As someone who has worked around the marketing of video games, I actually love it when games are dropped without any lead-up. Yes, it’s a risky move, especially if you don’t have the support. But when it works, it’s incredible. Bethesda announcing and releasing Hi-Fi Rush on the same day was such a fantastic move. Considering the less-than-memorable 2022 for Xbox-exclusive games, Microsoft is starting 2023 on the right path.

A timing section in Hi-Fi Rush

A fusion of genres

The less you know going into Hi-Fi Rush the better. This is an action platformer where music plays a pivotal part in combat. You time your swings to the beats and the better you do, the more effective your attacks are and the more points you earn. When you’re not fighting, you’re walking and jumping around the environment, heading toward your intended destination. Unfortunately, platforming is the weakest point of the game. It’s not bad, but it’s very repetitive.

The action is sectional. Meaning, you’ll venture through an area, approach a location, fight some foes, then repeat the process a few minutes later. Tempo and timing are key for everything. You can still be successful in the many fights you’ll get into. But for everything else, it’s important to hit the correct buttons at the best possible moment to succeed.

There are sections with some harder mini-bosses and even the end-level ones that do require proper timing. Mess it up, and you’ll have to start again. That’s probably the only frustrating part of the game. Most of the time if I died, it was because I couldn’t properly parry and/or dodge in the sequence being asked of me. In one section late in the game, I couldn’t avoid flames coming my way because I was messing up the timing required to properly hop over them.

Chai leaping towards an enemy mini-boss in Hi-Fi Rush

Absolutely love the art style and music

There are two things that stand out the most in Hi-Fi Rush. The first is the visuals. The hand-drawn, cell-shaded, look is so good. There are a few sections where the animations seem missing. For example, a character’s nose or face will look a bit off. But in actuality, it feels like a design choice, meant to mirror the 70s and 80s cartoons.

The enemy designs are a tad too similar but different enough that it’s not exactly the same design over and over again. The different environments you’ll traverse are also really nice. There isn’t a lot to venture off the intended path, but there are still plenty of times when you’ll want to stop for a moment to marvel and where you are. Also, the boss battles are a lot of fun. Challenging but the variety each one offered makes it so much more fulfilling when you defeat that particular boss.

As for the music, there are a handful of licensed songs, including a couple of tracks from Nine Inch Nails, and some memorable songs from The Prodigy and the Joy Formidable. Even the original tracks are pretty well done. Since music is such an important part of the game, it’s good that the music doesn’t take away from the combat. Although there aren’t too many songs you hear, the way they all are incorporated is solid. Then, when you pull off properly timed attacks and moves, it just makes the music sound even better.

Chai relaxing on a sofa with 808, the cat

This was the first Tango Gameworks title I ever played

The developers of Hi-Fi Rush, Tango Gameworks, are best known for The Evil Within (and its sequel) and Ghostwire: Tokyo. I never played any of their earlier games but based on what I know, this is a very big departure from the horror/suspense genres they are known for. I actually like it when developers go outside their box. For example, DICE are famous for the Battlefield franchise, but they are also responsible for RalliSport Challenge, a fantastic racing game for the original Xbox.

I wish more studios went outside their comfort zone. What if Bungie developed a racing game, or Polyphony Digital did anything except for a racing game? In my eyes, when a developer goes in a different direction than what they’re known for, it actually helps them build better games in the future. I’m in the camp that it’s better to be a generalist than a specialist. You develop a wider range of skills, and you can take what you’ve learned in one area and use it in another one.

Of course, there are risks in doing this. Going too much in the opposite direction could also result in a terrible game. However, the mistakes learned in the process might actually help in the long term. Unfortunately, with how expensive game development is, it’s tough for studios to take the risks. It’s just safer to make what you are best at and leave it at that.

Hi-Fi Rush was definitely a risky game to develop. The combining of genres could have resulted in a game that wasn’t fun. Thankfully though, Tango Gameworks did something that was fresh, creative, and most importantly fun. I suspect other developers will look to emulate aspects of this game in their own titles. We’ll absolutely see more music-centric action-adventure games in the future.

Chai about to get into battle with Korsica

2023 is off to a solid start

It’s nice that we got a game like Hi-Fi Rush this early in the year. It only took me about 10 hours to finish the main story and I completed the game at its normal difficulty. There are a few bonus stuff available post-game, including some secrets in levels for you to find. After all this success, I know we’ll be hearing about a sequel in the coming few years. I can’t wait!