411mania’s Marc Morrison rocks to the beat in this musically-generated platformer. Find out if it hits all the high notes or not, inside.
Title: Rush Bros.
Publisher: Digital Tribe
Developer: XYLA Entertainment
Rush Bros. is a game with a neat idea (theoretically) behind it. The premise is that you can use music to influence aspects of the platforming levels that you run through. The beats of the music can partially shape and alter the levels are presented. This is the hope, anyway.
Rush Bros. is a 2D style platformer, in the vein of Super Mario Bros, or Super Meat Boy. You can run, slide, jump, wall-jump around the various levels to try and get the quickest time, and least deaths possible. I think anyway, the ending screen never worked right for me.
Certain levels have different factors involved with them; locked gates where you need to find the key, rocks chasing you down, pinballing between multiple jump pads to avoid spikes, that sort of thing. Everything is a one-hit kill, which is a problem later on, but you have two power ups to help you; a double-jump and a speed boost.
So, the goal is just to run from the left side of the screen to the right, avoiding obstacles, and trying to get a fast time. That’s about it. There is a multiplayer mode, you can play either split-screen local, or online. The game wouldn’t stay connected with anyone for more than a single match. A random person might disconnect, which is fine, but I tested this with two friends, and multiple times it would drop me, or drop them after the first round is over. The multiplayer mode involves both you and the other person going through the levels, racing against the clock. Only instead of crossing a finish line, you jump on an Egg Capsule (Early Sonic game item) looking thing that ends the level. A few different power ups exist in this mode, but none of them are game breakers.
There are a lot of small problems with this game that build upon each other, making it ultimately, not a great game to enjoy. Where to start? Well, the biggest problem by a long shot is that there just isn’t much to do in the game. There are 41 levels, all of which are unlocked from the start. This kills any idea of progression in the game, since everything is available straight off the bat. I admittedly didn’t finish every level or even play every level, so I’m not sure if there’s secret levels to unlock or not.
In addition to their only being 41 levels, the levels themselves are weird. The whole music integration aspect feels incredibly tacked on and barely makes a difference. The levels themselves are a completely static element within the game, as far as the path goes, the only thing that changes based on the music is a few incidental elements. Things like posts rising from the floor, or spikes lowering and raising is dependent on the music. None of it feels really important to the levels though and you barely even get a sense of when it’s doing this. If you play a very slow song and change to a fast one, you will notice a bit more, but it seems largely immaterial to the overall game. This music thing also has the unintended consequence of making levels more random then they should be. In platformers, you typically want consistent levels so you can memorize the path you want to take. In this game, you can’t, unless you set the music to repeat the track constantly. The one-hit deaths are also a huge issue, since you’re likely to die a lot. Sometimes it’s earned, but not usually. The characters have kind of a slippery feel to them, so you never are really certain what they’ll latch onto, or how they will fall from a jump. You can never tell what objects are safe, and which ones will hurt you, which is a further hindrance to progress.
Alongside these two large issues, the small issues tend to creep up. The game is kind of buggy, or seemingly unfinished in spots. When you first start it up a message appears and says “Game best played with a controller”, then it doesn’t have default gamepad controls. Whenever I started a level, it automatically selects “Accept Challengers”, which lets other players challenge you, but also kept trying to force me into a local split screen game. The music selection process is an antiquated mess, with the functionality of about 10 years ago. There’s no option mid-level to select a different playlist, and you’re only given basic next song/previous song functionality in the game. Even the pause menu is laid out in an odd way, with the first menu option being “Main Menu”, and the 5th option being “Back to Game”. The entire game smacks of someone not finishing up some basic elements before the game was released, with some beta mock-up menus in place, instead of real ones.
The issue above, with regards to the ending screen never resolved itself, either. I honestly still don’t have a solid grasp on what the goal is. I don’t know if I’m supposed to make it to make it to the end of the level as quickly as possible, or with the fewest deaths, or what. The only time the ending screen worked was in multiplayer, but it showed my score/time as the other character’s score/time, which made it all the more confusing, actually.
Audio and visually, the game is kind of gaudy in a sense, but nothing offensively bad. The music is full of heavy-bass techno, which isn’t my favorite, but it does fit in with the motif of the game. The sound effects are light, but also are alright. The graphics of the game are full of neon colors and busy background images. Most of the backgrounds are too distracting from the game, which can help cause more inadvertent deaths, save for one, “Gestalt Effect.” It is just a black background, which helps really make the colors stand out. This is the only stage that has this effect, and is all the better for it. The designs for the “Bros” characters are simple, but effective.
The black level looks superb
Some of the levels evoke a Sonic the Hedgehog feel, with jumps and spring pads
Multiplayer works well enough
No real goal in the game
The interface is barely functional and isn’t laid out well
Music integration is handled poorly with it not adding much to the overall game
Rush Bros. is a generally unpleasant game to deal with. The platforming is sloppy, the level designs are random, and paradoxically static, and the main hook of the game is barely implemented. Add in all the other design problems and the technical issues, and I’d advise to stay away.
The basic colors are good, but levels are too bright, to be distracting, and you never know what is harmful or not.
The frequent deaths, the generally static levels, and having no real goal makes this a fairly unpleasant game to deal with.
The music is hard-hitting techno, which does fit into the world of the game. The game is largely predicated on using your own music, although the interface is garbage.
There are 40+ levels to play, but a lot of them are frustrating, compounded by frequent deaths and no real objective to complete.
The game had a nugget of a good idea, but didn’t execute on it well at all. It’s a shame since other games have done it better.