When Tango Gameworks got absorbed by Microsoft in 2020, there was a lot of speculation over what would they make next. Whatever it would be, Ghostwire: Tokyo would not be a part of the equation since it remains a PlayStation 5 console exclusive. Little did anyone know, Tango would go in a fresh direction after making three gritty, horror-themed games.
Hi-Fi Rush was announced the same day it was released. This insane and daring move would ultimately be extremely fitting for the utterly unique rhythm action game, that embodies a rebellious and uppity spirit. It is a game that nobody saw coming and not a single drip of info on it got leaked.
Shinji Mikami is back producing comedy action games as he did with God Hand, Viewtiful Joe, and Shadows of the Damned. What can gamers expect from this hip, cartoony rhythm-based stylish action game? Is this another P.N.03? Or does it honor God Hand? Find out in this Hi-Fi Rush review!
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the below:
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed)
Release Date: January 25, 2023
Price: $29.99 USD
Hi-Fi Rush makes a powerful first impression and only continues to compound its surprises. With a meager asking price of $29.99, one may think it is a modest and short action game that is beatable in a single afternoon. Hi-Fi Rush is a full-blown AAA, highly polished, and dazzling production that is over ten hours long on a first run.
Hi-Fi Rush’s visual style is not like most games. Most of the time, it barely resembles a video game and could easily pass for a high-quality animated show. Image quality is razor-sharp and unbelievably crisp. In Chai’s quest to topple the Vandelay corporation, the story mixes traditional 2D animation and cheekily transitions between them.
Characters are designed with young millennial sensibilities. At first, they look like they will be obnoxious, but it becomes apparent very quickly that the game is in on the joke and they even take potshots at Chai’s skinny jeans. Most importantly, all the characters are likable and witty. The bad guys are especially a highlight and balance just the right amount of humor and threat so that they can be taken seriously.
Chai is an uppity, dim-witted, but extremely brave wannabe rockstar. A lot of his charm comes from him being a bit of a slow thinker and his brash courage in the face of outrageous odds. He teams up with Peppermint, his snarky girl-boss friend with a heart of gold, and Macaron, a soy boy version of Barret Wallace to rock their way to the top of Vandelay’s chain of command.
The story is full of weird references that only Shinji Mikami would make. Circuitry Man, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and even homages to Xenogears‘ infamous scenario on disc two keep Hi-Fi Rush exciting and irreverent. Even Sebastion and Joseph from The Evil Within make cameos as robots and give amusing commentary.
Hi-Fi Rush has appealing visuals and locked tight 60 frames per second (even on Xbox Series S!) and gamers are going to need it to keep up with the gameplay. Fighting Vandelay’s robots demands attention and timing because to be effective means to keep the beat.
Staying in rhythm in Hi-Fi Rush is everything. Chai does more damage when attacks are in sync with the beat and can avoid damage more effectively too. It is also more rewarding since perfect timing also nets more currency to buy more moves or custom chips to build Chai to suit a specific playstyle.
Hi-Fi Rush has a lot of thought put into ways to help players who may not be able to follow the metronome. The game has many visual cues to make it easier; 808’s blinking, audible cues from the foes, and even the level itself. Every stage undulates and animates to the beat of the background music to help give a visual to players to give some feedback.
The effect of high-level play is hypnotic and when players are in a groove, Hi-Fi Rush is utterly engrossing. Parrying, attacking, and dodging to the soundtrack makes each action more satisfying than if it was any other action game. It is an extra layer of depth that taps into a very primitive part of the brain that goes back to when we were all cavemen tapping rocks together to make music.
Thankfully, Hi-Fi Rush knows not to force the rhythm gameplay on the platforming and exploration. Stages are lengthy, linear, and jam-packed with hidden collectibles, alternate routes, side challenges, and amusing excursions. Chai is free to play around in levels without worrying about staying on beat.
Not only does Hi-Fi Rush feel great to play, but it is amazing to see it played well. Boss battles become like music videos and even use real songs. Classics from Nine Inch Nails and even Prodigy elevate what are already exciting battles to becoming legendary.
It is too bad that Hi-Fi Rush is a digital-only release. The music licenses will undoubtedly become a sticky matter later down the road when they expire and there is a possibility of those pieces of music being replaced with something more generic. If there were a physical release, gamers could preserve Hi-Fi Rush the way it was on that surprise release day.
Lamenting the release model aside, Hi-Fi Rush proves to be a creative stroke of genius and confident design. It is the kind of game that Clover would have made during the 2000s. It is steeped in Y2K sensibilities and bursting with personality.
Days before Hi-Fi Rush made its triumphant release and announcement, Forspoken came out; a game that costs twice as much, has less than half as much appeal, and relies on tired trends. Tango Gameworks proves that not only can a basic gameplay premise be given a creative spin, but they also manage to make quippy characters endearing and funny.
Hi-Fi Rush is a thin-air miracle. It has many small individual elements working together like a finely made Swiss watch, where you can feel the passion behind every detail. From its art direction, fun characters, music, and electrifying gameplay; Hi-Fi Rush spurs a sense of wonder and inspiration in the hearts of jaded gamers and can make you feel like a kid again.
Hi-Fi Rush was reviewed on Xbox Series S using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Hi-Fi Rush is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), and Xbox Series X|S.