I am a fan of a rhythm game. Something where you can fall into a state of flow, you know? They can be perfect when you’ve had a long day and don’t want to brainstorm. The thing is, I don’t think Knock is one of those games. Thumper is a kind of sci-fi nightmare in space, and it moves so fast you can’t relax for a second.
However, it does meet the “rhythm” part of that short, with a rhythmic and jarring soundtrack by loud rock musician Brian Gibson. And you can time your grinds and jumps and switch to pounding beats under everything. But it’s hard, and you’re pretty small.
You are a space bug, streamlined and aerodynamic, with an incredibly shiny shell that reflects light in the hellish space you’re speeding through. You race along a seemingly endless track, into strange tunnels of light and sound, repeating fractals, walls of fury erupting from a sudden cylindrical track. It’s like being trapped inside a kaleidoscope designed by MC Escher after he spent a heavy weekend at Bestival. It even has boss battles, somehow, and bosses such as giant heads have become inseparable in my mind from that boss fight at the end of Mass Effect 2.
You are not completely defenseless. You can dash into corners, sort of shrink for speed, and attack by flipping the wing pieces on your shell – although this will slow you down a bit. All of this has to be precisely timed for the track hazards as they appear, and since later levels have the visual noise of a hall of mirrors where every pane of glass is smashed with a jackhammer , Thumper requires the exact type to be specified. concentration that you can only achieve if you don’t try too hard. It’s a game that’s both impressive and weird, and if you play it, you can immediately see why reviewers use terms like “existential dread” to describe it.