Rush Bros, Asynchronous Play

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I have always been a fan of music integral to the function of a game. Loom, Chime, and Ocarina of Time are some of my favorites where music is an active element, rather than a passive one.

There have been many times when I depended on the pulsing rhythms of a personally chosen soundtrack to help psych me up and fine tune my performance while playing an FPS. This technique would always work well until I found myself at a point where my typically four-on-the-floor songs and game functions fell out of sync, a hard misstep to overcome once I was "in the zone."

When I heard about the indie platformer Rush Bros and it's use of song rhythm to influence obstacles in game it caught my attention. I was interested further when I learned that Rush Bros supported the use of players personal music (as long as it is in MP3 or OGG format).

The game is a racing platformer at it's core, with a wide selection of levels to choose from, varied backgrounds (sometimes disjointedly so), and competitive multi-player, it doesn't depend on the music's obstacle influence alone to stay fresh.

The mainstays of platform obstacles (spikes, pits, lazers, etc.) move in sync with the music's rhythm, which is fun to experiment with and see just how you can actively manipulate the level to enhance your performance. Unfortunately, I had very little luck adjusting a custom soundtrack to help me through the game. In my experience the in-game music seemed best suited for playing, as it was tricky figuring out what beat in my chosen song the obstacles were following.

Luckily, the game wasn't terribly punishing when I lost my rhythm and fell out of step with it's pitfalls, a blessing for one plagued by stutter-fingers (The reason I turn to musical "performance enhancers"). My Rush Bro was neatly deposited not terribly far away from the the place I met my untimely end, so death had a minimal impact on my timed runs.

I think that the biggest down fall of this game was that the music, which was intended to be integral, felt suddenly interrupted when I, typically, completed the level before the song had concluded. Because of that, the racing element seemed in direct opposition to the music. Add the difficulty with understanding the environment's responses to my chosen playlist, and it appeared that Rush Bros fell short of it's intended goal.

I am committed to the idea that Rush Bros tries to implement but it feels like an imperfect marriage of musical influence in game-play. Perhaps the next iteration will strike a better balance between it's musical components and function. I look forward to seeing if that Rush Bros will come to fruition.