Our inaugural Indie Spotlight title, Rush Bros, is precisely the kind of game a separate indie criteria is designed for: I'm allowed to be more forgiving of rough or unfinished-feeling elements to reward innovation, which is where Indie games are beating the stuffing out of many Triple A titles. Compared to something coming out of Ubisoft or Naughty Dog, there's really nothing to recommend Rush Bros as an immersive game experience. As an idea, however, it adds something, and it deserves to be noticed, even if it doesn't quite work as a whole.
Rush Bros is a platforming game that purports to use your own music collection to customize the game. The concept is that two brothers were a former collective music phenomenon who then broke up, but now they're reuniting for a competitive collaboration. It's a slick idea, and the art style supports it fantastically. Bright colors that you can customize make the game look distinct. Oddly, for a game focused on music, the visuals are the big strength.
Unfortunately, none of the rest of the game works quite as promised. The platforming is alright, but it doesn't come close to comparing to the level designs in Braid, Super Meat Boy, or Guacamelee. Because it's an indie game, I'll forgive the lack of proper controls tutorials, and I'll give XYLA an “E” for effort for the dozens of levels they designed, even if more sometimes just felt like more.
The deal-breaker for me is how poorly the game handles its central concept: incorporating a player's own music collection into the game. It's an absolutely fantastic idea. I just wish it worked.
Firstly, a game centered on music should have a great core selection of songs. Rush Bros doesn't. The track selection doesn't actually offer selection, and despite connecting one of the titular brothers to dubstep, I didn't hear any hardcore dubstep music. I didn't mind that terribly because the point is to use your own music.
Trying to import my song collection was a crappy experience. The game only supports MP3s, expecting me to down-convert my shiny FLAC and AAC collection, which is the digital music equivalent of putting ketchup on filet mignon. But once you have the MP3s, finding them and importing them through the game's clunky submenu system is a frustrating chore.
Then, the music you import doesn't really alter the game in a meaningful way. Sure, listening to your own tunes in game is fun, but the game is designed around techno with a high BPM count, and any other style of music is amusing only as a study in contrasts. Unlike Audiosurf, which actually does adapt to any form of DRM-free music, Rush Bros pretty much does the same thing no matter what music you use.
It all leads to an experience that loses its appeal pretty quickly, not because there's anything wrong with it, only because it doesn't live up to what it could have been. The concept of Rush Bros is an idea someone will likely steal and execute better, because the overall experience doesn't have that wow factor that I've gotten playing so many other flawed indie gems.