Developer: XYLA Entertainment
Rush Bros. looks and sounds fantastic. As a DJ trapped in a future world where dubstep is king and luminous neon drips from every surface, you'll race against your rival to become the ultimate platforming mix master. Boasting a soundtrack from Infected Mushroom, not to mention a unique visual hook that resembles an LSD-fuelled Tron afterparty, there's nothing quite like it in terms of presentation.
The levels - nightmarish yet gorgeous amalgamations of platforms, saws, bounce pads, switches, lasers and hazards galore - pulse in rhythm with the background music, which you can even import from your personal music collection. It's a collection of very familiar obstacles and platforming nasties, but packaged in a truly beautiful sensory overload that spoils both eyes and ears.
This all sounds great, but is Rush Bros. worth the cover charge? Sadly, the glitzy exterior belies a game that's nowhere near as fresh or funky as the frontage makes out.
Rush Bros' platforming mechanics are broadly solid, in that your character jumps when you press the requisite button. However, when you're not taking advantage of one of the speed or double jump powerups, the raw action feels a little slow in comparison to some of the genre benchmarks - especially when it comes to wall jumping. A tiny amount of upward movement and an inability to properly chain jumps together means that you'll spend a lot of time just clawing your way up sheer surfaces that should, and could, have been replaced by a more interesting platforming challenge. N+ this ain't, though it's still fit for task and can be kicked up a notch with the newly-added Turbo Mode.
Perhaps my biggest issue with Rush Bros. is the level design, and it took me a while to put my finger on exactly why I wasn't enjoying it as much as I thought I would. Unlike some of the best platformers out there, where stages are a single cohesive mechanism that encourage flowing gameplay, most of Rush Bros' gauntlets feel cobbled together out of individual design elements and obstacles with no obvious cadence between them. It's an odd jumble of walls that just aren't quite high enough to leap over in a single bound, pits, saws and spikes (even a soupçon of backtracking) that don't allow you to get into a rhythm beyond a staccato dash for the next disconnected hazard. For a music game, it's a shame that you'll rarely get into the groove, meaning that most of the levels won't make much of an impression.
The vaunted music integration also isn't up to much, beyond slightly altering the frequency of moving platforms based on the tempo. If you're not a fan of dubstep and a couple of the better tracks don't convert or brainwash you, you can import your own MP3s as background music, but the effect on gameplay is minimal at best outside of a couple of noteworthy standout levels (I wish they were all like 'Noisy Ascent'). Unlike Audiosurf, Beat Hazard and 1...2...3...Kick It, your tracks don't alter level design in any way whatsoever or affect very much at all. It's a shame that Rush Bros' most intriguing unique selling point fails to launch, making the rest of the formulaic experience feel just a little over-familiar and overplayed, like a track you enjoy that you've heard just a few too many times. Or, worse, a remix of a track that was better before.
As a singleplayer game, then, Rush Bros never quite makes a firm case for an instant purchase unless you're a leaderboard-crushing perfectionist, but the multiplayer picks things up. If you enable challenges, other players can throw down the gauntlet at any time, allowing you to compete for the best times. In my experience, most matches tend to be decided when one player makes a mistake and never recovers, but some fun powerups ('control swap' perhaps being my favourite) can redress the balance. I'd personally recommend playing Rush Bros. locally, since racing against a faceless adversary can feel a little impersonal.
With 40 short stages to conquer, there's plenty of content here, especially for high score junkies. XYLA will also plan to add more content, tweaks and updates over the coming months, so you're buying into a dynamic and evolving product. Sadly, it's clear that the product needs to evolve in order to fully compete with the best the genre has to offer, and retain its all-important multiplayer base.
- Utterly, drool-inducingly beautiful; excellent dubstep soundtrack
- Fun competitive 'drop in' multiplayer
- Plenty of levels, workmanlike mechanics fit for task
- Few new or fresh ideas beyond the art direction
- Level design lacks cohesion, rhythm and flow
- Relatively slow movement, wall jumping feels very sluggish
- Importing music doesn't affect level design or obstacle placement
The Short Version: Rush Bros. is a fun competitive platformer that never quite makes the most of its music-powered gameplay. If you're ready to strive for high scores and throw down in online challenges, there's still plenty for you here, but don't expect a revelation to match the visuals.