A lot of the weight behind the whole "games as art" movement comes from the medium's ability to tell a story or put one in the shoes of a character and their experiences. Then there are games like Thumper that get your heart pounding and fingers racing powered only by sheer visual and sonic muscle.
Thumper puts you at the controls of a cosmic beetle racing down a track, navigating hazards by timing button presses and directional holds. Mechanically, the game couldn't be simpler. Directional commands and a single button are the only controls. This simplicity should not be mistaken for any lack of challenge though. Over the course of nine stages, new mechanics are introduced, the pace picks up, and before you know it the goal shifts from perfect execution to just surviving. Thankfully the game wastes no time throwing you right back in after a failed attempt. This keeps the pace going in such a way that helps stave off frustration much like other challenging, yet rewarding games like Super Meat Boy.
Each stage consists of progressively more difficult sections, usually centered around a new mechanic, and intermittent boss fights where short sequences have to be executed flawlessly to progress. The stages I played seemed to de-emphasize simple memorization, rather success comes from getting in sync with the music while simultaneously plotting a course based on what's ahead. The overall result feels more like piloting a vehicle through hostile territory rather than microsecond precise input or merely reciting a sequence.
The colorful yet ominous visuals evoke a sense of classic 80s and 70s arcade games like Tempest or Centipede. While the cosmic beetle navigates twists and turns, the visuals surrounding the tracks and the drum and bass heavy music all add to the sensation of speed bordering on recklessness. Think F-Zero with a Lovecraftian tone. This is the sort of game which after ten minutes of play, you find yourself slamming in each button input with a greater sense of emphasis. The game has VR support, but it is hardly necessary to get sucked in.
There's really not too much else to be said about this game. For hardcore rhythm veterans, there's a Play+ mode that becomes even faster and less forgiving. A quick, simple, and intense gaming experiences is just a beetle ride away.