Hi-Fi Rush is one of the biggest surprises of the year. Although shorter than expected, it offers a unique take on the rhythm-action game genre. It delivers vibrant and colorful visuals, insanely chaotic, but tight and fun combat, and entertaining characters with bright personalities.
From the moment I saw the announcement for Hi-Fi Rush, I knew I wanted to play this game. The art-style was immediately appealing to me and no matter what followed after the initial impact the aesthetic left on me, I knew I was going to experience simply because of how stylish and original it looked. At first, I was immediately reminded of games it was obviously inspired by, those including Jet Set Radio and even Sunset Overdrive. I knew I had to play this, but little did I know I was going to be able to so soon. As a matter of fact, hours after its reveal, it was already available. Tango Gameworks went ahead and revealed a game while, simultaneously, releasing it on the same day. It has happened in the past, I’m sure, with other games, but this was highly unexpected. Regardless, I went ahead and downloaded it and, of course, I absolutely love the graphical, cartoonish style, but what kept me engaged and coming back for more was how the game is played. I’ll dig deeper, but it’s safe to say Tango Gameworks caught lightning in a bottle. So early on in 2023, Hi-Fi Rush is the first massive surprise of this gaming year, and it may end up as one of my favorite games in 2023 when it’s all said and done.
Hi-Fi Rush has a specific charm many other games fail to capture or deliver. Sure, the art-style is a big reason for that, but there are so many other factors and elements to support its overall stellar gameplay experience. Being termed a rhythm-based action game, I don’t think there’s a better way to put it. At the heart of this game, there’s a constant groovy, jazzy, funky-type beat the player is forced to etch into their minds in order to get the most out of it. I mean, you can just mash buttons together and hope for the best, and if you do this, you still may find some success, but it sort of defeats the purpose of Hi-Fi Rush if you don’t play how it’s intended. In other words, to get the most optimal result, you should play to the rhythm of it and I promise you, you won’t regret it. It can be a bit tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it almost becomes second nature. Granted, it gradually gets a bit more difficult and nuanced since there’s more moves to learn, combos to master, and new ways to traverse across the platform-based stages and levels.
The combat is silky smooth and incredibly fluid. When you do the right things at the right time, or rather, on tempo, everything goes according to plan. In fact, not only do you get the best results and are able to defeat the enemies quicker, but it all looks better as well. The combos, when executed to perfection, look awesome and you’ll want to learn the rest of them to see how, when you chain the right moves together, you get a different result. It’s all pretty marvelous to look at. But, enough about how it looks since I’ve rambled on enough about it. In terms of the gameplay, I can see how it was also inspired by the likes of Ratchet & Clank, Devil May Cry, and many other action-adventure and platformer games. Even when you’re jumping to reach seemingly unattainable heights, riding on rails, or utilizing as hook shot to reach far places, the beat in the game still plays a vital role. If you don’t time certain jumps or movements correctly, according to the rhythm, you won’t be able to reach these places, which I think is very unique and adds a whole new dynamic to the game. The same thing can be said about solving certain puzzles and opening treasure chests/boxes. You have to press certain buttons at certain times (again, according to the beat) to get the reward. I really appreciate the developers being so detailed with this mechanic. It’s not only with the combat, but it’s part of everything going on around you. In essence, without feeling the music, you’re missing the point, and you won’t play the game for what it is. Speaking more on the combat, it increasingly becomes more detailed and nuanced, constantly forcing the player to learn new moves, unlock new upgrades, and learning the beat more and more for optimal results.
The same can be said about the characters. The characters are phenomenal in this game. They all have unique and eye-popping designs, character traits, and personalities. The characters and story are obviously not meant to be taken seriously, and you can tell with some of the dialogue and how they conduct themselves, but I feel it’s accurate according to the world you play in and the kind of game this is supposed to be. I found myself having a ball with these characters. Specifically speaking, Chai is one of my favorite protagonists in a while. He’s courageous and friendly, but often careless, a bit of a jokester, and overly confident. Then there’s Peppermint, who’s, in many ways, the complete opposite. She’s a bit more level-headed and calculated. There will be many other memorable ones you’ll meet along the way. From the bosses, to your allies/friends, and even some of the NPCs you encounter in the game-world, it’s one of the best parts of this game. The boss fights are all different and you have to approach them differently according to what you’ve learned recently. Again, it’s your typical level-based platformer and it’s definitely inspired by traditional tropes in gaming, which I’m definitely not opposed to when done properly, and this one definitely does it well. I just wish I was able to be in this whole world a bit longer. You can finish this game between 7-10 hours, and I think the developers should’ve stretched it slightly. I think it would’ve been to the game’s benefit. However, the length of the game doesn’t equate to its equality. I’m probably just being selfish and wanted more to do.
Hi-Fi Rush could’ve benefitted from the game world being expanded on and giving the player a bit more freedom, while also being a bit longer. For what it is though, it’s remarkably well done. It honestly might be the biggest surprise of the year, and not only because no one knew about it, but because it’s a great game that deserves to be experienced and played through. I can assure you, you won’t regret it. It’s an absolute delight and a blast. I never expected this from Tango Gameworks, who’s mostly known for The Evil Within series and Ghostwire Tokyo. Its establishing itself as a a versatile developer and I’m hoping it can continue to create quality gameplay experiences, similarly to how it did with Hi-Fi Rush.