A brief primer: you control a little DJ hopping around the various tracks to find the strangely apocalyptic finish button. Messing around solo is an option, with your ghost self acting as a little pace car for your current run. The more appealing option is to hop online with any number of randos or your friends and race against them. I use “appealing” pretty lightly here. Finding online games is at least fairly accessible, though. I never had much difficulty finding someone to race against.
The initial premise is sound enough, but I can’t say I enjoyed my stint as a DJ. To start, I expected a game based more around speed. My DJ moved at a deliberate pace at odds with the pulsating electronic music all around me. I couldn’t help feeling the game’s tone may have been better suited for a Bit.trip runner-style platformer. Grabbing speed-ups briefly satiated my thirst for recklessness and an increased pace, but that was over in about ten seconds. When I finally did reach mach 1/30, it became apparent the level design clearly wasn’t designed for speed and skill, but rather memorization.
“The level’s objectives and art deliver diversity, but that doesn’t always equal enjoyment.”
After playing through a few straight platforming levels, you come to sections that require finding keys to unlock electronic gates. These portions literally killed both the game and my character’s momentum. Expect frustration. Half the time I never knew where to search, and it eventually devolves into mindless vaulting and searching until you finally rage-quit the level. Most levels that become hunting expeditions have little sense of direction. I found myself getting lost more often than not in these instances. Maze and puzzle levels wouldn’t be as much of a problem if Rush Bros wasn’t predicated on the concept of speedy competition.
You can also run through on two different “remixes.” Survival mode sends you back to the beginning after any death. For a racing platformer, this doesn’t seem to mesh with their overall approach. The fast forward mode seemed more promising. I thought this accelerated mode might provide the sense of speed I was hoping for. It certainly did, but the level design isn’t tailored for that kind of pace. I found myself hitting obstacle after obstacle. Players with more skill may find this mode more appropriate, but it could have provided more catharsis were levels designed with this type of speed already in mind.
There are various power-ups or downs you can collect as you work through a level. Probably the most well executed portion of the game, items like double-jump make some of the hellish jumps more palatable. Assorted other options to hinder your opponent include swapping their controls, inverting the level and zooming in for a close up on the bland imitation of Daft Punk’s Tron outfits. They all work well enough. The problem is fashioning an enjoyable enough experience around them to make them worthwhile. At one point, my buddy apologized for accidentally grabbing the power-downs and prolonging our experience in the lengthier levels.
The level’s objectives and art deliver diversity, but that doesn’t always equal enjoyment. See: the backtracking key levels. Other portions let you push a series of balls in a line to block impending lasers seeking to end your DJ set. Like the drawn-out gate levels, pushing a bunch of balls kills any sense of speed or momentum you may have built up. Imagine if Sonic had to stop every 30 seconds to pick up any rings he dropped. Equating Sonic to Rush Bros is a mild exaggeration, but it seems fair to say they share similar sentiments. One particularly monotonous sequence forced you to proceed through a simple procession of locked gates requiring keys. Yet even after unlocking one door, you had to return to the very beginning in order to reach the now even more distant next objective.
Stripping away my preconceived notions of Rush Bros as a game predicated on speed, it remains a poorly executed platformer at best.
Poor level design can’t be saved by interesting aesthetics and backdrops, but they can at least help enhance the experience, especially in a title where exploration seems to be an emphasis, albeit a misguided one. That’s not the case here. Backgrounds look muddled and fuzzy, two issues only exacerbated when zoom kicks in. Quite often, they will clash with the level’s tone and bear little resemblance to the features in front of them. Even the obstacles and platforms maintain a consistent, but boring monochromatic color tone. Most environments have a very clean-cut look to their shapes. Unfortunately, the blackened platforms registered more like auto-created Flash shapes than sleek parkour platforms.
Some levels still stand out; one selection with a strange, glitchy aesthetic and abstract traps that could surface at any moment represent the pinnacle of Rush Bros’ art design. Sadly, any death hurls you right back to the start, an annoying twinge that eroded any satisfaction derived from the brief visual feast on-screen.
I haven’t even mentioned one of the sticking points that probably helped get Rush Bros Greenlit. You can adjust music tracks on the fly or import your own playlists to play with. Differing beats and tempo of varying songs are supposed to adjust the speed of obstacles on the track. Music implementation has been done before in games like Beat Hazard, but the concept certainly seems applicable to platformers. The results are mixed at best. Somehow Stronger by Kanye West made obstacles move at a snail’s pace compared to the lethargic ballad, Ride, by Lana Del Ray. I noticed very little difference between any tracks when implemented through different levels. If anything, the tracks I played had erratic results that rarely fell in line with what I expected and never affected the gameplay in any truly meaningful way.
Stripping away my preconceived notions of Rush Bros as a game predicated on speed, it remains a poorly executed platformer at best. The collision detection seems spotty on several obstacles, and I sometimes found myself trapped inside a level. Jumping into a pit of spikes, I somehow ascertained a second jump without any power-ups when I should have been shattering into an explosion of sparks. Wall-cling mechanics work well enough, but it felt as if I had superglue on my hands when I stuck to minute portions of walls I just wanted to slide down. Even the obstacles don’t always stand out. Most of them retain traditional spiky points to indicate danger, but some jutting shapes will kill you while others merely bounce you. The distinction isn’t always clear.
Like I mentioned above, the actual level objectives are pretty boring. There are no additional collectibles for anyone running through solo, so besting your own time is your only incentive. It is marketed as a racing game, so fleshing out the platforming aspects may have taken a back seat, but it just feels like there was more they could have capitalized on.