Combining The Muppet Show’s zaniness with a Where the Wild Things Are aesthetic, Big Blue Bubble’s Thumpies is one giddy beast of a rhythm game.
The thumpies themselves are wild things, round and bodiless and quite crazy looking. They come in a variety of appearances, and unlocking new thumpies is all a part of the fun.
The gameplay focuses on rhythm and the building of beats. Each stage tasks you to lay down tracks for a loop which gradually builds over time as you add new parts. Parts often include percussion, a bass line, and an array of unusual grunts and sound effects that help to characterize the game’s off-beat stylings.
Players are presented with an environment containing a number of contact points. Thumpies soon begin to fall from the sky, “thumping” on contact points and producing a sound. As the thumpies rebound from one contact point to the next, players must time taps with the thumpies’ impacts to build the song. Successfully building the rhythm fills a gauge, and when that gauge is full the track is added to the loop and the next track begins.
Throughout each stage, butterflies will flit onto the screen. Tapping these butterflies collects them, and collecting butterflies unlocks new thumpies to play with. Collecting butterflies while attempting to keep the rhythm can often be challenging, but becomes further complicated by your thumpies eating the butterflies whenever they come into contact. And so the trick is to keep the rhythm and to capture the butterfly before it escapes or becomes thumpie chow.
David Kerr’s soundtrack is great fun. It perfectly suits the tone and off-the-wall character of the game, and succeeds in being both incredibly funky and totally unique.
The artwork is also fantastic, featuring vibrant colors and outlandish designs. The environments seem ripped straight out of storybooks, and the thumpies are undeniably cool and just a little bit creepy, but in a fun way.
Thumpies’ combination of music, artwork and characterization is simply brilliant. I could totally imagine this as an episode of The Muppet Show, with Jim Henson’s oddball creatures pounding out wonky rhythms in the forest by bouncing their heads … In fact, he did something very similar in the film Labyrinth, and parallels could definitely be drawn between episodes of Fraggle Rock and several Muppet sketches.
Sadly, the game is not without its flaws. The music often produces an audible glitch when it loops. While some may count this a minor annoyance, I find it quite distracting and the glitch has many times thrown off my rhythm and caused me to err. Also, while the loops are extremely funky and cool, they are also rather short and repetitive. I would probably enjoy Thumpies a good deal more if the loops were at some point combined into a larger, multipart composition.
Such quibbles aside, Thumpies is a roaring good time and well worth checking out. The overall presentation is supercool, with sweet grooves and freakish critters. While the game starts out fairly easy, stages quickly begin to demand greater feats of hand-eye coordination. Unlocking new thumpies is gobs of fun as well.