SURPRISE! Tango Gameworks, the studio behind The Evil Within and Ghostwire Tokyo, decided to drop a new game out of nowhere! So what horrors will this new release bring? What monsters lurk in the dark?
NONE. It’s a brightly colored rhythm-based game that completely changes direction for the devs. Surprise indeed.
In Hi-Fi Rush, you play as Chai, a cocky wannabe Rockstar who has signed up for medical testing. These aren’t just any medical tests, though. Instead, Chai has signed up for technological enhancements. Technology is at the forefront of Chai’s world, with robot workers and awe-inspiring futuristic vistas everywhere.
Before Chai receives his enhancements, he has to remove all his personal property. This includes his music player and headphones constantly plugged into his ears. A twist of fate sees Chai permanently reunited with his music player during his procedure. Chai wakes up with a new robot arm powered by an energy source in his chest àla Tony Stark.
Except he has a defect. His music player is integrated into the energy source. So the beats literally power him.
The world around Chai thrums and pulses to the beat. Lights flash, pistons pump, and doors open, all to the soundtrack’s beat. Chai runs to the beat. His idle animation sees him bop on the spot to the beat and snap his fingers. But, most importantly, Chai fights to the beat. Initially destined for garbage collection detail, the infusion of music into the process means that Chai is now something new. Something powerful. Something rad.
A defect to be exterminated in the eyes of his creators.
His grabby garbage picker-upper attracts junk to it, creating a powerful Steampunk guitar that Chai uses as a weapon. From this moment on, Chai is wrapped up in a toe-tapping tale of insidious corporations and robotic revelry.
Hi-Fi Rush Has You Moving to the Music
Regarding combat, Chai uses his guitar as a sonic melee weapon. Numerous heavy and light combo attacks to learn and opportunities to upgrade Chai and his attacks as you advance in the game. Smashing enemies and boxes give you precious mechanical parts to afford these upgrades.
As this is a rhythm game, the beat makes all the difference. Everything in the world operates on Chai’s beat, including enemies and combat. When fighting, you will always technically be on the beat, but timing your attacks perfectly will yield greater rewards and bonuses.
The only gameplay issue I encountered was missing a platform, falling through the world forever, and then getting reset back to the top. I could only escape the loop by returning to the title screen. This happened as I was entering the QA area on the first level, though, so it could be an intentional joke.
Probably not, though.
Now we come to one of the most critical aspects of the game. There is a robot cat. 808 is a robot cat constructed by Peppermint, an underground freedom fighter of sorts who helps Chai on his epic, rocking adventure. After petting 808 with his robot arm, the two sync up, with 808 turning into a giant floating cat head that looks like it came from Sailor Moon by way of Studio Ghibli. Peppermint speaks through 808, offering advice and guidance, which Chai often decides to ignore.
A Hi-Fi Charm
Hi-Fi Rush is visually stunning, mixing elements of Saturday morning cartoons with 90s anime and Studio Ghibli aesthetics. It’s bright, sharp, and clean. The environments are detailed but not too cluttered, with a futuristic look that doesn’t feel too outlandish. It also continually echoes other media like John Carpenter’s They Live and Orwell’s 1984. Consume and take everything in because Big Brother is watching.
The game is also funny; Well-written with NPCs that are fun to interact with. Additionally, Hi-Fi Rush has no problem poking at the tech and gaming industries and the constant push to produce no matter the cost.
A notable NPC is Smidge. Smidge is a smart fridge that appears everywhere to offer Chai hints and opportunities to practice his moves. Unfortunately, Smidge is also a creepy masochist. Smidge knows everything about Chai, wants to satisfy him, and enjoys getting smashed up by him.
There are also various robot workers scattered around everywhere. Unfortunately, I accidentally discovered you could destroy these robots. I was practicing a combo near a happy little bot that was vacuuming. I accidentally smacked him. He proceeded to exclaim and ask if he had done anything wrong. No, my sweet scrubby prince. You did nothing wrong, but I require your gears and batteries, so it’s clobbering time.
Of course, the soundtrack is the most crucial element of any rhythm game, and Hi-Fi Rush nails this in a way that transcends most other rhythm games. The original music composed for the game by Shuichi Kobori and the songs from bands and musicians gels together seamlessly. In addition, this game has an enjoyable and varied licensed soundtrack. For example, you fight the first Big Boss of the game, a gigantic Quality Assurance robot that seems to be from London. Its name is QA-1MIL because, of course, it is; the Nine Inch Nails song 1,000,000 plays during the fight.
I wasn’t expecting a super surprise rhythm game from a studio known for horror experiences to resonate with me so much, but this will now be my entire personality. As someone on the autism spectrum and dealing with ADHD, music is a huge part of my day-to-day functioning. I can’t sleep unless I have earphones hooked up to play music. I work more efficiently with music playing while I write. Driving in silence causes me to panic.
Music is comfort, it’s courage, and it’s a constant companion. Tango Gameworks made this game for me. Hi-Fi Rush is my Enigma of Amigara Fault.