The latest game to be selected by Steam’s indie-game promoting Greenlight community, Rush Bros draws on the fast precise platforming of Super Meat Boy and marries it to the music influenced gaming of titles like Audiosurf and Rez. Two stylish and colourful DJs, Bass and Treble (natch) must race against each other (for some reason or another) through a music-themed landscape littered with obstacles which pulse in time to the backbeat of whatever song is selected.
The first level is jokingly called “Totally Not a Tutorial’, and the sad thing is it’s correct. The game does a notably poor job explaining its mechanics, possible moves or even a rudimentary story as to why you’re doing any of this in the first place. Level design is all over the place; often there are locked doors which means backtracking to find a key or two or even three, which completely robs the moment of any sense of momentum or urgency. The art style has some things going for it; the sharp outlined, primary coloured neon Daft Punk-esque look is a good fit for the characters and some of the rendered backdrops are very lovely and varied but frequently too busy. In many instances this is a hindrance to play as locating and hitting viable jumps first time is essential for this type of game.
The game bills itself as a music-based platformer - speakers pulse and knock you off balance and platforms rise and fall to the beat - but in truth other than slightly altering the speed of the hazards, the choice of track doesn’t really have any bearing on the gameplay. Scattered throughout the levels are springs and bumpers reminiscent of Sonic in places, but all this achieved was to remind us how much better these elements were used in Sega’s classic. Some springs are there to propel you forward but others fling you into spikes and there is no way of knowing which are beneficial and which aren’t without the foreknowledge of falling foul of them at least once. Power-up choice is meagre to say the least, with only extra speed and double-jump varieties on show.
The game recommends using a pad, which is an understatement as the keyboard controls are nigh-on unusable. Insanely for a running racing game there is no sprint button, only a slide which is often less than useful. Controls often felt jerky and unresponsive, with your ambulatory avatar often advancing several steps after you had let go of the button, often into an unwelcome pit of spikes.
The single player mode is pretty much a practice run of the stages, there’s no extra content here so it’s pretty worthless without friends to play against, although a ghost run of your best effort is saved for you to practice against, if that is your want. Luckily there’s local co-op as well as online, as the lobbies are pretty empty at the moment. The interaction between players during the race comes in the form of collectables which adversely affect the other player, from switching their controls around to zooming right in to rob them of perspective or blacking out their vision entirely. While intended to be amusing, they’re often just annoying. Moreover they are used the instant they are picked up, with no option to save them to be used at a more strategic time a la Mario Kart.
The soundtrack is fine if you like hi-NRG dance but just isn’t long enough to cover the forty or so levels, so while the songs are catchy and well-produced you’ll no doubt get sick of them quickly. While the option to play the game with your own tunes by importing MP3s into the game’s installation folder is present, it isn't enough to save the track integration from being tangential at best, and only really works if you substitute in similarly up-tempo track selections.
Rush Bros has some good ideas behind it, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired; for a game that claims to be a blend of two genres, there’s surprisingly little content from either. When there are much better platformers available either from the classic era or newer offerings like Super Meat Boy or Dustforce, and much better music games like Rez, Audiosurf or even old PlayStation classic Vib Ribbon, there’s no real reason to frustrate yourself by playing this.