Integrating music into video games is something many developers have tried, though only a few have achieved success. Inspired by the success of Guitar hero, Dylan Flitterer released one of the best music-inspired products: Audiosuf. Fast forward a few years and we now have another music-based game knocking at our door, this time developed by XYLA Entertainment and entitled “Rush Bros.” Rush Bros is a 2D platformer that takes music from your hard drive and incorporates it into the level design in some way.
Sounds pretty interesting, eh? But the problems quickly begin to flood in once that original concept is introduced. One of the few things that change with the beat of the song are obstacles that lay in your way as you try to complete a level. These obstacles will move up and down, seemingly “on beat,” leaving you to listen to the music and gracefully time your next move. The issue is that Rush Bros doesn’t always detect the beat perfectly, leaving you to guess on when to wait and when to take the obstacle head on. As you can assume, this leads to many controller squeezing deaths.
Poor beat detection will frustrate you throughout the around seven hours you’ll spend with Rush Bros. Thankfully, it’s not always incorrect with its pick up of the beat, as sometimes the obstacles do move the way you’d expect. When this happens, you feel connected to the game in a unique way. Those small glimpses don’t happen often, but when they do they feel awesome.
Importing music from the hard drive to game has always been one of the most frustrating aspects of games like Rush Bros, Beat Hazard, and Audiosurf. Due to the fact many of us buy our music from iTunes, and iTunes has rigorous DRM laying over all their tracks, it’s damn near impossible to import that music into the game. That is far from Rush Bros fault, however. Once you do get tracks into your music folder or wherever you want to import from, getting the music into the game is an absolute breeze.
I like to think of myself as a man who enjoys multiple forms of music. My library consists primarily of hip-hop, alternative rock, and a tad bit of electronic music. That being said, I found the default music within Rush Bros to be painfully annoying. Maybe it just doesn’t fit my style, I’m definitely no expert in music, but the mind-crushing, juiced-up tracks the game produces are best to be avoided. Instead, I’ll just listen to Daft Punk while playing. That works out fairly well for all involved.
While Rush Bros’ music integration doesn’t work as well as I’d like the visuals style is gorgeous. It captures a certain electric feel that the game oozes from the beginning of each visually distinct level to the next. One thing the music integrates perfectly into is the gorgeous foreground that pulsates with whatever music you currently have playing. This further highlights the electric feel and helps make a visually distinct and incredibly pleasing experience to the eye.
Unfortunately, as a pure platformer, Rush Bros is mostly mediocre. Its biggest problem comes in the form of the frustrating level design. The necessary precision is entirely possible with a game pad, though the movement still feels a tad slow at times. There are a few instances where you find keys for doors, yet the doors are at the beginning of the level. That would be fine if you had to run back through all those frustrating obstacles just once, but instead you must find multiple other keys, leading you to run through the level two, or even three more times.
If you plan on playing Rush Bros with a keyboard, I have some bad news for you. The keyboard controls are some of the worst in recent memory, movement is incredibly sluggish and the precision required to make certain jumps is almost impossible to achieve without a controller. To the games credit, it does begin by saying that they recommend a controller. Controls with an Xbox 360 controller are mostly acceptable. The aforementioned precision is entirely accessible with a gamepad, granted the movement does feel a tad slow at times.
Be it to rectify the mildly sluggish movement, or just because it’s hilarious, Rush Bros features a few different modes. You activate these by entering the “Remix” option before heading into a level, where you can activate a “Survival Mode” and “Fast Forward” mode. The Fast Forward mode does as the name implies, it speeds up whatever song you’re playing to where it sounds as if the chipmunks are singing along as you quickly fly through levels. Actually completing a level with this mode on is incredibly difficult, but it’s great for a few laughs.
While you can play all on your own, Rush “Bros” is clearly meant to be played with others. Unfortunately, matchmaking is a huge issue plaguing the game. On one hand, there are very few people playing, I personally never spotted an open game in the Steam Multiplayer option. You can, however, create a single player game and simply wait for another player to join you. There are some major issues with players dropping from matches before they even begin, though I can’t say for sure if it’s a problem with steam or if they’re just jerks. Hopefully these are issues that will be fixed as time moves on. Sadly, I’m not sure twenty people will be playing Rush Bros for much longer.
When you do find a friend to play with, the game devlivers a satisfying multiplayer experience. Like I’ve stated previously, controls are far from perfect, but they’re good enough to help build upon an intense race between friends. Along the way through levels, there are certain power ups/downs to be picked up that will help you or hurt your opposition. For example, one of the pickups completely inverts your opponent’s controls. There are only a few of these to be found within a level, which is a tad disappointing. But it also makes the pickup of one more satisfying as you watch your opponent’s bewilderment grow once they realize what just happened.
The incorporation of the music is by far the most interesting thing within Rush Bros, but that incorporation doesn’t work anywhere near as well as you’d hope. While that is an unfortunate bummer, the game itself is far from terrible without that bulletpoint. Of course, with some better platforming and tighter controls, Rush Bros would be much more recommendable. But for what it is, a nine dollar indie game that provides some laughs, a few thrills, and some absolutely gorgeous art, it’s at least worth a look.