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Video Game / Thumper

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Described as "a rhythm violence game", Thumper is a 2016 rhythm-based Endless Running Game by Drool, with music provided by Brian Gibson, best known as the bassist for Lightning Bolt. It was first released on PC via Steam and on Play Station 4 on October 10, 2016. Nintendo Switch version was released on May 18th, 2017, followed by a Xbox One version on August 18th, 2017. It also has VR versions playable through Steam VR, PS4 VR and Oculus Rift.

It has essentially no narrative; you are a small, silver space beetle that is set upon a rail and traveling at high velocity. As you go you must navigate into or around the various obstacles in your way such as poles of light along the track, walls to grind against without hitting, and spikes that must be flown over. All the while you are occasionally beset by geometrically designed portal-like objects (or creatures) that you must defeat with carefully timed actions in order to progress past them.

Sounds simple, right? Under this simple veneer is a deceptively difficult runner game with very little margin for error and a visual design heavily inspired by 80's era technological motifs. One of the key points of Thumper is its soundtrack; the game's pounding beats are probably one of the only things that will keep you on track with timing your actions, so this is a game recommended to be played with headphones.

The game provides examples of:

  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • In the boss levels, you can stop worrying about dodging obstacles while the energy shot is traveling up the rail to the boss.
    • If you're going for all S ranks on a stage, you don't need to do it all in one go; if you mess up, you can simply go back to the last checkpoint, and your score up to that point will be preserved. This goes out the window in Play+ due to that mode's unique mechanics effectively requiring a single-run S rank just to beat each stage.
  • Arrange Mode: Play+ mode, basically a hard mode. Tutorial messages as well as some mechanic-tutorial sections are removed, the Score Multiplier can now go up to 4x however higher multipliers will increase the game speed, and if you die, the level ends and you get taken to the Score Screen immediately.
  • Bigger on the Inside: After you enter Crakhed's mouth, there's a while another level to go through before getting outside.
  • Boss Corridor: Boss stages start with an empty tunnel. The last corridor though is an actual level that uses Difficulty by Acceleration.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Whether the game itself qualifies is open to interpretation; however, the visuals take some Lovecraftian cues, including tentacles on many bosses and even the track itself.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the usual rhythm game fair. Both the music and the visuals are dark and foreboding, and you're matching the rhythm to avoid smashing into something and exploding violently.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • All bosses are Starfish Aliens in one way or another.
    • Crakhed seems to become more and more like one of these all the time, getting spikier, more deformed, and having more tentacles each time you face it, until it's more like a giant, flaming, metallic anemone than like a burning, screaming human head. Also, its true form is implied to be a large triangular shape that serves as a phase of the boss fight.
  • Evil Evolves: Crakhed gradually turns from a flaming head to a multi-eyed tentcale monster.
  • Expy: At least visually, the Final Boss in phase one looks a LOT like classical depictions of Azathoth.
  • Final Death Mode: Doing a New Game Plus reduces the beetle's 2 hit points to One-Hit-Point Wonder and removes checkpoints.
  • Final-Exam Boss: Every boss requires you to follow the pattern or it will loop, and Crakhed combines previous gimmicks.
  • Gameplay Grading: Depending on your score, you will be awarded a letter grade at the end of each level, with C being the lowest, and S being the highest. The Play+ mode adds an S+ grade, which requires perfect play for a given section, or for getting S+ ranks in 50% of the subsections.
  • Ground Wave: What happens when you stomp on a thump or attack a boss.
  • Guide Dang It!: You'll be forgiven to never figure out how to fly while turning since it's not a required mechanic, but if you want to hit the air bars for the S rank, the explanation is in the manual with other scoring tips.
  • Healing Checkpoint: A shiny square at each checkpoint restores your health if you were hit, and if you don't miss it.
  • Interface Screw: Level 7-7 Boss's speciality is to bend the rail at sharp angles, which in turn rotates the camera all over the place at high speed, in an already "epilepsy fuel" game.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: From level 3 some bosses have shields that can only be broken by a shockwave.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Getting hit produces a Hit Stop and makes the beetle invulnerable for a second.
  • Nintendo Hard: With how fast the game moves, especially at the higher levels, prepare to die a lot. You have unlimited lives, but dying takes you back to the last checkpoint, so prepared to repeat several sections dozens of times.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: There is no background for why a beetle is flying along a railway at high speed while being confronted by eldritch horrors left and right and avoiding getting killed by obstacles.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: Level 6-9 Boss is the only level that has multiple possible patterns, the rest of the game is pre-made.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: A common color motif, given that the art style draws heavily from neon-and-black 80's era motifs.
  • Scenery Porn: The game's selling point is being in some mix of space and hell. A new player is likely to die at least once for being distracted by the surroundings.
  • Sinister Geometry: Everything that isn't you or the rail falls into this category; the walls, the spikes, the rods, and especially the bosses. Subverted with Crakhed, as while they do appear to be made of geometric shapes they are meant to evoke the design of a screaming human face. Not that it makes them any less sinister.
  • Single-Use Shield: The beetle can take only two hits without healing, with first one breaking the metallic wings to reveal more organic ones. It is replenished if the player lands a bonus-thump at the checkpoint.
  • Spikes of Doom: Starting from Level 2 that introduces flying.
  • Time Master: The Final Boss can speed up and slow down the tempo, completely confusing the player.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Levels are divided into a lot of sections, and dying brings you back to the beginning of the current section. Considering this is going to happen a lot at later levels, you may end up relying on memory more than on reaction time.
  • Uncommon Time: Each level uses a different time signature, and some of them get a bit out there, like 7/8 and 9/8.
  • Warmup Boss: A triangular boss appears at the start of multiple levels to introduce a new gimmick.