Developer: XYLA Entertainment / Publisher: Digital Tribe / Played On: PC / Price: $9.99 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
Rush Bros. is the latest in a line of independently developed PC games published on Steam, chosen by the gaming community through Greenlight. It’s a musical platformer that has you jumping, dodging and sliding to techno music and any jams you want to import from your personal collection.
It draws clear inspiration from renowned indie platformer Super Meat Boy and custom music games like Audio Rush. But, due to spotty controls, largely dull platforming and hardly substantive multiplayer, it hardly holds a candle to either, and fails to be an enjoyable experience worth returning to.
Rush Bros. packs a lot of promise and charm in its opening sequence, which features two dubstep DJ brothers leaving their cooperatively-earned fame and fortune in favor of independent careers crafting their own unique music. It’s a well-produced intro video that then dumps you into the game with no idea on what to do.
The notion is that you and a multiplayer partner play as the DJ duo that split, both racing to get to the end of bright and colorful levels that bounce and bop to the beat of the song. While this works in-part, most obstacles that are designed to move in synchronization with the music tend to actually move in a handful of set patterns that somewhat match the rhythm. It often works better with the included music than imported music, understandably, but it just feels broken.
Largely, the failure of the musical aspect is among the least disappointing parts. Were the game more functional as a platformer, this feature might fall less flat. Unfortunately, the controls are stiff and has that disconcerting feeling of not knowing exactly how your character is going to react when you move or press a button. It’s not enjoyable, and failure is more frustrating than a learning opportunity. Any trap you hit, such as a saw blade or a pool of lava, will kill you in one hit. Think Super Meat Boy, but with less precision and less of a feeling of accomplishment upon level completion. There’s little desire to give it another go, especially as spotty as the game’s random checkpoints can be.
As far as visuals go, the game is set in a slew of techno-heavy, fluorescent neon environments overflowing with glowing blues, warm reds and sharp greens. Many of the backgrounds are of dilapidated cities, green forests and grey factories, all with an overarching layer of black and neon walls, floors, traps and obstacles. That said it’s disappointing how basic and bland the foreground environment compare. It’s blocky and without much charm, and some objects are just downright ugly – like straight out of Microsoft Paint ugly. With such painterly backgrounds on display, why make what’s closer to the player less aesthetically pleasing?
By and large, Rush Bros. stumbles across the finish. Its sixty levels have moments of cleverness, but the platforming mechanics are stiff and unreliable. There are some occasional power ups that shake up some of the multiplayer action, but they don’t make gameplay exciting enough to make a difference. The music importing functionality works on a basic level, but doesn’t affect gameplay in the way it advertises. There are admirable parts, like how other players can randomly join you (with permission), and you can start seamlessly playing against one another.
However, it’s still a sub-par platformer with a musical twist, and one that doesn’t add much appeal beyond being minutely neat.