Surprise released during the Microsoft and Bethesda Developer Direct, Tango Gameworks might have already given us the most stylish game of 2023.
It doesn't seem fair to call something as vibrant as Hi-Fi Rush a "shadow drop" as it's one of the most striking games to have come out in recent years. Blending hack-and-slash action with the timed precision of a rhythm game, Hi-Fi Rush successfully creates something new and satisfying.
You play as Chai, a recklessly confident rockstar wannabe, determined to make his dream come true; even if it means getting a suspicious robotic arm from a totally-not-evil mega-corporation. Though the plot may seem predictable on the surface, the excellently-voiced and endearing cast of characters shines through, making you genuinely care about their outcome. The writing masterfully skates the line of self-awareness, never stumbles into cringe territory, and maintains a smile on your face throughout its roughly nine-hour campaign.
The very core of Hi-Fi Rush is its beat. More specifically, a consistent pulse that is visualized not only in the environment around you but in your every movement. This of course bleeds into battles as your (or your enemies’) attacks fall in time to the music. This might seem daunting to the rhythmically challenged, but the unique nature of the animation and flow of combat insures you will always land your hits. Sure, well-timed button presses will raise your score and rank, but there is no punishment here; the music slaps, the combos are wild, and no matter your skill level, everything just feels dope. Although more variety in the combat arenas would have been appreciated, the encounters never become stale or repetitive.
Light platforming and exploration bridge the gap between skirmishes. These sections can be clumsy or imprecise at times, but the instant reset if you fall off a ledge is another example of Hi-Fi Rush's no-punishment stance. This approach makes searching for collectibles more of a welcomed challenge than a chore, rewarding the player for going off the beaten path. Special interactions with your party based on the environment, diverse level design, clever boss fights, and seamless transitions between cutscenes make the gameplay loop simple yet effective and, most importantly, enjoyable. This fun extends past the credits as the game invites you to take on challenge rooms, finish your collectibles list, or re-run levels for better scores. This endgame content isn't particularly compelling, but it provides an opportunity to remain in the game a bit longer if desired.
Tango Gameworks has crafted something truly special in Hi-Fi Rush. Its undeniable style, charming characters, and entertaining soundtrack all contribute to the quality of this action-rhythm mashup, ensuring you "feel the beat" from beginning to end.