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Hi-Fi Rush feels great, even when you have no sense of rhythm

Bungled beats to dancing feet

I like to think I have rhythm, in the same way that a wobbly air dancer lunging about sporadically has rhythm. That is to say I have none at all, and that any time spent dancing turns me into an uncontrollable set of limbs flailing in the wrong directions. Think Octodad in a night club and you’d be on the right track (although the disastrous limb flailing is enough to keep me out of the clubs).

That lack of rhythm isn’t just native to the dance floor of an awkward family party, though. Even nuzzled into my chair with a controller in hand, I simply can’t stick to the beat. My eyes glued to notes floating across the screen, trying to hit them at just the right time, you’d probably see Time hiding in a corner to my left, giggling at my repeated failure. A barrage of borked bleeps and bungled notes tend to leave me with spirits sunk.

In Hi-Fi Rush, though, I always leave with my head held high.

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If main character Chai was in Cyberpunk 2077, he’d be a verified choom. A very cool dude, Chai has an ipod in his heart. While this would probs just make me very concerned about the cardiovascular issues that come with the heart suddenly beating along to Nine Inch Nails, Chai just powers on with a grin on his face. As music blares out, he’s forced to move to the beat.

In fact, everything moves to the beat. Enemies, backgrounds, the entire world thumps along to the tune. When Chai moves, his feet stomp along to whatever’s blaring in the moment, whether that be The Prodigy or Wolfgang’s 5th Symphony. The same is true for attacks, every swing hitting at just the right moment.

Hi-Fi Rush screenshot showing Chai swinging at a big robot.

You aren’t punished with Chai stumbling out of his flow, flailing about as he fails to keep in sync. Instead, he keeps pumping along regardless of your own sense of rhythm. Sure, he might secretly fumble a combo or deal less damage, but the action never lets on that mistakes are being made. It’s rewarding, never punishing; a feel-good game that always seeks to lift spirits.

Or at least it does during combat. Call it a pet peeve, but I’ve never felt great at platforming. I enjoy it, sure, but I have distinct memories of playing Crash Bandicoot as a kid and never managing to get past that first boulder stage. While not as difficult at that wumpa fruit-sized bite of nostalgia, Hi-Fi Rush still serves platforming up in abundance - and it's often where I drop the ball most, Chai confidently plunging to his death as I fail to judge distances. It’s weirdly at odds with the feel-good pacing of the combat, leaving me longing for some enemies to pop up.

Hi-Fi Rush screenshot showing a big blast around Chai as his guitar connects with a robot.

My favourite part of Hi-Fi Rush comes at the end, then, when you unlock the Rhythm Tower. An onslaught of back-to-back battles spread across 60 floors, this is absolutely where Hi-Fi Rush thrives. With platforming shoved to the side in favour of a combat-focused gauntlet that lets you revel in its forgiving rhythm action, you can really settle into bashing and bopping to the beat. The stress of jumping across that gap and awkwardly falling to your death removed, I found time to focus solely on learning combos and finally find my dancing feet.

I’m still not confident enough to hit the clubs or take on an expert run of Beat Saber, but sat in my chair, I’m starting to find the bop. Chai swings, and eyes glued to the screen, I’m starting to hit those notes. Hitting notes perfectly, even, and timing multi-beat attacks to unleash powerful combos. Rhythm action isn’t easy when you can’t hit the beat, but Hi-Fi Rush has finally made it work for me.

Hopefully, it works well for you too, and you can tell us all about it when we do a livechat for the RPS Game Club later this week.

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