App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Thumper has finally made its way to mobile, and boy is it a disappointing game. Not only is is a port that incorporates decidedly un-fun tilt controls, but it also suffers from some technical issues. If that weren’t enough, the underlying game part of Thumper: Pocket Edition itself isn’t all that exciting, which makes for a pretty poor experience all around.
Thumper is a game where you play as a chrome-covered beetle that is racing down a narrow lane through “the void.” The object of the game is to keep your beetle racing down this path so that you can eventually reach the end of a level where you face off against a boss that you then fight.
In order to keep your beetle in chromed-up shape, there is some obstacle avoidance that you must do, but there’s also a bit more to it than that. As a self-described “rhythm violence” game, Thumper’s lanes are filled with icons not too unlike notes on a highway of Guitar Hero that you also must tap to hit to keep up a score multiplier and perform well against bosses. On each subsequent level, new mechanics are introduced that add more dynamism to the levels, but they are all variations of “hit this thing this way at this time in sequence,” hence the rhythm game comparison.
As you race along this highway, Thumper does everything it can to make you feel on edge. Your beetle races along with a fantastic sense of speed, the game’s soundtrack is a shower of metallic noise, and your beetle slams into every object you come across with what should feel like a tremendous amount of force.
While this sounds like it could make for a hugely impactful experience, it just doesn’t really come together. Part of this could be because of mobile’s smaller screen size, but there’s definitely other things working against the game.Thumper occasionally suffers from some framerate issues which can take the feeling of speed out of your beetle, and the touchscreen controls for the game don’t really feel consistently responsive. This might not feel like a huge deal in the first couple levels of Thumper, but as the game layers on more obstacles, bounds them more tightly together, and then adds a tilt-based lane-changing system (which you can’t change the control scheme on, by the way), the game devolves into a completely frustrating experience.
It’s just a runner
As of this writing, a patch has already been issued to fine tune some of Thumper’s controls, and I can imagine that further patching may be done to make things even better. That said though, I’m not sure Thumper is all it’s cracked up to be, even when playing on a device where the game controls and performs perfectly.
The fact of the matter is, Thumper barely feels like a rhythm game. Its levels are designed and have a certain pattern to them, sure, but it’s hard to feel like you’re reacting to or interacting with the music in the game. There’s a ton of distracting sound effects going off constantly, which obscures the music, and the game only occasionally requires to to follow any sort of specific note pattern to succeed. You can skate by just fine by simply avoiding damage, which makes the whole thing just feel kind of like a runner with a unique aesthetic.
The bottom line
Thumper is very much not my kind of game. If it’s yours, fine, but I still wouldn’t necessarily recommend it on mobile. There are some control and technical issues that hold it back, even if you like what this game is trying to do.