Hi-Fi Rush Review – Riff City
Hi-Fi Rush occupies an increasingly rare place in the big-budget video game industry: that of colorful, goofy, and light-hearted titles. For its 10 or 11 hour runtime, it has more in common with a Saturday morning cartoon than a flimsy attempt at gritty prestige television like most triple-A games these days, and that’s easily its greatest strength. That gameplay and combat is a unique fusion of rhythm and stylish action games is just the icing on the cake.
Main character Chai has big dreams of becoming a rock star. To realize this dream, he enrolls in Project Armstrong, a program run by megalithic technology organization Vandelay Technologies. Ideally, this would have replaced Chai’s disabled arm, but he’ll have to fight his way out of the facility when he’s called a defect. Along the way, he meets Peppermint, who is working to bring Vandelay down. The two team up and bring on board various people who are angry at the tech giant to form a ragtag group of misfits hellbent on ending Vandelay’s monopoly.
Each core character is charming and funny in their own right, and I thoroughly enjoyed the banter, arguments, and varied dynamics. Hi-Fi Rush is a surprisingly well-written game that manages to be intentionally cheesy and mostly pulls it off in a non-scratchy way. In fact, I was surprised that the story was my favorite part of the game, and I really enjoyed each character and how they integrated into the broader group. In the end, Chai and his merry squad work harmoniously together, and the story and gameplay fit in with it in a satisfying way.
At the heart of Hi-Fi Rush is a story about the ills of big tech – and the gaming industry in particular. It’s not the most radical corporate protest in the world. But Levels that poke fun at the lopsided budgets between marketing and development teams and tyrannical managers who take control of a product in exchange for quality or worker safety certainly get to the point. Tango Gameworks is owned by mega-publisher Bethesda Softworks. Maybe something to consider.
All of this takes place on Vandelay’s huge corporate campus. The bright, cel-shaded world is constantly moving, even when you’re standing still. Everything in Hi-Fi Rush moves to the beat of the game’s soundtrack – Chai’s walking animation, the rotation of industrial gears, cutscenes, all to the game’s internal metronome. It’s always been fun to see how the game integrates Chai’s love of music into the world, even in small details, like how a swing of your guitar on your belt squeaks in the same key as any level’s soundtrack.
In combat, Hi-Fi Rush’s rhythm backbone really comes into play. On the surface, the game plays like any number of stylish action games: you hack, slash, and build combos and high scores. You know the drill if you’ve played Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. However, the unique twist is that in time with the game’s songs, you get better scores and more effective attacks.
It feels as good as it looks, battling to the beat of the rhythm, landing heavy hits with a drum’s snare, and seeing your eye-catching animations timed perfectly to any number of Hi-Fi Rush songs. There is a literal weight when you press buttons in time. All of the surrounding aspects of the gameplay lean into the same gimmick – puzzles, platforms, the whole nine feet. Despite having an original score, the licensed soundtrack performs much of the game’s heavy lifting – especially during tense and dramatic moments. Aside from one The Black Keys song, all of the additions from Fiona Apple, Nine Inch Nails and especially The Joy Formidable are fantastic inclusions.
The combat is so good that the early parts of the game suffer compared to the back half of Hi-Fi Rush. It has a slow start and for the first few levels I was desperate to get to the next enemy encounter. Thankfully, Hi-Fi Rush really picks up steam after a few hours. As the credits roll, it escalates into a riot of colors and riffs that are utterly over the top and alive in the spectacle.
With Hi-Fi Rush, you don’t have to fight to the beat; Animations still land on time even when you don’t have time, allowing for the same visual impact as a perfectly synchronized player. Additionally, you can display a visual metronome on the screen to help you keep time. And the game maintains a relatively slow tempo for all of its songs, never having to keep up with hyper-fast rhythms. All of these go a long way towards helping less rhythmic players enjoy the conceit of the game and they are all fantastic additions.
Considering the game was announced and released on the same day, Hi-Fi Rush is easily one of the most surprising games of 2023. Part of it is literal. The other more important part is how good the game is. Finding a magical sweet spot between rhythm games, stylish action, and light-hearted, character-driven platformers that we don’t see often anymore, Hi-Fi Rush is number one in every respect.
https://www.gameinformer.com/review/hi-fi-rush/riff-city Hi-Fi Rush Review – Riff City