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Thumper is a must-buy PlayStation VR launch title (and it’s not bad on flat screens, either)

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Welcome to rhythm violence

Thumper Drool

You don’t have to play Thumper in virtual reality, but you’re missing out on a large part of the experience if you don’t.

You are what appears to be a space beetle, and you’re being held in an aggressively tight track with walls on either side as turns and bright bars of light fly towards you. The sense of scale (you are in a giant abyss filled with abstract but threatening structures) as well as speed (you seem to be moving at an impossible pace) are key to the game’s aggressive aesthetic.

The developer describes it as “rhythm violence,” and that violence comes through every aspect of Thumper’s design. You’ll feel battered even if you do everything right.

And that’s a feeling that’s enhanced by the virtual reality presentation. It’s why Oculus’ VP of product told us Thumper is the PlayStation VR game he’d love to get on the Rift.

Thumper is relentless in that it teaches you a basic mechanic, slams you onto an anvil and hits you with a hammer until you understand it, and then moves onto the next one. You feel as if you’re being forged by some technological hellscape, and you come out the other end feeling hardcore as hell.

There are seven worlds, each one filled with a large number of smaller sections, and you’re graded on your ability to react to the pulses of light and sharp turns that the game throws at you. It feels like being beaten in the face by a digital version of the Necronomicon.

Thumper works fine on a flat screen — if you aren’t buying a PlayStation VR, I’m still going to suggest you pick up the game on PlayStation 4 or Steam — but it comes to life in virtual reality in a way that isn’t possible when you’re looking at the world through a window.

Being able to have this experience wrap completely around you, to see the infernal expanse of this world as an endless lane of fear, well ... that’s a whole ’nother thing. The scope of the game’s levels feels too small on a standard screen. Thumper shines in VR.

This isn’t a standard rhythm game, and I feel beaten down by its sense of style and pacing. And I mean that in a good way. Thumper launches today on PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR and Steam.