I completely skipped by Thumper. A ryhthm game in VR? That seems like a bad idea. The screenshots and videos I saw just left me confused. I have mixed feelings about rhythm games. I loved "Parappa the Rappa" as a child, and I had a DDR phase in my teens. Other than that I avoided them.
I kept hearing positive things about Thumper and realized there is a demo available on the PSVR demo disc. Might as well try it. My inital reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Finishing that demo for the first time felt like a religious experience and I purchased it shortly after.
Basically you control a space beetle traveling very fast on a track, trying to survive and kill a deity-like being. The visuals are unique, best described as psychedelic and alien. I love the unfamiliarness of everything. The environment, the speed, the violent chaos of it all. It's a blast.
The actual gameplay is very straightforward. The only button you press the whole game is "X". You use that along with the analog stick. Doesn't sound too fun or difficult right? Well you would be wrong. Thumper is a unique game. Basically you are reacting to the insane envionment at a very quick pace. If you get damaged you lose your "wings", after that if you mess up, you die and start from the last check point. There are a couple different ways to get your wings back. This system is perfect for this game and you really feel the pressure at times. Thumper does a great job at messing with your head. In the beginning you think "Oh this is easy but fun". As you progress you start thinking "This is crazy but I am pro!" and then you progress even further and start thinking "I thought I was good at this WTF!"
The game teaches you how to play without holding your hand. It starts off slow but the pace picks up. This "figure it out" mentality continues on in the full game by introducing new elements which you have to learn and manage. There are some “brick walls” which you will probably fail at time and time again. These usually occur when a new gameplay element is introduced. They can be frustrating, but it's to make you a better player. Once you get past it, the feeling of satisfaction is worth it.
Figuring out a literal brick wall
While playing I kind of compare it to driving. When I mess up I have no one else to blame my "road rage" on but myself. It's an odd feeling that makes me want to improve and get better. Not just at Thumper, but with my real life reaction times.
Some people might find Thumper to be a hard game. While I would I agree it's hard, it's really not that hard. Once you get the hang of it you start reacting subconsciously.
Another element that makes Thumper such a great game is the music. It fits the environment and gameplay and ... just everything like a glove. Soccer moms will disagree but I think Thumper is best played with headphones at full blast. The sounds helps you prepare for what's coming next. And the music combined with everything else is great. It kind of puts you into a trance-like state.
After beating Thumper I wanted more. I wanted it to be harder and I was a little sad it was over. No more mountains to climb, no more challenges. But I was wrong again. The 2 man team that primarily developed Thumper released a patch that introduced plus mode. Plus mode is basically the same game, except once you die it's over and you start the level from the beginning. Your speed also increases with successful multipliers/combos which now go to 4, up from 3 in the normal mode. Plus mode is nice, and I can see myself obsessively trying to climb the leader boards, but I want more Thumper. A new and harder Thumper.
Thumper opened my eyes. It taught me that you cannot judge VR games based on traditional video games. It taught me that VR games where you "just sit there" can be just as good and fun as other interactive games. Thumper on TV is not the same game as Thumper in VR. The devs took a big risk with this game and they deserve to be rewarded for it.