breath in an assault of fluorescent lights, relentless industrial beats and ups and downs to infinity.

Moreover, it could not be otherwise for a video game defined by its own creators - Brian Gibson and Marc Flury, former Harmonix employees now united under the independent banner of a team made up of just the two of them and appropriately named Drool ( drooling , in English) - as "rhythmic violence". Yes, because in particular by wearing PlayStation VR, Thumper soon reveals itself as something impactful and concretely noticeable even on the physical plane: Thumper creeps under your skin, pulsates in the brain, beats you in the ribcage ... and so , without realizing it, you find yourself in the eye of a full-blown hurricane, annihilated by a vortex of psychedelia punctuated by the ferocity of the wonderful original soundtrack composed for the occasion by Gibson (among other bassists of the acclaimed noise band Lightning Bolt) .

A step back to better understand what we are talking about: the starting point is an Amplitude rhythm game, with a track dotted with inputs to be given in time by music via controller. The point, however, is the what and how: at the base of the screen you will find a metallic beetle - don't ask too many questions, because you won't have an answer ... take it as much as a declaration of intent, one of the many hymns to surrealism and to the dark subconscious of a title heavily influenced by certain lysergic suggestions of the 70s - and all you have to do is guide it in an impossible escape to the horizon by simply pressing the X button (or at most holding it down / accompanying it with the left analogue in the four directions, depending on the circumstances). Sounds easy, doesn't it? Indeed, it would be. Too bad or fortunately that the frequency of inputs is overwhelming, with a wild rhythm and out of any logic that will soon have the upper hand on you.

At that moment, when you surrender to Thumper, when you drop every defense and let your primordial instinct prevail at the expense of reason, something will unleash in your head and you will really grasp the size absolutely out of the ordinary of the debut work by Drool. Permeated by the bass drum and snare drum, you will process signals at an unthinkable speed: without even realizing it, you will learn the precise rules of a real audiovisual grammar that acts as a language for a distressing neon nightmare, and in a certain sense it will be the game to have fun with you, more than the other way around.

Without exaggerating, also thanks to the sensational 3D rendering, the imposing scale and the wonderfully real distances exalted in a triumphant way by PlayStation VR, Thumper will be able to induce in you a singular alteration of conscience: you will discover what it will mean to become slaves to a chromed insect, hypnotized as we find ourselves when Hotline Miami gives its best. Your fingers will move automatically, your eyes will search for clues to decode to start the right impulses and your ears will guide you in a darkly bewitching heath: at first you will painfully slam your muzzle (in an almost literal sense), but little by little little will be the muscle memory and your inner heart to guide you.

Despite the difficult difficulty, the trial & error process is exhilarating: just two errors are enough to start from the checkpoint (even if there is a way to recover, however not without risk ...), but the beauty is just getting involved by the orgy of stimulations shot with an unhealthy sequence. The soundtrack, with the impetus of a stormy Valhalla laser, is listened to but at the same time lived, internalized, created: the synaesthesia so dear to Tetsuya Mizuguchi here follows radically different tracks from those of Rez Infinite, and is aggression to prevail. Rhythmic violence , in fact.

The same fury, the same restlessness of mind, is also felt in aesthetic terms: Thumper's atmosphere is constantly permeated by a palpable veil of anguish, by a sense of livid threat in the form of tentacles ready to grab you or symmetrical geometries that twist, disintegrate and change constantly. An indefinite cosmos without limits that are not the track itself, an infinite hostile but uncanny alien, capable of captivating the eye with overwhelming flashes and descents worthy of the best F-Zero (because, if you want to see clearly, there is not even a certain component missing from arcade driving game, although obviously just sketched). All accompanied by an exceptional audio component, with an impeccable sound design in conveying the sense of disruptive impacts, massive accelerations, brutal chicanes. The result, with PlayStation VR, is deadly.

A few words also on the sense of progression, diabolical and at the same time pleasantly commendable: the nine levels (with a duration varying between ten and twenty five minutes, obviously not counting the inevitable retry ...) of which the campaign is composed are one more cruel than the other, and in particular the fourth scheme will prove to be a very hard bone to swallow. The advice, however, is not to give up: try again and again, because by testing yourself you will only improve significantly. And, in the end, the satisfaction of reaching the finish line will be priceless. Not to mention the surprising surprise that will await you when you decide to try again to improve your scores: at a certain point, repeating a pattern already faced previously will make you feel exactly like Neo at the end of the first Matrix. You will even be able to predict the inputs, to grasp their essence, to really fly on the wings of the steel beetle. And it will be an emotion that you won't easily forget.

Sensation of motion sickness : nothing

Game speed : Furious * wink wink *

VR effect : high

I played Thumper on PlayStation 4, thanks to a code made available by the publisher. I got to the end credits in a few hours - I am currently 52nd in the world in the general classification, but I can and I want to do even better - enjoying the crazy flight of the space beetle always and only through PlayStation VR: I consider the Sony viewer the perfect medium for such an experience (both for the physicality that is given to the infernal environments and for the intensity of the 360 ° stimuli) and I had no reason to return to the classic TV screen. However, I am more than sure that even without VR Thumper it remains absolutely excellent, so do not hesitate to make it yours even if you have not jumped on the bandwagon of Virtual Reality.