Prepare for Sweaty Palms Now ‘Thumper’ Is on the Nintendo Switch
When it’s hitting its flow, that perfect space where the player and the played click into harmony, Drool’s game simply sizzles.
All screenshots courtesy of Drool.
It's okay, Switch early adopters: there's more coming. So much more coming. But, yes, software for Nintendo's new hybrid console remains a little thin, coming up for three months after launch.
And that's fine, because there's Breath of the Wild, and Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Snipperclips, and Shovel Knight, and I am Setsuna, and Snake Pass. They're all anywhere between amazing and worth a pop. Then there are those Neo Geo oldies to explore, too. But few of these are brand new, exclusive to the system, or—just imagine—both. (Shout out Snipperclips, holding down that single-platform availability.)
Thumper isn't brand new, nor is it a Switch exclusive, having come out last year for the PS4 and PC. But it is out, now (now being May 18), for the system, and let me tell you something, Switch owner with a hankering to stick something fresh into that please, oh please, oh please don't get scratched screen: Thumper is freaking awesome.
Made by two-person indie studio Drool, Thumper is a rhythm-action game unlike most. To look at it, it appears simple: you steer a metallic beetle down a testing track that's full of sweeping twists and deadly traps. Press the right buttons at the right times to maintain the momentum, stick those sweet spots, and avoid blowing apart into hot beetle chunks.
And it's not like you need the game to appreciate its brilliant soundtrack, given its availability on streaming services and the like. As one of the two people behind Drool, beside programmer and designer Marc Flury, Lightning Bolt bassist Brian Gibson has realized an OST that pounds with the kind of primal energy his band is so famous for, yet exhibits a restraint, a very delicately balanced sense of control, that prevents it from ever freewheeling into chaotic cacophony.
But it's really when these elements are combined, the mesmerizing art and sheer speed of the experience with the senses-rattling audio—all of its do something cues appropriate thumps and clangs, screeches and drones—that what looks like a cool little game becomes a crucial addition to anyone's catalogue.
Assuming, that is, that person has an occasional penchant for music games—much as I'd like to say that anyone from shooter mainstays to puzzle fiends will get a kick out of this, you do need an (at least elementary) understanding of rhythm to get ahead.
Play with the sound quiet, barely there, and you'll do okay for a couple of stages. After that, though—Thumper demands to be cranked up, its volume pushed as high as polite society will allow on a commute, 'til the Switch's own left and right rumbles are drowned out by the crashing and the crunching. Otherwise you may not hit those beats, those pulses, those little lights of hope and salvation—and you need to hit them, or you'll be taken by the beasts that lurk at every level's end.
It's just… Damn, when it's hitting that flow point, that perfect space where the player and the played click into harmony, and spikes are soared across and bends taken like a champion racer, Thumper just sizzles. It spits. It sings. And your hands, they get sweaty. Like, been-caught-stealing sweaty.
Taken out in handheld mode, for a commute, Thumper boils the blood like no amount of miss-your-meeting delays ever could—in a good way. It's never as intense as the PlayStation VR version (I mean, little is)—but after 30 minutes with Thumper, my Switch needed a couple of minutes to cool down, and wipe the perspiration away from its still-shuddering Joy-Cons.
If you've not (and you now can), you should probably play this game, is what I'm saying. There's a reason why Thumper was one of Waypoint's most celebrated games of 2016—it featured in Patrick's top ten of the year (at two!), and my own. It rocks, so hard, so fast; so let it rumble and tumble you and your Switch for a while, until you're suitably sweated out.