During Microsoft’s Xbox showcase, Tango Gameworks and Bethesda Softworks surprised everyone with the sudden announcement and release of Hi-Fi Rush, their new rhythm-based action-adventure game. Vibrant and colorful, it is a surprise that this is the same studio that brought us games like Ghostwire Tokyo. Despite its reputation for developing such dark and horror-themed games, Tango Gameworks’ Hi-Fi Rush works surprisingly well. With its cartoonish art style, unique gameplay, sense of humor, and absolutely stellar soundtrack, there are hours of fun to be found in Hi-Fi Rush.
The narrative of Hi-Fi Rush centers on a young man named Chai whose entire personality revolves around his dream of becoming a rockstar. Due to a defect of an experiment meant to provide him some income, Chai finds himself transformed into a cyborg that connects with the world around him through rhythm. With the help of his sidekick, Peppermint, who regularly takes the form of a cat, he discovers that the experiment in which he participated is actually part of an antagonistic corporation’s ambiguous evil plot.
Full of slapstick humor and witty banter, the dialogue, and progression of the story are engaging and easy to follow. Despite this, I often found that Chai was difficult to relate to. His character at times, can come off as a cliche “loveable idiot” due to his arrogant demeanor and energetic enthusiasm centered on the lofty dream of becoming a rockstar. Even if he’s not a perfectly written character, playing as Chai is still a delight.
Gameplay in Hi-Fi Rush at first comes off as incredibly innovative, but the repetition eventually makes the charm fade. Combat, platforming, exploration, and puzzles all flawlessly incorporate rhythm and timing. For example, while in combat, if the player’s button presses match up with the rhythm of the background music, attacks combine with each other and become more powerful. The environment is dynamic and changes according to the beat. Platforms will present themselves and vanish on every other quarter note while Chai’s walk cycle is always in sync. This style of gameplay is extremely engaging for the first several hours, but the novelty wears off shortly after the first boss fight. Eventually, I found that experiencing an entire story through rhythm becomes redundant.
Chai has several skill trees that the player can upgrade by spending gears that are earned from exploring Hi-Fi Rush’s colorful and cartoonish environments. Skill trees will enable new abilities and offer upgrades for Chai’s weapons. In general, the presentation of the skill trees and upgrading weapons is easy to follow even without a tutorial. Everything about the upgrade system is fair and Chai will never become overpowered since enemies will require him to deal more damage as the game progresses.
The environments appear heavily influenced by popular PlayStation 2-era video games such as Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank, incorporating elements of 3-D platforming and traversal that are sometimes dependent on an in-game companion. Peppermint, Chai’s acquaintance that often helps him with navigation and battle, can shoot objects in the environment to aid in platforming and combat. Peppermint is always easily accessible and so smoothly integrated into these elements of the gameplay that players won’t even recognize that they’re simultaneously juggling a multitude of different tasks such as complicated combat and fast-paced platforming.
The soundtrack may be the most notable aspect of Hi-Fi Rush. The exposition starts by engaging the player with The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy.” The first boss fight forces players to sync their combat with songs by Nine Inch Nails. However, not every song in the soundtrack is highly recognizable. Most of the game is backed by a pulsing heavy rock instrumental track that has an easily identifiable rhythm. This makes it easier to sync button presses with combat and rhythm-based exploration. It is clear that the developers took special care in selecting the soundtrack. Several hours into the game, it remains catchy and it never gets old.
Even with its few distracting flaws, almost anyone will find something worthwhile in Hi-Fi Rush. Its seamless integration of rhythm into exploration and combat is met with a harmonious and interesting soundtrack. Colorful, engaging, and funny, anybody will be able to pick up this title easily. For all these reasons, Hi-Fi Rush is a title that is safe to recommend.
Hi-Fi Rush is available now on Xbox Series S|X and PC.
- Rating - 8.5/108.5/10
Even with its few distracting flaws, almost anyone will find something worthwhile in Hi-Fi Rush. Its seamless integration of rhythm into exploration and combat is met with a harmonious and interesting soundtrack. Colorful, engaging, and funny, anybody will be able to pick up this title easily.