Developed By: Tango Gameworks
Published By: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, PC
Reviewed On: PC (Gamepass)
Personally, I find it rare for me to enjoy music or rhythm-based games as this genre can often be overly challenging, restrictive, and difficult to dive into. However, surprisingly I do have a fondness for titles such as Gitaroo Man, Space Channel 5, Parappa The Rapper, and Elite Beat Agents. While these titles are fun and easily accessible rhythm-based games, unfortunately, most of these titles are in a niche market or not getting much love and sequels or remakes they deserved.
That’s why I am pleasantly surprised by Hi-Fi Rush jam of rhythm-based gameplay of these classic titles mentioned above jammed into a Kingdom Hearts-style of combat that hits me right to the feels by granting me more damage as I hit to the beat, making it a more rewarding experience. To the point that if Hi-Fi Rush comes to other platforms such as Nintendo Switch or PS5, I would buy it as this is a cult classic. And here are my reasons why you should consider playing Hi-Fi Rush.
Animation, Level Designs, and Cinematic – Design Sings by Itself
Looking through the cutscenes and cinematics show the art style in Hi-Fi Rush reminds me so much of Rogue Galaxy’s cell-shaded comic book art that sort of blends in the elements of cartoon and science fiction mechanical contraptions while defining details through drawn-in characterized bold lines, vibrant colors, and fluid animation to boot. Resulting in a form of a wacky adventure drawn with a colorful striking presence.
Our protagonist, Chai, exudes a youthful, Scooby Doo’s Shaggy-look-alike vibe with a relaxed, bumbling, and carefree airhead personality, contrasting the serious attitudes of the office robots and executives. This design approach infuses a touch of whimsy and cartoony humor into the game’s animation.
The character designs in Hi-Fi Rush are a standout feature, giving praise to their cuteness (like the cat), diversity, and attention to detail in comical facial expressions for both robots and NPCs, as well as the main character Chai. The game brings humorous life to its robotic cast with diverse personalities, from a truth-telling robot CNMN that quickly draws its own facial expression (with a marker pen) depending on the moment, to complaining robots about work, hippie robots, and detective-style NPC’s, making it an interesting world-building.
Speaking of the factory, the whole premise of Hi-Fi Rush is about Chai battling his way up fighting from the production, R&D, and museum marketing lines all the way to the seat of the CEO of a robotic-based factory, and what a ride it’s been through the heart of the factory. While the level design is heavily emphasized in robotic factories, each one of these stages is designed differently that fits the themes of the music from production factory conveyor belts to scientific experiments, to a grand finance department.
Other than Chai’s in-game idle animation pose of snapping his fingers or running pace per step to the beat; the stage factories come to life with background assets of trippy pulsing gears, flashing vibing screens, jumpy foliage, radiant lights, explosive volcanoes, and rhythmic platforms all moving in sync to the beat. Like Bollywood with its background of supporting dancers, the background assets in this game stage give the level design a vibey visual feast.
Although at times, Hi-Fi Rush does feature fast-paced platforming that may take some time to get used to, as it can look a bit unnatural – platforms that shift/moves rapidly or suddenly depending on the beat of the music.
Music and Gameplay – Totally Rad
Like an iron man’s core, Chai’s walkman is placed by accident to his chest and his world changed to the beat of the music. Equipped with a robotic arm, armed with a magnetic stick that pulls scraps and gears to be reshaped as a guitar. Chai is ready to run around and hit his enemies with it like the rockstar he wants to be. While there are combo lists, and chips to be purchased with collectibles; the gameplay in combat puts players into pressing two buttons of heavy and light attacks in any order or sequence to pull off an exhilarating combo. Right at the end of the combo, players will be given a visual ring called the Beat Hit to be pressed at the right time which will give a glorious colorful end to Chai’s foes with a close-up cinematic shot. What makes it even better is the satisfying sound of Chai’s guitar strumming and the cheering crowd in the background when the player perfectly hits the beat which further grants a form of rewarding music to my ears moment. In terms of music and sound, what’s also rewarding is the voice acting of Chai and the other characters in the game perfectly capture the right tone of each individual character. The game’s music also delivers high-energy and upbeat music with drums and guitar that seamlessly integrate its beat into the gameplay.
Other than beating up combos on the ground or in the air to make enemies drop health packs, they also drop battery packs that aid in building up Chai’s reverb gauge bar on top of the health bar. This gauge can be used to unleash special attacks at any time or to initiate a stunning tag team combo finisher with Chai’s companions at the end of the Beat Hit via RT button that ends with a celebratory high-five between Chai and his companions, providing a satisfying payoff for players.
What’s rock and roll without some rolling action as players can dodge (RB button) and parry (B Button) incoming attacks by pressing them to the beat. Leading to the possibility of counterattacking in a flashy cinematic combo with Chai and his teammates, adding another layer of gameplay excitement to the experience.
Outside combat, there are linear platforming and exploration segments involved that still retain their music flow. Players can jump and look around the environment for secrets or interact with NPC’s, unlock secrets/chests via QTEs (quick-time events), read emails, find hidden graffiti arts and collect comic cut-out gears as means of currency and also collectibles to extend the health/reverb bar further. Although my gripe is, the collectibles lack an indication of how many are left to collect to extend the said bar. At times, the absence of a save point or quick save option can be an inconvenience for me.
