- Art Style
Rush Bros. by XYLA Entertainment is the result of taking Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s multiplayer mode, replacing the titular hedgehog with a DJ, and combining it with an electronic soundtrack and art style. Players race each other either online or in split screen. Additionally, each of the 40+ levels is influenced by the game’s soundtrack. Rush Bros. comes with quite an array of musical selections and even allows the player to provide their own MP3 OGG files for use. Each level reacts accordingly to the beat and flow of the music that you provide, and playing a level to the default soundtrack is a much different experience than rushing through the technicolor landscape to an Amon Amarth album.
Rush Bros. has a charming aesthetic that provides the game with much of its value. From the bright courses to the thumping tunes, it goes all out with its racing DJ theme. And that’s a good thing, because the core gameplay is flawed and the repetitious nature of the premise becomes somewhat stale.
You would think that a sidescrolling racing game called Rush Bros. Would involve a significant degree of speed. This is true to a point. There were segments on a few of the tracks that had me racing at top speed or propelling off a spring and soaring through the air. However, just as many times, I found myself backtracking through entire levels to find a crucial power up that I needed in order to proceed. Colored music notes allow you to open doors, while power ups let you traverse certain terrain obstacles.
The result is that the pace of the game often slows to a crawl, making the experience an exercise in frustration. As an example, I once died almost 20 times attempting to jump over a spike-filled pit before I decided to backtrack and see if there was an alternate route. It took me a while after that to discover a double jump power-up tucked away in a corner, allowing me to finally continue. I was lucky that there is no penalty for death in this game. It’s impossible to receive a ‘game over’ in Rush Bros. The only way to lose is to be beaten to the end of a course. The flip side is that death is imminent and instant. Everything that can kill you will do so just by touching your character. Many death traps are nearly unavoidable unless you’ve memorized the level before.
These segments of death after death and tedious backtracking seem to serve the purpose of lengthening the game, because there isn’t a lot of game to begin with. Over 40 levels may seem like a lot, but when each one can be completed in less time than the average pop song, you’re looking at about two hours of total content. That play time can be extended by racing online or trying to beat your own best times and scores, but the game quickly loses its charm after that two hour mark.
Rush Bros. recommends from the beginning that you play with a controller and, if you have the option, I absolutely agree. It’s a game that doesn’t always mesh well with keyboards, as evidenced by the fact that I had to mangle the default keyboard controls to find a configuration that I found even remotely playable. That’s not to say that your experience won’t be different. Maybe you’ll find that the cramped controls work for you.
At least Rush Bros. has a reason for its control scheme: you can play split screen races with any combination of keyboard and controller. Furthermore, the controls are tight and responsive enough for serious platforming, even if it isn’t so readily apparent. I would not have known that jumping from a crouched position would activate a super jump without accidentally performing the maneuver.
Overall, Rush Bros. is an interesting diversion that unfortunately doesn’t provide a great deal of value and fails to deliver on portions of its premise. If you’re starved for platformers and must get your fix, pick it up if you can find it on sale. However, for $10 on Steam, your money is better spent elsewhere. It’s not as if Rush Bros. is a legitimately terrible game, because it’s not. It’s just that you can find better, similar experiences for the same price or lower. Audiosurf also goes for $10, and it fully changes its levels based on your music library. Bit Trip Runner is a far superior combination of rhythm and platforming and, while not music based, Super Meat Boy offers tight controls and difficulty that make it one of the generation’s best platformers. If you’ve played all of those and you still want more musical and/or platforming action, then go ahead and grab Rush Bros. Just don’t expect very much.