Skip to main content

PlayStation VR's most spectacular game is Thumper, a trippy ride through hell

PlayStation VR's most spectacular game is Thumper, a trippy ride through hell

Share this story

Much hype has been made around Rez Infinite, a PlayStation VR-inspired return of the beloved fan favorite rave rhythm game from the SEGA Dreamcast era. I really enjoyed my time with the rejuvenated classic, but after demoing a handful of PlayStation VR games at Sony’s Game Developers Conference event, I’m convinced the headset’s most enjoyable experience is a different and new rhythm game. Thumper is like a blacklight roller coaster or a pack of unmarked pills: I’m torn on whether it will be, for virtual reality newcomers, a mind-opening experience or an overwhelming trip.

Thumper is simple. You play as metal beetle — okay, it’s not that simple — and speed down a never ending snake of a highway. On marked beats, you jump, and on turns, you lean. For a series of barriers, you clinch and bust through. Effectively the track is a long instrument. Hit each on cue, and you produce music to the beat. If you manage to play multiple cues in a row, you'll fire a pod or raw energy up the highway, awakening increasingly unsettling critters, like spirals of kaleidoscopic insect legs and a goliath demon head.

I say "unsettling," but I’ll walk that word back a couple step. Thumper is beatiful the way great death metal is beautiful: intimidating and alienating at first, but in time, it becomes impressive and seductive. The sizzling, bold neon font on its poster is a wink to the work of film director Gaspar Noé and his 2009 masterpiece, Enter the Void, in which a freshly shot Tokyo drug dealer turns into a disembodied spirit and zips through nightclubs, dank passageways, and human orifices. Enter the Void’s famous amongst film school types for its opening credits sequence, which begins, fittingly, with a sound akin to a beetle hissing into a tiny microphone, and is followed by a two-minute long epileptic trigger.

Drawing a direct line from Enter the Void (above) and Thumper (below) is effortless, so I’ll let you do the honors.

What’s striking about Thumper, versus many of the games displayed at Sony’s event, is that the game was originally designed without VR in mind. In fact, the game will still be released on PlayStaiton 4 and PC, and will still be overwhelmingly psychedelic, especially with a good monitor and a loud sound system. I saw a demonstration of Thumper a year ago on a traditional screen in front of a crowd of a couple hundred people, and it still dumbfounded everyone.

A loud, scary, demonic ride for the whole family

But VR, I predict, will be the best way to experience a game like Thumper, a game that wants to swallow the player whole. Other VR games make an effort to coddle the player, or to make a show of how believable its virtual world can be. We might get to explore cabinets or knock over imaginary blocks or fight a giant boogeyman or, in the case of Rez, travel through electronic space as a hovering body. Thumper has no patience for any of that familiarity. It’s fearlessly unpatronizing. You are a metal beetle. You are on a road to hell. The music and visuals are so loud, so concussive, so demanding, and so sharp that you can’t think about what’s happening off screen. Virtual reality for Thumper is a tool then, a set of handcuffs for your eyes and other senses.

Welcome to hell, says Thumper. You can’t escape, and you won’t want too. Sincerely, it's a space you are horrified by and maybe, possibly never want to leave. What’s staggering is, and perhaps this speaks to our country on the brink of political self-emulation, is that I think I’m not the only person who will enjoy being trapped in this madness. I wonder if Thumper’s appeal could be broader than anyone would think by its log-line. The most aggressive, brash game on PSVR has the potential to be its hit.

And there you have it: the PlayStation VR’s showpiece is the acidic road story starring a metallic bug on the path of darkness.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago Striking out

A
Andrew WebsterTwo hours ago
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


E
TikTok
Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


J
External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


E
External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.


J
Youtube
James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.