If you're a big Jet Set Radio fan, there's a good chance you've been keeping a close eye on the progress of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk over the past few years. This brand-new Xbox release (it arrived on September 1st) is a spiritual successor to the classic Dreamcast and original Xbox series from SEGA, and it's been picking up a ton of positive press and feedback in recent days - it has an "Overwhelmingly Positive" score on Steam, for example.
So, we naturally wanted to have a go for ourselves! We've put a few hours into Bomb Rush Cyberfunk since its Xbox release, and we're pleased to report it's been a fun ride so far. This writer also has the unique perspective of not being overly familiar with Jet Set Radio, so that's worth keeping in mind as you read this.
The basic idea in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is that you assume the role of a member in the Bomb Rush Crew, who go against other crews to try and become the biggest and most popular in New Amsterdam - and this is achieved by spraying graffiti everywhere, defeating crews in points-based battles, and taking on various additional activities. There's an intertwining story relating to your specific character as well, but we won't go spoiling anything about that one here.
The majority of the gameplay sees you wielding roller skates, a BMX bike or a skateboard as you cruise around the well-designed and impressively huge boroughs of New Amsterdam. There are rails to grind all over the place, and you can rack up combos by performing tricks as you ride these rails, using Tony Hawk-style manuals to keep your multipliers going, and the impressive fluidity of it all makes these runs endlessly entertaining to pull off.
Another big aspect of the gameplay here is the graffiti system, in which you're challenged with spraying various monikers all over New Amsterdam whenever the opportunity arises. There are plenty of different ways to put your stamp on things, and although you interact with this system so much that it could become tiresome, it's such a quick process (requiring a few flicks of the right-stick) that it only takes a couple of seconds to lay down your marker and return to whatever combo you're already in the middle of.
There's definitely a feeling when playing Bomb Rush Cyberfunk that you've been transported back to the days of the original Xbox. Jet Set Radio is obviously a huge inspiration, but the Tony Hawk games and even something more obscure like AirBlade on the PS2 come to mind as well. It's reminiscent of those times when you'd sit and pull off combos for hours on end without barely even paying attention to the story or the missions themselves, simply because you were having too much fun. That's what Bomb Rush Cyberfunk feels like at its best.
If you do just want to push on with the story though, that's where we're a bit hit-and-miss on it. To the credit of developer Team Reptile, they've put serious effort into developing an lengthy narrative that certainly doesn't feel like a throwaway effort. However, it does break up the pace quite a bit, and the eccentric, cheesy nature of the dialogue (and audible grunts rather than full voice acting) hasn't really engaged us all that much so far. That said, keep in mind that we're only a few hours into the campaign, and we've seen plenty of praise for the story elsewhere.
There are a few other grumbles we could point out, such as the combat being a bit poor and combos not being given as much gravitas as they should, but neither of these are enough to drag the experience down in a major way. Oh, and we have to mention the music! Bomb Rush Cyberfunk sets the tone from the outset with a funky, toe-tapping set of tunes that are so good, you may end up reaching for the "Buy" button on the official soundtrack.
So, that's Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. The game is out now on the Xbox Store at a price of £33.49 / $39.99, and based on what we've played (and read) over the past few days, we think you're going to enjoy this one if you like the idea of an old-school, Jet Set Radio style experience in 2023. We'd love to hear your thoughts on it!