Do yourself a favor and hit play on the trailer for Thumper above. Make sure you crank up the volume, put on some headphones if you have one handy, and switch on the HD. After it's done and your ears and eyes and brain have melted away, come back here… Or Watch It Again. I don't mind, these words aren't going anywhere.
Developed by indie studio DROOL, Thumper is easily my pick for the best game I saw at GDC 2015's Indiecade, and hell, the most memorable game I played at the whole convention. It might be difficult to figure out the words to describe Thumper, so here's a few: It's elegantly threatening, galactically abyssal, and vividly caustic.
The soundtrack has an iron-handed, industrial, subterranean tone that synchronizes with the ominously kaleidoscopic levels. The particle effects shatter and spiral, the single-lane highway warps and pulsates, and the environment bleeds and blisters—all in time with the beats and intervals of the music. It's the antithesis of disco.
The beetle zooms down the rail like bottled lightning and must navigate the track with the precision of an Olympic luger. You need to hit notes turned into white strips along the track and turn the beetle in advance of corners to prevent it from exploding into pieces. But as long as you pay attention to the upcoming track in the distance, you will be well-prepared and survive unscathed.
Defeating gatekeepers and the final boss named Crakhed (yes, Crakhed!) require you to land every note and corner in a sequence without a mistake. If you can do this four times, blasting a wave of energy at the boss with each wave, you'll gain passage to the next, more difficult section of the level. Eventually, you must break through gates, turn left and right quickly, and hit notes with trickier and trickier passages.
Thumper still has a year of development before it's finished, and both designer Brian Gibson and programmer Marc Flury still have plans to add far more difficulty. If the second trailer (posted above) is any indication, we might see the beetle use slams, dodge enemies, navigate larger lanes, and collect blips. Whatever those two do, I'm sure it will be awesomely sinister. I can't wait.