It will come as no surprise to say that Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) brought some of the more initially impactful virtual reality (VR) titles to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), with some well-known titles making their way to VR, as well as some less known, such as Thumper.
Described as a “violent rhythm game”, Thumper first received mixed reactions whilst waiting in line to try out the demo, with the consistent air of intrigue. When watching the title on a screen before putting on the head-mounted display (HMD), it can be a little difficult to see why this title is justified to be an exclusively VR title, with no real use of head tracking or motion of any sort. However, it is only when you enter the experience that you can fully appreciate how VR can simply be used to take away any other distraction, and this shouldn’t lead to snobbery.
As is pretty evident in both the screenshot and trailer to the videogame, the visual aspects are breath-taking, and not wastefully so like in many psychedelic-inspired titles – the visuals make sense. The colours and shapes flying towards your eyes fit with the mood and atmosphere that is just right for this title, and it gradually becomes more menacing and threatening. As you approach the boss level, the smooth metallic aesthetics merge into the horizon of a terrifying sharp face that you are hurtling towards.
For this to be dubbed a “violent rhythm game”, there of course needs to be the key element of music, and by the way every player is reduced to the same state of zombie-like head bobbing and toe tapping, it cannot be denied that Thumper casts an irresistible spell on the player.
Starting off with a tame tempo, it is simple enough even for those who have as much rhythm as a wet sock to get into it. As there is progress made through the 15 demo levels, the music becomes more threatening and invasive of all your senses. Players are made to feel like they are embarking on a tribal war of some sort, and paired with the neon visuals, it proves to be an overpowering experience.
Impressive visuals and audio aside, the gameplay is relatively familiar and simple to pick up, echoing the same idea as the likes of Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero. As the player comes across blips on the track, they are required to use the gamepad in synchronisation in order to jump the effects the same time as the beat suggests. As well as this there is also perhaps the more challenging obstacle of holding down the button in order to skid round the side or ride the longer streaks.
Despite the familiarity, Thumper can have the player lost in its self-proclaimed hell for a much longer time than what can initially be anticipated. This title screams out multiplayer, and could benefit from the competitive stir that it would no doubt create in the bellies of players. Overall? A more than satisfactory VR title that doesn’t claim to be more than what it is.