Once I got over my initial disappointment that Rush Bros. was not a game in which you take the Legion of Doom to Wrestlemania to win the Tag Team Championships, I was left with what Rush Bros. actually is – a musically themed platformer, a strange mixture of Super Meat Boy and Audiosurf that doesn’t always work. But when it does, it’s an entertaining distraction for any veteran of the innumerable platformers being released on PC these days.
There is a very brief story to start off the game. The titular brothers are a pair of DJs who formed a successful act before going solo, as all successful acts are prone to do. Then, because this isn’t a rhythm game, the two brothers are pitted against each other in a death race of sorts with their DJ soundtrack blasting in the background. It reminds me in more than one way of Sonic The Hedgehog 2’s multiplayer mode, where two characters raced around madcap tracks on a horizontal widescreen. Even when playing in single player, the game automatically matches you with an AI opponent, though it can be turned off in the settings.
Rush Bros. (Mac, PC [Reviewed])
Developer: XYLA Entertainment
Publisher: Digital Tribe
Release: May 24, 2013
Much like Arkanoid before it, Rush Bros. enhances that Sonic multiplayer experience by adding in power ups, which are some of the highlights of the entire game when playing with a friend or online. Suddenly reversing a player’s controls or blacking out their background in a precision platformer leads to frustrating but fun moments. Sadly, the power ups are not randomized, making them a cheap way to keep track of your opponent’s progress throughout the races.
The level design is varied, with some levels having you dash to the top ala Ice Climbers, while others have you searching for door keys while dodging buzzsaws. In fact, you’ll be doing a lot of dodging throughout the game’s more sadistic moments, moments where I would have liked to have a bit more air control in my DJ. I did have the wall jumping that you would expect from the genre since Super Meat Boy’s release, but my character dropped like a brick after jumping, forcing me to measure out jumps carefully. There are frequent checkpoints, but it’s still not something you want to be doing in a game all about racing to the finish.
I have yet to mention one of Rush Bros. biggest hooks, a hook that was pushed heavily during its successful Greenlight campaign, it’s customizable soundtrack. The game boasts that levels are designed “reactively”, with traps and platforms moving based on the rhythm of any MP3 you throw at it. Technically, this is true, but the changes are minor at best, and the rhythm of most of the songs I tried didn’t sync half as well as the tracks provided with the game. This might be an obvious conclusion to some, but it’s a shame that the game doesn’t change as much as other games with this type of feature.
Another shame is Rush Bros.’s single player component, which is practically nonexistent. You can run through the levels on your own, but most of the power-ups are designed for two players in mind, making their absence make the levels seem empty in comparison with the multiplayer mode. It’s also worth noting that the harder parts of the levels are much better received in multiplayer, where they become a minigame to see who can bypass the obstacle faster. Alone, these moments only serve as instant rage quits.
Overall, Rush Bros. seems to be pulling from too many influences to be influential itself. Its sharp difficulty spikes are reminiscent of Meat Boy and They Bleed Pixels, but masters of those games will have no trouble here. The racing component that brings the game to life is also hampered by the difficulty, making Rush Bros. a hard game to bring out at parties. The most flawlessly executed part of the product might be the soundtrack, an instant classic collection of chiptunes that fits right into the current renaissance in the gaming music scene. If that alone sounds intriguing to you, it might be worth it to just consider the game portion a nice bonus.