Blending music and games isn’t a new idea and Rush Bros attempts to jump (literally) onto this slightly overcrowded bandwagon. In keeping with the music theme, the game goes as far as to even base the story on it. The two characters featured in the game are called ‘Bass’ and ‘Treble’ – familiar controls for anyone with a stereo bigger than their music collection, and the Electro/Techno soundtrack will also appeal to most music lovers too. Rush Bros is a platformer at heart so naturally, the two characters are a nod to Nintendo’s famous brothers. The game starts with a brief intro video with a story about how the brothers used to be partners, broke up and then decided to compete. It’s not a groundbreaking story by any means, but it’s really well animated and genuinely does seem to fit the whole theme of the game without feeling like it’s been tacked on as an afterthought.
The gameplay is as expected from a platformer. You play as one of the brothers and run and jump your way to the exit. This is where the game tries to stand out though; the whole world seems to be music-based and this also means that the traps and levels respond to the beat of the music! There are timed traps that activate to a countdown, spiky things that move in sequence, moving blocks and massive circular saws to name a few obstacles that you’ll come across. Perhaps, one of the best features of this game is that they all move to the beat. This really does add a lot, as you can go on your instinct rather than timing on when to dash across a section. This works okay, for the most part, however sometimes everything just seems to stop completely for a few seconds – if there’s a break in the music for example. This does seem to disrupt the flow of the levels, and you can find yourself waiting for something to move out of your way. Other level features are springboards that bounce you around uncontrollably (think Sonic the Hedgehog) acid pools and coloured doors that are opened by matching keys. This is plenty to keep the game interesting, although the key system often means you’ll find yourself backtracking a lot. There are also powerups that are there to help you achieve the fastest possible time in the level. Speed up which speeds your character up (not the music though) and double jump which helps you to reach higher places and makes the completion of the level less reliant on wall jumping. It’s also worth mentioning that wall jumping works pretty well (not to the standard of the N series though) although it seems to be used as a way of getting to platforms that are just slightly too high for the normal jump to reach. This seems more like a sloppy level design than an extra challenge.
The intended audience for Rush Bros is pretty clear cut – hardcore platform fans and people who enjoy doing speedruns. The levels themselves are called ‘tracks’ and in multiplayer mode, you compete against another player to get the quickest possible time. There are no lives, except in survival mode (no checkpoints) and even most of the achievements are time-based. The game still seems fairly welcoming to new players though, and you don’t get punished for getting rubbish times – it’ll definitely happen the first few plays of a level!
The levels are mostly enjoyable, with a fairly decent learning curve. Even the last level isn’t impossibly hard – despite containing tons of spiky things which make it their mission to hunt you down mid-jump. There are around 40 levels and unfortunately, that doesn’t give a massive amount of gameplay if you’re just aiming to complete the levels, but the game’s main focus is on speed so you can spend ages getting a better time!
Despite the focus on speed, there seems to be a lack of ‘flow’ in the level designs. Maybe I’m just used to games like Rez and Bit-trip but being a game focused on music, there should be far tighter integration of how the levels are designed, how the character moves and the music. Instead, you’ll often find yourself aimlessly wall-jumping to get over the simplest objects, and backtracking is a given as the keys to the doors in the game are often scattered all over the level.
Graphically, Rush Bros looks great. There aren’t any 3D elements, which is a welcome change in a modern 2D platformer, this game really sticks to its roots. However, the backgrounds look amazing! Each level has a background of a futuristic industrial landscape, and to make it even better, it pulses along to the music. This adds a real sense of immersion and depth to the game.
The game packs plenty of features in for the price – Arcade mode for standard single-player, split-screen mode for two players on the same PC and online multiplayer to challenge any rival you might come across on steam. There’s even an option to import your own music library, so you can choose the tune you’ll be competing for.
Rush Bros is a really solid platform game. The levels look good, it’s fun to get through them and the combination of techno music and pulsating graphics really adds an extra dimension to the genre. However, the game is too short for people looking just to complete it – it focuses itself on the more hardcore gamer, looking to get the quickest time on a level. Luckily the developers seem to be continuing to support the game and I’m sure the future will bring plenty of user-created levels and mods to extend the game.
Written by Nick Bedford
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