Well, it's been quite an unexpectedly exciting few days on Xbox Game Pass, thanks to Tango Gameworks, which went and stealth-dropped a bonafide banger in the form of Hi-Fi RUSH during last week's Xbox Developer Direct.
Yes, it seems the entire internet has had a very positive reaction to this cel-shaded rhythm action game, and it's not too hard to see where all the enthusiasm is coming from to be honest. Hi-Fi RUSH is a super colourful romp through a corporate dystopia that introduces us to Chai, a music-obsessed kid who ends up with an iPod embedded in his chest as he goes about dismantling an evil corporation from within, blasting robot baddies to the beat of some excellent music from the likes of Nine Inch Nails and The Prodigy. Yes, The flipping Prodigy.
There's an infectious, easy-going joy to this whole adventure and it's backed up by addictive melee gameplay that strikes a masterful balance between having enough depth to challenge rhythm game aficionados whilst also making sure there's enough flexibility for the likes of us. It doesn't take itself too seriously, in short, and it's all the better for it.
Rhythm action games can tend to be a little bit on the unwelcoming side at times and, as much as we adore the likes of Metal Hellsinger, it can be a tad frustrating to play along when every mistake or missed beat causes you to fumble and reel as the game's music loudly lets you know just how badly you messed up. Hi-Fi RUSH takes a more relaxed approach, filling its world with helpful indicators to keep you on track whilst also barely punishing you in the slightest if you don't swat your enemies with precise timing. Indeed, the music plays on regardless, and it's only your score and ranking that takes a hammering should you end up struggling through a level here and there.
It's all about having a grand old time as Chai, alongside a bunch of highly likeable sidekicks and some well-designed bosses, keep the jokes and the fun coming. Your catalogue of slick guitar-swinging combos grows steadily as you progress through the game, it's all incredibly moreish and it doesn't hurt that it all looks and sounds so bloody fantastic from beginning to end.
If we have any minor criticisms, and they really are minor, it's that some of the platforming antics between robot battles can be a little bit of a pain from time to time, with a few sections throwing one too many mechanics into the mix and ending up feeling a bit rough around the edges. Indeed, there were a few moments during the game where we temporarily didn't know what exactly we were meant to do next as we were challenged to use Chai's zipline tether along with sidekick abilities that weren't signposted particularly well. Again, these are very minor issues, fleeting frustrations in a roughly twelve hour musical adventure that had us bopping to the beat and grinning like fools the entire time.
You can feel Shinjji Mikami's influence all over this one, it's got that Vanquish magic, that God Hand swagger and attitude, all wrapped up in a delightfully colourful world full of good time vibes that's put us in a properly positive mood over the past few days. More of this kind of thing please!