Hi-Fi Rush screenshot of Chai and 808

Hi-Fi Rush Reviews

Hi-Fi Rush Reviews

need to know

what is it? A cartoon rhythm action game with a mid-2000s rock soundtrack.
Expect to pay: $30
release date: January 25, 2023
Developer: tango game
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
commented on: RTX 3080, Ryzen 9 3900X, 32GB memory
multiplayer game? No
Association: Official Website(opens in a new tab)

For all the screaming electric guitars and raucous drums, Hi-Fi Rush is surprisingly understated. Smash killer robots to the beat of licensed rock tracks from artists like Nine Inch Nails, The Black Keys, and The Prodigy. It’s like going for a run and trying to sync every step to the album you’re jamming on. It’s playing Devil May Cry, but every drum hit in Bury the Light (opens in new tab) is an opportunity to continue your mix. But after hitting a killer opener, Hi-Fi Rush’s high energy starts to fade.

Hi-Fi Rush has a bright, cartoon-shaded world and top-heavy killer robots, and that goofy aesthetic plays nicely on blurry TV screens in the context of an NCIS episode—it looks an awful lot like the one from Mid 2000s. It’s mostly music, along with a snappy animation style that elevates this simple aesthetic. Trees, lampposts, and pipes bounce to the soundtrack, and protagonist Chai snaps his fingers incessantly, a little comic spark popping up every time.

Vandelay Technologies, the nefarious company that accidentally replaced Chai’s heart with a Walkman, is the stage. It started out making robotic limbs for those in need, then moved on to selling useful robots that could become armies with just a software update. Kale Vandelay, at the top, has a very cartoonish villain plan of using implants for mind control.

Everything in Hi-Fi Rush is based on classic cartoon logic. Chai dusts himself off after being punched through a wall, and in one scene he faces the camera in shock before falling down a chute like a character from Looney Tunes. He’s not smart, but neither are many characters in Hi-Fi Rush. At times, Chai sounds very close to Joss Whedon’s character.I’m pretty sure he made a “huh That just happened! “In the first hour.

Chai’s incompetence is key, and the game quickly pairs him with a cast of funnier, more charismatic characters to bring him back to life. Peppermint and her adorable Doraemon 808 team up with Chai to hunt down Vandelay’s top management. Soon you’ll meet Macaron, a pacifist android psychoanalyst with a metallic sidekick named CNMN (pronounced like cinnamon). I won’t spoil the fourth character, but will say that even if their accent is completely incomprehensible, it’s fun.


All of these characters (except CNMN) can be used as summons in beat-based combat. Chai has hard hits and light hits that you can string together and end in time with the song. At any point (or as a finisher), you can pull in teammates to help you. Mint bombards enemies with her gun, necessary to knock down enemy shields. Macaron shatters armor and you get the ultimate character capable of extinguishing flames in the arena.

As you progress and beat bosses that test your parry time, sometimes turning into a literal rhythm game, you can buy additional moves and passive bonuses. By the end I can grab a droid, launch them into the air, and tell Peppermint to shoot a giant laser beam at them, and if that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll have the Macaron on call to smash them into scrap metal. Because enemies only attack on beats and are represented by lines and circles on the ground, you can easily dodge or parry them for damage. Some attacks can only be dodged, but spam parry almost always keeps me safe when the songs line up just right.

(Image credit: Tango Gameworks)

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m spending a lot of upgrades on lowering the cooldowns of summons or playing Normal difficulty, but Hi-Fi Rush ends up not being a rhythm game halfway through. The game starts with original songs, which all have a similar beat and aren’t particularly memorable, and the combat loses all its charm. I’m suddenly playing an OK character action game where I cycle my summons and perform simple combos every fight until the score screen comes up. Aside from some fancy boss mechanics, Hi-Fi Rush rarely counters trash buttons. There’s no recognizable music or challenging tempo changes, everything just fits together.

The only place the music matters is in the sections between each battleground. Lava geysers and other environmental hazards make up the platforming section. You have to time your jumps and quickly summon your teammates to dash through shields and doors before the next beat hits. Sometimes the game even locks the camera and turns into a side scroller. Completing these sections without freezing or interrupting the rhythm is like going through a Mario level of pure reflexes. This song will guide you through obstacles. You hardly have to look at the screen.

Hi-Fi Rush’s repertoire is too limited to fully fit into its chosen era of music.

The exploration section is where the mid-2000s vibe starts to feel a bit damned. Each level hides chests to smash, collectibles to find, text logs to read, and power-ups for your health and special attacks, all of which just slow the game down. After just a few hours, I was strong enough to take whatever Hi-Fi Rush threw at me, and there were only so many emails I could read about robot labor abuse and incompetent bosses. Nostalgia for this era of gaming (if you have any) can’t make up for the time you spend on a bunch of stuff you don’t need.

(Image credit: Tango Gameworks)

Hi-Fi Rush’s commitment to the gaming side bets it emulates is impressive for its specificity, but makes me wonder if it can retain its retro feel without it. A dull main character, a cast of more interesting secondary characters, and only a handful of solid licensed rock songs struggle to match the energy of the game’s first few hours. Another version of the game could have swapped Chai for Peppermint and added sharper rock and punk songs to the tracklist that matched the anti-capitalist message the game was chasing but couldn’t fully understand by the end.

As a surprise for a developer known for its horror games, Hi-Fi Rush is a promising concept. A sequel that improves on its same level design and combat and expands its song list is probably the game I wish Hi-Fi Rush would be. As an average action game, with some great moments that rely so heavily on its rhythm-based structure, it’s not worth picking up all the other great options in the genre.

Hi-Fi Rush is like stepping back in time and listening to songs you used to listen to when you were a teenager. Sugar, We’re Going Down is still pretty tough, but Fall Out Boy’s latest song (opens in a new tab) manages to nod to their roots and incorporate enough modern production and structure to sound like something new. Hi-Fi Rush’s repertoire was too limited to fully fit into its chosen musical era, and too dated to resonate with the hits of the moment. It gets stuck, unable to fully commit to its own tone, unable to capture the moment. It’s a strong teaser for a more cohesive game, and it has me praying that one day it will come.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.