Speed is a simple pleasure. The elation at accelerating, the brittle delight of velocity, and the promotion of risk-taking to just keep going faster; these are the elements that series like Sonic the Hedgehog, Burnout, and F-Zero have capitalized on, earning their way into video game history. So here in 2013 we have Rush Bros striving to do the same, but does it have that split-second precision to make the cut?
Like Sonic the Hedgehog, Rush Bros is a 2D platformer based upon building momentum while maneuvering traps and triggers, with a competitive twist à la Kirby’s Gourmet Race. The concept is simple enough: make it the finish line before the other player or ghost does, dashing, sliding, and leaping to get ahead, grabbing power-ups and hitting switches along the way.
Competition is very much in the nature of the game. “In a place where music is everything, the DJ is king,” the intro begins, briefly telling the story of brothers Bass and Treble, partners turned rivals who must collaborate for the ultimate show. After you learn why Player 1 is Player 1 and Player 2 is Player 2, you will be thrown into the game’s 40 odd levels in any order you please, by the likes of solo, split-screen, online, or ghost races.
Another crucial element of the game is the music, as mentioned in the intro; traps and hazards move rhythmically to the pulse of whatever music you’re listening to. Rush Bros comes equipped with a soundtrack by Infected Mushroom, but in the vein of Audiosurf and Beat Hazard, you can insert MP3s from your hard drive to the levels. It’s a nifty feature, although not the most convenient, as you can only stock one folder at a time to be used, and the insertion process by which you access your music is a far cry from intuitive. And with only twelve tracks by Infected Mushroom, you’re going to have to get familiar with the process, though the integration of music into levels is impressive, nonetheless.
On the matter of the levels, do not expect all of them to be good (even if every one of them is beautiful to look at). When a level is fun, it’s a blast, as you blaze through winding trails, zip under spikes, and wall-hop your way to victory. Unfortunately, too many of the stages are marred by a combination of nonexistent checkpoints, labyrinthine direction, tiresome roundabouts, and cheap deaths. When playing a stage where victory is of questionable worth, the developer’s decision to allow all levels to be immediately selectable reveals a certain amount of foresight.
Many of these levels would not be nearly as frustrating if it were not for the true Achilles’ heel of the game: stiff controls. While the wall-jumps and slides can be performed with grace and ease, maneuvering your avatar beyond that can take some adjustment. As much of the game’s mechanics revolve around building speed, a slight startup plagues your character’s movement, giving a weighty feel to what should otherwise be light-footed. This also translates into a half second delay when changing directions, as well as hopeful fidgets adjusting your aerial momentum through obstacles, turning trial-by-fire into trial-and-error all too fast. After acclimating to the controls and finding the better levels, though, there are many heated races to be had.
Couch multiplayer is an aspect that many indie developers are turning back to, and Rush Bros takes the initiative to focus their game precisely on that. Simply enough, if you have an extra controller and a friend you want to teach some respect to, Rush Bros is the game for you; otherwise, there are better platforming adventures to be had. With some fine-tuning on the controls and perhaps a level editor, Rush Bros could be a cult classic, though its current form is missing the spark to bring its concepts together.