Much has already been written about developer Drool's self-proclaimed "rhythm violence" game Thumper, which was originally released on the PC and PS4 as an intensely brutal VR game. Now, it has been released on the Nintendo Switch, and whilst the console features no VR capability, it is capable of generating its own kind of intensity due to the small, personal screen and the common use of headphones.
The Nintendo Switch version of Thumper features no new content, but if the handheld console does lack any of the intensity of its VR cousins, it makes up for it with the immediacy that only a portable console has. Add to that the competitiveness of regularly updated online leaderboards and things begin to look pretty rosey, but is the conversion any good, and is Thumper any the worse for time?
Thumper is available to buy now from the Nintendo eShop for £15.99.
Players control some kind of armoured beetle – nothing more is explained – as it makes its way through space and time along a colourful, linear track. Increasingly frequently throughout Thumper's nine main levels (each of which is split into numerous stages) a combination of the soundtrack and visuals provide the players with cues to bash, turn or glide over obstacles, and each action in turn returns an audio effect. The result is an extraordinarily intense blend of sound, vision and gameplay that combine to form the core mechanic of the game.
The real challenge comes from the increasing frequency of these cues, the complexity of the courses and the speed of reaction that the game demands. Later stages are brutally hard, and from about halfway through the game, players will need to have ninja-like reflexes to survive. In most sections of each level, players can fail a couple of cues before dying and having to restart from the beginning of that bit of the level, so thankfully failure is not punished too heavily.
This repetition of the same sequences, featuring the same cues over and over again should allow even a fairly average gamer to proceed eventually, and the game is slick enough that it never loses its lustre, even after four or five failed attempts at a particular section. The game is keen to provide the opportunity for self-improvement, and each level starts relatively sedately with an introduction to the kind of sequences that will follow. Both musically and in gameplay terms, this feels a bit like tuning in, and it's a welcome way to set expectations about the pace of what's to come.
There's a real feeling of achievement when you get through a tough section in Thumper, but the boss fights often verge on frustrating due to being super tough and often, overly long. You'll have to hit the right cues to "damage" each boss around four times, and failure during these sequences takes you right back to the start, which is super annoying.
Graphics and Sound
You may have guessed (or indeed you may already know) that Thumper's gameplay is closely linked to the superb graphics and audio that feature throughout the game. Visually, Thumper looks fantastic on Nintendo Switch in both portable and docked modes, and as I said earlier, it runs at the maximum capability of the console and is all the better for it.
Thumper is an impressive looking game, despite the relative simplicity of what it depicts. Players follow a linear path that cuts through the darkness of space, constantly chasing the next turn, gateway, boss or other distant point of interest. As players hit the right notes, the scenery pulses and twists in time to the music, and the better your timing, the more impressive the display.
Features of this bizarre landscape range from robotic, skeletal heads with crystalline eyes to Dali-sequel faces with tentacle arms. There are no minor enemies beside from the course itself, but the early signs of each boss can be seen from the start of every level, with more and more revealed as the path is followed.
The sound is also exceptionally atmospheric and best listened to though headphones. The pulsating soundtrack enhances the oppressive feeling that the graphics create, but as you fall into a clear rhythm, you'll find that the beats created by the soaring beetle give you more and more confidence, further delivering a feeling of total immersion and exhilaration.
In summary, Thumper is the same game on Nintendo Switch as it was on PC and PS4, which is to say, it's still a very good game. It's slightly less intense than the VR experience, but even so, there is a replication of the same feeling when in handheld mode and the flexibility to play anywhere is a valid one. Rapid access to online leader boards, and a Game Plus mode once you've finished it a first time enhance the replay value for hardcore fans. Thumper is still the best rhythm action game launched in the last few years, and the Nintendo Switch version only enhances this claim.
|+ Incredible visuals||– Probably a bit too hard|
|+ Pulsating soundtrack||– Bosses are even harder|
|+ Tough, with lots of longevity||– Not a ton of variety|
|+ Lots of replay value||– Nothing new|
|+ Exciting boss encounters|