Besides that, the rhythm-based gameplay aspect may seem intimidating to some players like myself, but players need not worry as Chai’s movements are in sync with the beat; be it standing or running per step to the beat as well as enemy attacks. Along with the cat’s emitting a small circular laser amp and the environment moving to the beat – in a sense, everything around is providing visual cues for the beat timing. Furthermore, an optional rhythm assists gauge ( portrayed at the bottom of the screen) for players who need a more direct visual reference. This brings the whole gameplay experience of a rhythm-based game to the next level with so many visual accessibility options available.
Furthermore, each boss encounter brings its own set of Quick Time Events (QTEs) and strategies for countering their attacks, adding depth to the gameplay beyond simple button-mashing bashing. The boss battles are further elevated by the inclusion of mini-games such as performing a concert or working with your team to lower the boss’s defenses or attacks. Each boss has their own distinct attack patterns that evolve in desperation as the health decreases a bar. This diversity in boss fights makes the game not only unique but also incredibly enjoyable and refreshing.
Storytelling and Voice Acting – A Clear Mockumentary
The story of Hi-Fi Rush revolves around the story of Chai, a carefree guy with constant daydream aspirations of becoming a rockstar as well as his tutorial stages. He casually signs up for a volunteer project called Armstrong under Vandelay technologies company just for a cool robotic arm, where he’s assigned to trash collection duty. However, due to a freaky accident of his walkman pressed and infused in Chai’s chest, he’s deemed as a defective unit that must be destroyed. From there on, Chai must defend himself using his magnetic pole, which pulls and transforms scraps of gears and metals into a makeshift guitar that bashes enemy robots in style.
As Chai assembles a group of ragtag misfits and ex-employees to overthrow the company leaders, Chai’s not just known for his bashing guitars in style but also for his quick-witted dialogue retorts like spiderman that drive his enemies and bosses who are already insane to the brink of anger in madness. Chai’s constant teasing, puns (Yay!), and accidental provocative mocking not only add a comedic aspect to the game but also reveals the true nature of the characters he interacts with, even in the midst of an intense boss battle. The lines do not feel cringe but add a layer of depth to the game’s narrative and develop Chai’s companions even further, making them even more likable, heartfelt and also complement each other with better synergy.
In addition to the dynamic and lively cast of characters led by Chai, the worker robots in the game provide ample humor through their own NPC personalities, sounding like uninterested laborers, and the questionable communication emails from different departments. These emails are filled with funny work remarks and ironic standard operating procedures, providing a relatable and comedic touch that will appeal to players who have a similar share of working environments that practice abusive unfair working management and its excuses.
The worker robots NPC in the game are a source of endless amusement, each with their own lines and variation of dialogues when struck by your guitar for example. Their monotone robotic lamenting voices and humorous work remarks kept me laughingly entertained throughout my platforming sessions. To the point, I wish there are interview collectible videos to make me laugh even more.
What I Liked About Hi-Fi Rush
Animation and Level Design – Cell-shaded comic goodness with good character and environment designs where almost everything moves to the beat.
Music – Inside and outside combat, music is consistently upbeat and catchy. Making my body jump to the beat too.
Gameplay – Accessible and forgiving combat music rhythm. Platforming with multiple minigames, alongside exciting boss combat. Multiple types of enemies and ways to fight them as well. Assists from teammates are robust, with multiple benefits from added combo, counterattacks, and stun enemies and bosses alike.
Storytelling – The humor in the game is relatable, with funny NPC interactions and email content. The main story evolves from a rocky start to a satisfying bond between Chai and his teammates working together to end the big bosses.
Endgame – There is a challenging time attack Rhythm Tower, model viewer, and extra stuff to explore in the game once you completed it.
What I Wished Was Better
No save points or save anywhere option – This kinda forces me to end a stage just to have it save in the hideout as I am unsure at which point it saves in-game.
Some tidbits missing in combat – Placing special attacks and chips are exclusive to the in-game shop. Players may face difficulties in utilizing which special attacks to be used in combat, especially when they have added two or more into their arsenal. The lock-on feature is a necessary addition to the game, as it assists players in focusing on a specific target especially the motorcycle robot if multiple enemies are clumped together.
Some platforming jumping- Sometimes, it can be slightly offputting as the platform moves unnaturally to the beat of the music – be it fast or immediate. Furthermore, platform jumping should also have its own scoring segments to give extra rewards because…
Upgrading and slotting chips is really expensive – In addition to combo, stats, and special moves purchases, chips on the other hand are to enhance character attributes such as health recovery item boosts that can be very expensive. To me, these chips look to be geared towards the endgame content.
Verdict – What A Rush
I am thrilled to kick off the new year with Hi-Fi Rush. This game has quickly become one of the most entertaining and enjoyable games I have ever played so far. The attention to detail in the minigames, design, characters, music, and storytelling is remarkable and truly sets the bar high for other games. This is a rare gem that expertly blends music with action combat gameplay, and has also succeeded in making me feel invested fully in its characters and NPCs. In an industry where some triple-A games delivery can feel somewhat underwhelming or incomplete – Hi-Fi Rush stands out as a primary example of what gaming should be: fun, complete, and satisfying. Cheers to a fantastic game to a fantastic year.