Rarely do we get complete surprise releases out of nowhere in the world of video games. The last major shadow launch in memory was Apex Legends, which took about a week between announcement and launch. Microsoft and Bethesda didn’t even make us wait that long after announcing and releasing Hi-Fi Rush on the same day last week. That, and the fact that this colorful, blue-eyed, happy-time action game is in secret development at Tango Gameworks, a studio known for the dark horror franchise The Evil Within, made the announcement all the more surprising. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already played the game since it’s on Game Pass. But it made such an impact that we decided to discuss it in this review anyway. Not to get ahead of myself, but it’s a blast.

The keys and the colorful bits especially

The rhythm genre and variety of Japanese action games have seen better days. Although there have been releases in both genres in recent years, both have become much more niche since their heyday. Anyone over a certain age can remember the absolute cultural dominance once held by guitar hero and rock band. We’ve also seen several other attempts to mix beat with different genres with varying degrees of success. But right from the start, Hi-Fi Rush sets itself apart.

The art design and graphics created by Tango Gameworks are nothing short of fantastic. I’ve always been a fan of cell-shaded graphics. The cell shading in Hi-Fi Rush is the best I’ve ever seen. I found myself exploring just to prolong looking at the environments. It’s a shame that a large portion of the levels focus on similar factory settings because the open air portions stand out with such intensity. Even so, I can’t help but give a full shout out to the designers behind how phenomenal this game looks.

The opening cinematic is a beautifully realized animation sequence that is best described as anime-lite. We’re introduced to Chai, a happy-go-lucky but kind of nerdy hipster who dances next to his nondescript MP3 player. He signed up for an experimental procedure to repair his broken arm. It’s clear that the game sets out to set a mood instantly and succeeds, as it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. Seeing our limp hero run along a perfectly timed colorful path to the Black Keys while blue skies and a warm sun shines overhead is absolutely infectious. We’re introduced to some of the corporate executives of the Vandelay Corporation, the literal and narrative “bosses” of this game (the game relies on a healthy dose of meta humor along with the more slapstick physical gags). In the process, Chai’s MP3 player is accidentally implanted Iron Man-style into his chest which activates and sends commands to his new robotic magnet arm. This is the logic behind the combat and the solving of the rhythm-based puzzles, which runs throughout the entire experience. If you’ve ever wanted a game where you destroy robots using a Cherry Red Flying V guitar made from scrap metal, you’ve found it.

I was surprised how seriously the game took its story. It’s a fun, well-paced narrative that’s always in the background of what you’re doing. It’s not going to win any originality awards for the core plot, but it was genuinely engaging and charming. As I mentioned earlier, there is a fair amount of meta-humor that mostly lands, but there were a few jokes that really made me roll my eyes. However, it was outweighed by a lot of giggles and genuine smiles.

Buzz, jump, thump and thump

Combat in Hi-Fi Rush is all about rhythm. Think Devil May Cry set to a basic 4/4 metronome. Even if you enter a command outside of the beat, the game plays a slightly different animation that makes the move take a bit longer, so every hit lands on the beat. If you press the button again just as the hit connects, you can stay in time and create combos. If you need a sense of timing, they have a few ways to make it easier. The biggest aid is the optional timing meter that can appear at the bottom of the HUD. I found I never needed it as the environment bounced or pulsed with the beat; Plants jump, pipes pulse, platforms move like clockwork, and Chai is constantly tapping his foot and ringing his fingers. Once I get into the groove, the whole thing feels like a hugely satisfying version of the Hack and Slash games. The comic-book-style onomatopoeias that highlight the last hits of perfectly timed combos and flashy super moves contribute to that sense of action. I often use the word “kinetic” when describing a game that feels impactful and has a good sense of flow to it. When I find myself in perfect flow while playing this game, that is the very definition of Kinty. To give our readers a sense of what it feels like, I’d say it’s not quite like the combat from the Batman Arkham games, but I imagine they initially started with something very similar to this system when they developed it.

That doesn’t mean I don’t find some things frustrating. The game repeatedly introduces tutorials for new mechanics for about the entire first third. In some ways, it feels like the game doesn’t really start until the fourth or fifth level. I also think they may have included too many mechanics to notice during the fights. I was able to adapt and find a way to steal my way without constantly riding all the different things going on. I’d rather be able to attack new mechanics head on instead of finding ways around things. True, I understand why they decided not to throw everything at you at once. So I imagine some people won’t have the same problem.

The long platforming sections and puzzles between battles are mostly good fun, and I enjoyed the world building done in those sections. Chai’s frequent radio conversations with his friends at the base were well scripted, and the constant music was great and never got old or repetitive. I will say there were some roadblocks that felt annoying. Like one section where I was fighting a certain battle, but the checkpoint before the battle was also before the platform section right before the battle. This meant I had to go through the ending motions before I could try again every time I died.

Regarding the music: I loved every track. I don’t think there was a single boring part in the entire game, and considering how important the music is to the game, I was so happy to find that out. While there are a handful of licensed tracks around major events and boss fights, most of the level music is original compositions. As someone who usually likes to play games while listening to a podcast, I wouldn’t dare do that here.

The finale, set to Whirring by The Joy Formidable, had me smiling so wide I felt like I was on morphine. However, the final boss didn’t maintain the same energy, and I found myself a bit disappointed by that, but the final cinematic made up for it, and I was surprised at how exciting I found it.

The imperfect medicine

Tango Gameworks has done something special here. I think this is my favorite game of all time. And while there were a few things I could criticize, the whole package of this product is so compelling that I can’t help but recommend everyone to at least give it a try. I don’t imagine everyone will get into the fight, and some may find it too difficult given the pacing mechanics, but it’s worth at least watching the opening and playing through the initial guide. If Microsoft was hoping to make a statement by throwing this game out of the blue, they made quick work of it. Ironically, I’m not a huge fan of the name, but Hi-Fi Rush is a contender for my personal top five titles of the year. You should play it.

Score: 9.5/10


  • Graphics and artistic design in cell shade
  • Fun characters and storytelling.
  • Good Music
  • Kinetic gratification battle
  • Final level


  • Extended training
  • Some unnecessary combat mechanics
  • Changing the tone for the final boss

The game was purchased by the visitor. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy here.


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