Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

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Bomb Rush Cyberfunk (Nintendo Switch) – Review

In the late 90s and early 2000s, skating games were a staple, and one of the champions of skating games was Jet Set Radio. SEGA’s classic isn’t back, but a contender for the closest spiritual successor is here to fulfil a long-standing gap for skating games. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, Team Reptile’s loving tribute to Jet Set Radio that aims to bring back the funk, edge, and style, and I was ready to give it a go on Nintendo Switch.

After an unfortunate encounter with the police, renowned street skating legend of New Amsterdam, Faux, had been arrested. Alongside BMX biker, Tryce, he’s set to escape but loses his head along the way, literally. Waking up in the HQ of the street crew known as Bomb Rush, a head is seemingly on Faux’s body again, but not his own, instead being replaced with a cybernetic noggin with no real recollection about his body’s previous owner. This cybernetic skater, now going by Red, joins forces with Bomb Rush to take it to the streets and gain a reputation to go “All City.” The ultimate goal? Outdoing all the other crews and grabbing the attention of DJ Cyber, the gang leader of Futurism, and key to recovering Faux.

At its core, Bomb Rush Cyberpunk is a skating game, but somewhat fits into the arcade adventure format. The semi-cyberpunk city of New Amsterdam is a colourful metropolis and a veritable playground for skaters, with plenty of surfaces for tricks. The environments are fairly contained but there’s enough around to keep it interesting. There is an element of platforming to traversal, where rails and walls can be used to get to harder-to-reach places, and there was often a wall ready for tagging.

Skating is basic but fun, taking me back to a time when games like Jet Set Radio, Tony Hawk, and SSX Tricky showed the thrill of a good skate in a well-laid-out environment. Scoring was different to what I’ve come to know of these games, and it was a learning curve. Rather than the focus being on pulling off varied stunts, flipping from rail to rail and leaning into corners was the key to keeping a combo chain going. It took me a while to understand that pulling off a massive combo in 40 seconds was not based on trick variation, which tended to hinder progression, but once I got the hang of it, I had no trouble racking up points.

Tagging the surfaces of the city gains REP, which is the ultimate sign of status for the skaters of New Amsterdam. The hunt for walls ready for a fresh coat of spray paint is a challenge, but the payoff is worth it. Following movement patterns creates different designs, the resulting graffiti is beautiful, cool, and stylish, and it’s a joy to see each piece up on full display. While there’s plenty of reward for the beautification of the city, the local enforcement doesn’t seem to agree.

“Vandalising” runs the risk of generating “heat”, and leads to the cops attempting to chase you down. It was mostly easy to avoid standard cops by jumping on rails or skating to higher ground, but at higher heat, new issues arise like turrets with chains attached, which can grab the skater and pull them back. It was more annoying having the flow interrupted, especially when it led to combat encounters.

Combat is more frustrating than anything. Enemies can be hit by kicking on foot or kick-flipping on your chosen wheels, and they can be stunned by spritzing a can of spray paint in their faces, but it only lasts momentarily. Hitting them doesn’t feel impactful and it’s hard to know how much damage you’ve inflicted as there is very little visual feedback. Especially in boss battle scenarios, combat was incredibly rinse and repeat, and I was keen for it to end. I much preferred the skate trick battles on the street against the other skaters.

The resident crews are often popping and locking around the map with unique styles perfectly in line with the funky vibe. The rival gangs include a group of veteran track-suited skaters called “The Old-Heads,” and some gentleman resembling Frankenstein’s monsters. The Bomb Rush crew themselves, Bel, Tryce, and Red, are a pretty hip trio too, with a few outfits to change into that can be used for both fashion and function, and they can take off heat from cops.

Yes, you can swap between members of Bomb Rush during a rather lengthy dance break, and each has a different “move style” – skateboard, inline skates, and BMX Bikes. While I enjoyed swapping between them, finding a dance floor and making the switch wasn’t as smooth as their moves. Thankfully, the characters were interesting enough to feel invested, and particular key moments in Red’s story piqued my interest.

Controls are straightforward on the Switch, using the analog sticks on your preferred controller type to skate around and pull off tricks, a boost, and a jump., and pulling the joysticks in different directions determines what kind of graffiti tag is painted. Skating is mostly satisfying, fast and manoeuvrable, and while there is an aim sensitivity option, there’s seemingly no way to slow down the camera. The camera sometimes felt it couldn’t keep up with the fast movement, but when it did, it moved too quickly. The motion tended to be too much to look at, and it could ruin a combo chain depending on where the camera was facing. It may not be one for those prone to motion sickness.

With a vibrant cel-shaded aesthetic, there’s a loving and distinct call-back to SEGA’s heyday that felt charming, but on closer inspection, it felt dated. Often I found that the low-poly sharp edges on the characters and their surroundings could appear jagged and hard to look at. Handheld, I barely noticed, but docked on a much larger screen the textures became hard to look at, especially going at high speed, and with the bright colours and stylized effects, texture load-in was often slow, making rolling around the city a lot less appealing.

Performance was a struggle, load times between areas were much slower than expected for small zones. Frame drops, especially docked, were frequent, and alongside the texture drops, the smoothness of the game in style and performance was lacking.

There was an option called “Unleash the Beast”, with no context to what that meant, so I had to look it up online. Turns out this mode is to play at 60FPS rather than a locked 30, but with this enabled, the game seemed to chug even more. The title and loading UI were difficult to read with graffiti-style fonts, as were the futuristic text for menus.

In-game there’s a tutorial and a few key moments where you’re shown how to pull off stunts, but early on I was at a loss as to what my goal was. After a decent adjustment period of skating around aimlessly, I figured it out. The map helps mark out key zones to explore but there isn’t a very specific objectives menu. A flip phone can be used mid-skate to access a map and message the gang, but texts were scarce and, more often than not, the tips were given way after they were needed. Gameplay itself was fun, once I figured out the gameplay loop, but it took a bit too long to build up the action.

I have a love-hate relationship with the music in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, it features the stylings of the OG DJ of Jet Set Radio fame, Hideki Naganuma, amongst a few other music-makers, and possibly too many ideas. While some mixes were a catchy fusion of funk, hip-hop and street beats, others were a mash of sounds that could become overbearing. In some moments, I turned the music off for a break from the intense overload of clashing sounds.

When the jam was pumping, it was hard not to feel the urge to bop along, but it really came down to what was playing at any given time. It was a shame. I adored some tracks, but others were a bit too much to take on.

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a loving tribute to a game genre that isn’t seen much these days. While it had a few tricks up its sleeve, it felt more like a copy than a fresh take. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk had some great potential to be something memorable, but it didn’t quite stick the landing.

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The Good

  • Nostalgic throwback to an old-school game and genre
  • Skating and tagging is satisfying
  • Intriguing story and characters

The Bad

  • Visuals and audio can be overbearing at times
  • Performance can be lacking: Slow load times and framedrops
  • Combat is repetitive and unsatisfying
6
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10

Written by: Yasmin Noble

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