By Chad Sapieha,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Powerful VR rhythm game could grow kids' interest in music.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Encourages appreciation of music, specifically percussion.
Positive Role Models
No characters in this game other than giant, silent (slightly scary-looking) glowing-eyed bosses.
Ease of Play
Simple to start -- just tap a button on beat, press joystick left or right when rail curves -- but gradually grows quite challenging.
Violence & Scariness
Player's beetle-like pod can crash, break into small pieces.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Thumper is a rhythm music game that has players tap buttons in time with powerful drumbeats. There aren't really any characters (other than giant, glowing-eyed bosses that sometimes loom at the end of the track) and not much in the way of violence, save when the player's speeding metallic pod crashes and breaks into pieces. Players don't make music so much as feel the beat, which may lead to a greater appreciation of drumming and percussion as they try to maintain rhythm. It can be played in virtual reality using a PlayStation VR kit or on a standard TV. Parents should also be aware that virtual reality equipment makers don't recommend VR experiences for kids under 12 due to the potential impact the technology may have on younger players' physiological development.
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What’s It About?
In THUMPER, players pilot a metallic beetle speeding along a rail inside a dark dimension pulsing with powerful percussive music. Beat icons laid upon the track indicate precisely when you need to tap a button to keep the rhythm. Failure results in spectacular crashes. The challenge grows as the game progresses, with visual cues showing when to press left or right on the control stick to slide around curves on the track and when to press up to leap over hazards. Giant boss-like entities that control the music show up intermittently and must be beaten -- by tapping the beat button at the right moment to send a pulse of green energy toward them -- to complete levels. Early stages start out pretty easy, but the action gradually accelerates to an intense, breakneck pace that could leave some players dizzy -- especially if it's experienced by Sony's PlayStation VR headset as opposed to a standard TV.
Is It Any Good?
Woe be to those without a sense of rhythm who attempt this challenging yet fun music game. Though Thumper begins simply enough, with players tasked only to tap a button or press a joystick once every few seconds, it relentlessly accelerates in speed and grows in complexity, eventually forcing players almost to guess what might be coming around the next bend. Put another way, lightning-fast reflexes are mandatory. But players do receive some aid in the form of the game's incredibly powerful, pounding music, which drives far harder than the pop tracks found in most music and rhythm games. When you enter the zone, hitting beat after beat, you may well feel the music pumping through you like blood.
Combine this intense musical experience with Thumper's trippy visuals, which make it seem as though you're hurtling through an alternate dimension composed of nothing but light and speed, and the effect is startling -- especially if played in virtual reality, where the game's psychedelic imagery expands in all directions around you. If Thumper has a weakness, it's simply that it eventually becomes repetitive. The music and visuals increase in intensity but stay the same in tone and type. Still, there's no denying the power of this rhythm experience. Don't be surprised if you're sweating once you remove your VR headset.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about screen time. Thumper is broken into scored levels, but how many levels do you feel comfortable playing before taking a break? Do you find you grow more tired and need to pause more often while playing virtual reality games?
Families also can talk about music. What sort of music do you like? Do you prefer music with lyrics, or do you like to listen to instrumental tracks? How does the powerful, percussive music in Thumper make you feel?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Drool
- Release date: October 11, 2016
- Genre: Music & Dance
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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