by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
A Welcome Surprise
A shadow-drop is when a game or other form of media is released shortly after it's announcement without a big advertising campaign prior. This can be risky, but fortunately for Tango Gameworks (the people behind The Evil Within series), their newest game is Hi-Fi Rush, which instantly caught people's eyes when it was both announced and then released on January 25th. This reviewer's attention was piqued the moment the game appeared, and with it almost instantly ranking high on Steam's charts. I wasn't alone.
Rock 'n' Roll
Gamers booting up Hi-Fi Rush take the role of Chai, a wannabe rockstar with a bum arm that signed up for a comically suspicious experiment called Project Armstrong, where he would be upgraded by Vandelay Technologies, the corrupt mega-corporation that seems to run the vibrant, cel-shaded island setting. Due to an accident Chai's music player (resembling MP3s rather than a more modern equivalent) is fused to his heart, which allows him to feel the very rhythm of the world, nicely setting up the gameplay alteration that makes Hi-Fi Rush stand out from other action games that involve wreaking havoc on enemies - namely, the beat itself.
Attacking, dodging, even jumping in sync with the rhythm makes Chai more and more effective in battle with his scrap guitar, and it is beyond easy for anyone to learn. With the environment and even enemies acting in tune, Chai snapping his fingers, or even an overlay that shows precisely when the beat is, even the most rhythmically dyslexic gamers will be able to stay on beat. But even if a player struggles there's no real consequence to being off-synch, just bonuses for having the right timing, so there's no block on gamers that struggle musically.
For a game all about rhythm, Hi-Fi Rush needed a rocking soundtrack for players to play along to, and while this reviewer had nothing to complain about from the get-go the first boss track immediately had me eager to play more. This catchiness combined with how accessible the game is (offering several filter options for those who are coluorblind as well as the overlay itself if playing with low volume or otherwise not being able to tell when the beat is) makes the game hard to put down in the best of ways. The game is helpfully patient and encouraging as well, allowing players to take their time and learn what works best for them - only emphasized by the sheer amount of unlockable combos that can help tune Chai into a fighter par excellence. Experimenting is encouraged, since repeating the same combo ad nauseam nets less and lets points as time goes on.
The only real flaw this reviewer can think of regarding Hi-Fi Rush is simply that it might be too much of a good thing. The colour pallet and shading are bright and stark, the rocking soundtrack keeps players in a constant ready-state, and Chai's wannabe energy is barely kept in check by his growing competence from being too egotistical for his own good - this fact is mitigated by his allies that try and keep him on ground level though, as they grow more exasperated with Chai than the audience has a chance to. This isn't too surprising with confirmation that inspiration was drawn from Edgar Wright's work (Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World to name two iconic examples). This doesn't take away from the fun by any means, but depending on a specific gamer's resistance to that sort of style it may make playing the game in shorter bursts more palatable.
To put this reviewer's thoughts entirely simply, my first reaction to seeing Hi-Fi Rush was to say it had the energy of a cult classic PS2 game, with all the quirks that come with that both positive and negative. It is cheesy, gorgeous, and addicting.
Despite being a black sheep of Tango Gamework's library, Hi-Fi Rush is quickly setting itself up to be a standout in popularity as well as genre, having already become a massive hit despite being a complete unknown mere hours before it released. With any luck, the budding success of Hi-Fi Rush encourages more game developers to stretch their wings and experiment. Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone can really pay off, and in this reviewer's opinion, Hi-Fi Rush epitomizes that.
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Catchy soundtrack, Easy to learn, Charming designs, Early Gen Energy
Quirky, Cheesy, Early Gen Energy