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That’s Good, That’s Bad: Hi-Fi Rush

Hello, and welcome to the seventh instalment of a series that I’m calling That’s Good, That’s Bad, based on a joke in the Simpsons in which Homer buys a cursed Krusty doll from what I now see as a pretty racist stereotype of an asian person. The gag is still good though, good enough for me to form a sort of review process in which I alternate between saying something good about a game, then something bad about it. This time my game of choice is Tango Gameworks’ proof that not every game needs to be a loot driven, battle pass grinding live service: Hi-Fi Rush.

It looks so goddamn amazing…that’s good.

If we go by the ancient gaming texts when measuring visuals and divide them into technical quality and artistic quality, on the technical end sits the Demon’s Souls remake while on the artistic end now sits Hi-Fi Rush. Not since Cuphead have I seen a game nail its source material so throughly. Everything in Hi-Fi Rush has been designed around its comic book influences, with even light and shadow being heavily stylised. It’s the kind of game that actually made me do the E3 demo thing of panning the camera across the environment just to soak it all in. And even better, much like other titles which prioritise style over realism, it will continue to look great for years to come.

But I want to look cool now…that’s bad.

Before I even started playing I knew there was a way to customise your outfit and eagerly awaited for the option to do so. Turns out I was waiting the entire game, because you only get the choice once you beat the final boss. I know this was likely done so that the player wouldn’t waste all their earnings on the dumb shark costume instead of useful things like extra moves or health upgrades, but this could have been remedy by adding an extra currency exclusively for cosmetics.

Another example of genre plus rhythm mechanic working wonders…that’s good.

Hi-Fi Rush as you likely know, has attacks, jumps and pretty much everything tied to the beat of the music. Or in other words: Hi-Fi Rush rewards players for not mashing buttons in a panic to get combos out as fast as possible. I say reward because you can still mash if you’d prefer, but hitting on the beat increases damage while also building meter and building meter lets you do special moves for even more damage. It’s a good middle ground that doesn’t come across as openly hostile like in say BPM, where a lack of rhythm is followed by a lack of being alive.

Cool moments, masked by QTEs..that’s bad.

During some boss fights you’ll be asked to hit a line of buttons much like you would do in Gitaroo Man as a way of dealing a cinematic strike. These parts aren’t exactly taxing, but it does mean your eyes will be stuck on a parade of X and Y button prompts (and maybe even a RB button if the game is feeling fancy). This issue reaches its height when you are blowing up a giant robot with an equally giant laser gun, all while staring at the bottom third of the screen.

The humour hits…that’s good.

While humour is subjective, I am of course extremely funny (as well as handsome, smart and great in social situations) so obviously I know comedy, and Hi-Fi Rush did indeed make me laugh several times. First impressions would have you believe that most of the gags would be of the slapstick variety – and there are plenty of those – but Hi-Fi Rush also delves into the darker humour of companies treating people like expendable resources instead of…you know…people. It’s not exactly highbrow stuff, but sometimes seeing a barely conscious person get their face slammed up against a retinal scan is all you need for a good chuckle.

While the story isn’t exactly going to blow you away, the cast have enough charm to win you over.
While the story isn’t exactly going to blow you away, the cast have enough charm to win you over.

Dialogue that refuses to be skipped…that’s bad.

Now you might say I asked for this when I decided to play on hard mode, but during times where you are in control of your character and dialogue is playing, that particular dialogue is unskippable. Not really a problem on lower difficulties, but because I was playing on said hard mode, if I was stuck on a tough fight I would have to wait out this dialogue before I could start the battle again. The time spent waiting around could be hiding some background loading but the result was me hearing the same joke over and over again, wishing that I could just get back to playing the game.

Combat that keeps getting sweeter the more you play it…that’s good.

If you want to know why I’m such a huge fan of this genre – which is categorised as “character action” I do believe – it’s the clear growth in ability your character goes through. This is a game that gives you a grappling hook within the first few hours and adds from there with teammate assists along with purchasable moves and buffs. But it was when I reached stage 10 (the one with Invaders Must Die as the music) that everything started to come together, as my mastery of the combat reached its high point.

You saved the day…poorly…that’s bad.

Again, you can say that I brought this on myself by selecting hard, but upon beating the final boss with a total of 19 deaths at the end, the game took a poor view of my performance and slapped me with a D rank. As much as this stung, this isn’t necessarily me wanting the mechanic to be removed, just presented a little differently. Instead of every death bringing down your score, there could be a big bonus for completing the level without dying once, as a way of not souring victories that came with a lot of game overs.

Imagine if Elden Ring graded you after every boss fight.
Imagine if Elden Ring graded you after every boss fight.

So is Hi-Fi Rush good or bad?

I’m not gonna lie, the bad points I’ve listed here have felt especially petty, which speaks to the quality of this game. Hi-Fi Rush manages to blend music and combat into a refreshing yet oddly nostalgic cocktail, while also showing the world why games like these should still exist.