A solitary beetle bolts down a slotted track as tentacles, lit by the kaleidoscopic hues of the tunnel, straddle the sides of the raceway. The underpass molds gradually from a burrow into a wide-open area, but the encapsulating darkness feels as desolately subterranean as deep space. The synthesis of deep-toned electronica and sunken drum beats brings into focus the beetle's velocity as it streaks down the sleek track and scratches the wall in neon-tinted sparks.
With primordially psychotropic visuals and an unyielding, aphotic soundtrack, Thumper had already blown my mind this year at GDC 2015 and continues to do so even eight months later with their latest demo at PlayStation Experience 2015.
Self-described as "rhythm violence," Thumper transforms a simple rhythm game into a gripping, unrelenting audiovisual experience that is almost indescribable. Putting words to it, as developer Brian Gibson described (he worked as an artist at Harmonix and is a bassist for the band Lightning Bolt), can place limitations on the game's expression. But as a writer, I have to at least try to communicate what it feels like to put on a pair of headphones and experience the first level of Thumper in its entirety, if just to convince you that this may well be one of the best titles to release next year that few people have even heard about.
Playing as a chrome-plated beetle racing down a pinched track, you must hit glowing white notes as they speed past you and turn corners at lightning speed, all at the beat and pace of the musical track. Miss too many turns and your beetle will crash unceremoniously into an explosion of itty-bitty beetle parts. Completing each sequence without mistakes heals the beetle and advances you to the next stage in the level until you reach the boss at the end; in this case, a giant head aptly named Crakhed.
Not making mistakes also keeps the point multiplier alive, granting you a higher score that is shown periodically at each stage in the level. You'll know if you make a mistake if you have to repeat a sequence over again. At the same time, hitting corners at exactly the right time, noted by a sound effect, will grant you an extra point, though missing will inflict damage. This makes reaching the highest score a "high risk, high reward" strategy that will test the rhythm players to their limit (myself included).
The other developer on the two-man team for Thumper, Marc Flury (also of Harmonix fame), stated that there will be around 10 total levels, if not more. Other trailers showcase tracks with wider lanes, a jump mechanic, and few more twists, so Thumper has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.
Thumper is slated to release sometime in Spring 2016 for Steam and PlayStation 4.