Platformers are one of the most iconic genres of video game out there, with hundreds upon hundreds available. From Super Mario Bros. to Mega Man X, the genre has been tweaked and improved upon as the decades have gone by. Rush Bros tries to take those tweaks and make them into its own unique platformer, charged by your music. Most .mp3 and .ogg files (sadly, this means any iTunes-bought music is unusable) can be played in the game to make for easy or challenging levels, with the background and foreground dynamically thumping and shifting to your music. If you’re so inclined, you can even race against friends (though the system for finding matches was uncooperative most of the time). Rush Bros‘ neon world is full of color, with a visually interesting look to work well with its music-driven gameplay. It has the potential to be a revolutionary platformer. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t live up to that potential.
The biggest issue with Rush Bros is the mechanics it curbs from other platformers, and how it fails to understand why these were such revolutionary additions to games. Like Mega Man X, wall jumping is present. Wall jumps are incredibly fun to perform in Mega Man X, but in Rush Bros, they feel like a chore. Normally, you’d expect to cling to the wall when you hit it, like Mega Man X and Super Meat Boy did. However, Rush Bros requires you to hold the arrow key in the direction of the wall to stick to it, and then press the jump key to hop off. The reason this doesn’t work well is because you’re more likely to move back in the direction of the wall you just bounced off from instead of the opposite wall (which results in a much faster ascent).
Wall jumps aren’t the only problem with jumping in the game, however. You’ll also have to perform complex jumps in very unfairly designed sequences where the slightest screw-up can have you back at the last checkpoint. While platforming in Mega Man X was tough, it wasn’t unfair, as even the slightest tap could move you forward just a little bit. Here, the game doesn’t register the tap immediately, only letting you move forward after holding the key for a split-second (like playing on a server with 300MS of ping). When you’re required to jump from one platform to another in a precise manner, this kind of control system does not work. Momentum is also not gained, resulting in the ability to made hard turns in the middle of the air. While Mega Man X got away with this thanks to tight controls, Rush Bros only proceeds to become more and more aggravating in the exceptionally challenging levels.
Levels are short, and designed in clever manners. While you struggle with the game’s controls, you’ll see pretty worlds, ranging from a chromatic city to underwater vistas and mountain ranges. Level structure ranges from simple, to challenging, to “oh god, why!?” Sometimes this difficulty is a result of you having to fight the controls, and sometimes it’s your fault. While the difficulty spikes (sometimes in the literal variety) do make for a frustrating experience, the game is generous with respawns. Like Super Meat Boy, you’ll die and quickly pop back at the last checkpoint you crossed. One of the big issues with this is that sometimes you’ll hit a checkpoint in a way that will result in you dying the moment you respawn. It’s a shame that the single player doesn’t change as a result of your music choices, as a dynamically changing level could have been an interesting experience. The lack of support for .m4a, .wav, and other audio files is also very distressing, as the majority of anyone’s music library is likely going to consist of files other than .mp3 and .oggs.
Rush Bros is a very unique, very pretty-looking game. The world is 2D, with neon lights glowing and bloom bringing the shine out, making for a very, very pretty world. Animations for the characters feel forced though, and result in some very odd situations where the rest of the world animates fluidly, and then you walk forward to see the lanky, slowly alternating arms of your “Bro” move up and down. What is unforgivable about Rush Bros, however, is the slowdown and stuttering. After sessions of about 30 minutes to 1 hour (or after several songs had been played quickly in succession), the game began to draw on insane amounts of RAM during gameplay, dragging the game down to unacceptably low framerates. A game like this should not be so framerate-intensive, so why these glaring flaws plagued the game is well beyond reason. In a game where precision is key, the best possible performance is essential. It’s a shame Rush Bros had to suffer from such a problem, but even then, it wouldn’t fix the messy platforming. Rush Bros has the potential to be a great game; it just needs to have its controls reworked and its slowdown bugs sorted out. In the meantime, $15 is far too much money to spend on this title. If you’re looking to scratch that platformer itch, there are games with far more polish out there.
[Editor’s Note: Many slowdown issues were the result of a recent patch, but consider this our definitive score.]
A copy of the game was provided for review.