Review: Rush Bros. has some nice hooks that fall a bit flat

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Video games that react to your personal music collection are nothing new. In fact, these types of games have been around for years. Rush Bros. attempts to dish out its own music-based experience, mixing your custom tracks with 2D platforming gameplay. It's definitely a nice idea, and it's something that will likely appeal to music lovers who also have an affinity for 2D action games. In the end, Rush Bros. doesn't really provide anything outside of its novel hook; even then, it's still a fun game with cool level design, great art, and tough platforming.

Rush Bros. takes after a few iconic platformers, drawing clear influence that is put to good use. The entire time I spent playing the game I was constantly reminded of classics such as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog, and iconic modern games like Super Meat Boy. But while Rush Bros. isn't afraid to pay tribute to its inspirations, it's still a good original game in its own right. That's due, in part, to its music mechanic, but there's also plenty of novel platforming gameplay to keep fans of the genre entertained for as long as the game lasts.

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The stages in Rush Bros. aren't particularly lengthy, but they do get progressively bigger. Most of the time you're tasked with finding color-coded music notes that act as keys. Once you've obtained these music notes, you can unlock the appropriately colored door. At first, you only have to find a single key to move on, but later levels require you to explore larger areas to discover multiple keys. As you run around these stages you're frequently bombarded with different obstacles. These include moving energy platforms that can't be touched, spikes, and laser beams.

You don't have a myriad of abilities in Rush Bros., but there are a few helpful moves and power-ups to help add a bit of variety. Aside from your standard wall jump, you can also collect an item that grants you a double jump. Then there's the speed boost, which, as you may have guessed, makes your character run faster. Getting hit by a hazard costs you these power-ups, making progression a much tougher affair. Also seen throughout most levels are bouncy springs akin to those from the Sonic games. These help propel you to great heights, but they also sometimes send you flying into booby-trapped ceilings, so you need to constantly watch your surroundings and be aware of the dangers ahead (or above).

One thing to take note of when playing Rush Bros. is its hectic pacing. An onscreen counter encourages you to get from the beginning of a level to the end as quickly as possible. This creates a sense of urgency, and it makes speed as much of an obstacle as the countless deathtraps you'll encounter. I wasn't exactly a big fan of the timer, and I felt that it impeded my overall enjoyment of the game. When I play platformers, I prefer taking everything in and finding entertainment in the little nuances. With Rush Bros., I felt obligated to complete levels in a speedy manner.

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Another aspect of the game I wasn't too enthusiastic about was the lack of checkpoints in certain stages. Most of the time, dying and respawning wasn't a problem because the checkpoint system is actually quite good, usually putting your character near the area where you last failed. Some levels, however, are mysteriously devoid of any checkpoints whatsoever, so no matter how far you get into one of those stages, you'll be forced to start right from the beginning if you hit a rigged wall or other obstacle.

Of course, music is touted as one of the defining elements of Rush Bros. Moving perils tend to go to the beat of the songs that are playing, which means the experience can certainly vary. It's a subtle change, but rhythm does indeed make a difference. For example, I noticed a drastic shift when I used my custom music and played something a bit slower like The Strokes or Cake as opposed to the fast-paced nature of Motorhead or The Mooney Suzuki. If you'd rather just listen to the in-game soundtrack, you'll be glad to know that the original score is pretty good, though there's something really awesome about being able to run and jump around in a platformer to your own tunes.

The art direction in Rush Bros. is probably one of the strongest aspects of the game. Colorful backgrounds help give the different environments a unique sense of personality, and the foregrounds help to further create a wild look for the game. If you're really hurrying to get a fast time, you may miss the bold graphical style, but if you choose to ignore the timer, you can enjoy the ride a bit more by paying attention to the crazy art.

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Unfortunately, the adventure doesn't last too long, and you can probably get through the game's 41 levels in about three or four hours tops. Rush Bros. features both online and offline competitive play, pitting you against another player to see who can finish a level the fastest. This mode is highly reminiscent of the similar component in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and while it's kind of fun, it doesn't have much staying power.

The flaws that drag Rush Bros. down are not minor ones. The game is undeniably derivative of other titles, and though it's fun, it's not as solid as the games it draws inspiration from. The music-based gameplay is a decent novelty, but not one that would make a vast difference to the overall experience had it not been there. What Rush Bros. provides is a fun little romp that will keep you busy for a few hours and let you listen to your personal music selection. Even with its flaws, that's in no way a bad thing.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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