I love the way that time tested genres, even decades after their inception, can continue to spawn unique and entertaining hybrids. The humble platformer has produced dozens of such spinoffs, and one that I find massively entertaining is what I call the “Precision Platformer”. Super Meatboy, N+, and They Bleed Pixels are all entries in this category, and today we’ll be looking at another, Rush Bros.
Rush Bros. Has simple, stylized graphics. In general, characters and levels are depicted with neon colors with starkly contrasting black details. Everything is pulsing an alive, moving with the music that you’ve selected. Behind the gameplay is an often gorgeous backdrop that shows a huge amount of detail. The visuals actually have a great deal of impact on the gameplay, which we’ll talk about in the next section. Levels are designed to guide you in the proper direction, with arrows pointing out the direction you should be moving. When you collect a key, a circle is drawn around the character that points you in the direction of the door that it unlocked. There are prettier games out there–and the art doesn’t have the personality of Super Meatboy, for instance–but it all combines to produce a fairly intuitive and playable game. It is worth mentioning that the game, likes to be played in a window.
Something about the graphics in this game that I got a kick out of was their tendency to call upon the games that were clear inspirations for this hone. The spring platforms have a Sonic the Hedgehog feel, and at least one level is a notable homage to Super Mario Brothers. It is a nice nod to the sources of inspiration.
In case you’re not familiar with what I’ve called a precision platformer in the past, I’ll give you a run down. It is a game with simple controls, where you control a highly agile character and focus on getting from point A to point B with a high focus on speed. Levels are obstacle courses filled with hazards and locked doors, and you must navigate them as quickly as possible. Death has little or no consequence, with a limited number of lives instead being replaced by a death counter that one would hope you’d strive to decrease with repeated attempts. When you’ve got a prior performance on one of the many included tracks in the game, you’ll race against your ghost, which I’ve always found an exceptional way to motivate you to do better.
Rush Bros hits all of those points, and adds a few. Your character is a speedy little guy with wall jumps, Super Mario Bros 2 style “hold down to charge” jumps, and a megaman slide. Scattered through the levels are power ups that give you abilities that are a staple of the game type, including the incredibly valuable double jump. In addition, as the “Bros” would suggest, this game has competitive multiplayer. I tested it with a few random challenges, but obviously more purposeful matchmaking methods are available as well. When you face off against another player, the game stops being a race against the clock and starts being a flat-out race. Your goal is to finish the level before your opponent, and along the way you’ll get the opportunity to complicate matters. There are modifier items that zoom the screen so much that you can barely see a few steps a head of you, or invert the screen so that you’re playing upside down. It reminded me a bit of the guitar duels from Guitar Hero 3. It works well, though you walk on dangerous ground when you introduce game elements designed exclusively to annoy.
The last element that really sets this game apart is the fact that it is “music reactive.” What that means is that the level and its hazards change their behavior based on the beat of the music you’re playing. You are able to select music from your own collection, or go with the tracks included. It is a nifty concept, and it affects the gameplay more than you’d expect. Frequently you’ll encounter a stretch of level that is lined with hazards that attempt to skewer the player to the beat of the music. If you are listening to a song with a fast tempo, these hazards will be moving at a breakneck pace. A slower song makes them more manageable, but slow hazards can make for a slow time. The one point I would make about this is that while you can play to any song you want, if you don’t play to a song with a very rigid, very regular beat (like the techno and dubstep that comes packed with the game) the level can behave in a very haphazard manner.
I really enjoy games of this type, but for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I didn’t really “feel” Rush Bros. Maybe it was the physics, which could get a little floaty or flaky at times—wall jumping along narrow wall has a weird tendency to send you in a straight line between them, and I swear there were times I was able to slide along the ceiling—or maybe it was the lack of impact and physicality. Many of the levels are built around punishing you for a misstep. I’d be fine if that meant killing you, or even starting over. Instead, while the checkpoints appear to be as common as the last time you were on solid ground, missing a platform might result in you having to backtrack through half of the level. This is necessary to make 2 player competitive, but in single player it was less excusable.
Rush Bros is a fun game, but I never really felt locked in and in the groove like I have with others of the genre.
You choose, it is simple as that. You could be racing through neon hallways listening to club music or to a metronome, so the game’s audio is as good or as bad as your library.
Okay, so there are these brothers, and they are always in a rush. And that’s how they came to earn the name Rush Bros. Actually, if there’s a story to this game, there isn’t a strong enough focus on it for me to actually know what it is. Not necessarily a strike against the game, but neither is it a benefit.
Rush Bros is a fun game, and if you and a friend are both fans of the fast paced platformers, this is one of the few that will let you play them directly against one another. The graphics were above average, but not exceptional, and the music is entirely up to you. I’d definitely say that Rush Bros is worth playing, but it would need a lot more polish and personality before I would give it a place among the greats of the genre.
7.1 / 10: Rush Bros. is fun game with some unique elements, though it could use a bit more polish.