Party Pumper is a VR rhythm action game that doesn’t really have much to do with the rhythm and more to do with sampling. When I first came into the game I was hoping for something that crossed over being a DJ with creating music something like the fantastic Electronauts game does. Instead, Party Pumper doesn’t really scratch either the DJ or the rhythm itch at all with its weird design choices.
There is a fantastic music creation instrument in real life called the Reactable. Its a table that lets you drop sound samples onto it, move them around, connect them, sync them and run riot with tangible blocks that contain the sound files. This is the set up that Party Pumper goes with and that you’ll be controlling. Different shapes on your DJ table in front of you contain samples of additional bass, rhythm and synths. The idea is that you can pick up and drop these sound samples down to the beat of the music and change up the mix. Doing so in time with the music builds up chains of instruments which raises your party meter and allows you access to move samples and additional perks like a water cannon to kick the party up a gear further. All going well, the party will be pumping at around 80-100% and you’ll get a fine high score by the end of it. It sounds good in principle but there are a couple of issues I had with the game design.
Sounds and effects are time bound and they will slowly fade out and die. You’ll need to keep the new samples coming and place them on the table at the right time – which I understood to be on a 4th beat most times. The issue is that the game doesn’t really choreography any of the effects properly so they all end together or form a tangible piece of music. Instead it just feels like you are turning on and off faders of melody tracks awkwardly and there is no flow to the gameplay. If more thought was put into how the loops and oneshots you place down worked their way into the music, it would have been a far more engaging and exacting experience. This vague approach continues on into the additional effects like the two fader buttons for synths. No matter how long I played for – refused to credit me with moving them on a beat. They ended my combo every single time. As the tutorial is vague, I have no idea if its just me or if the fader gameplay element is broken but after a few hours, I gave up trying to use them.
In the two levels you play in, the crowd visibly gets into your set if you chain sounds up into combos. A little AI robot then gives you additional perks like slow mo energy drinks, alcoholic drinks that make things wobbly or beach balls or foam and water soakers to throw into the audience. These are fun little mini games which help spice up the gameplay because unlike almost every other music game I’ve played, you can find yourself with nothing to do if all your sounds are running.
Party Pumper also adds in crazed drunk fans as well for you to shake off. They’ll climb onto the stage and cause you problems or dive into the pool and splash water on your table – rending parts of it useless until you clean it. If you hit a big combo, the little robot throwing you additional toys to play with will then dance with you which is good fun whilst it lasts. There are lots of subtle extra gameplay elements which I really enjoyed but it is trying to prop up an unfocused music gameplay that is front and centre in the mix. What makes it worse is that there are only two levels to choose from and a very limited supply of tracks – especially for the price.
All Party Pumper needs is a bit more structure and content and it would be a very good addition to the music games scene. The VR works well enough (PSVR version purchased) but what is here doesn’t warrant its price nor does it quite hit the highs of other music sampling games like Electronauts or Harmonix VR Music.
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