The very first boss fight in Hi-Fi Rush pits you against a giant robot that wants to crush and eat you. In order to defeat this mechanical titan, you need to wail on it with a guitar that’s cobbled together from scrap metal, timing each of your attacks to the up-tempo beat of Nine Inch Nails’ “1,000,000.” Developer Tango Gameworks is obviously known for its whimsy, but it was previously confined to a horror genre that Hi-Fi Rush most definitely does not belong to. Instead, Tango’s latest is a surprisingly vibrant Saturday morning cartoon of a game, capturing the spirit and electric energy of a Dreamcast or GameCube title in the best way possible. It’s tremendous in almost every respect, meshing its toe-tapping combat with genuine humor and a massive helping of both confidence and style.

At its core, Hi-Fi Rush is an interesting mix between a character-action game like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta and a rhythm game. Its melee action will feel immediately familiar to anyone who’s well versed in the former, as you use your Flying V guitar to pummel enemies with combos consisting of both light and heavy attacks, juggle foes in the air, and dodge out of the way of incoming danger. The best character-action games are able to lure you into a trance-like state as you gradually become more proficient at dispatching large groups of enemies, yet Hi-Fi Rush takes it a step further by baking this rhythmic flow into its very design. You can still succeed by button-mashing your way to victory, but timing your attacks to the beat of the game’s soundtrack lets you dish out increased damage and clear areas in a much more efficient manner. Enemies also attack and move on the beat, making each fight feel like an improvised dance where you’re the main attraction.

In order to help you find your rhythm, the whole world of Hi-Fi Rush pulsates with the beat of whatever music is currently playing, providing you with both visual and audio cues for nailing its timing. Elevators jerk up and down on the beat, computer lights blink with each snare hit, and the barriers that lock you inside combat arenas are made from equalizers that undulate along with the music. The sound of mechanical gears, steam pipes, and the thud of your own footsteps even coalesce with the soundtrack to create a harmonious noise. There are other optional visual cues you can add for extra assistance–like a metronome–but the basic timing concept remains the same throughout, even outside of its slick and satisfying combat.

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