Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a futuristic time capsule that bursts with sonic and ocular swag. There's a primordial video game joy in these sick combos and great tunes, which pulled me through 25 hours of skating off walls, dodging cops, and spray painting labyrinthe levels. It's rare to play a game with such a fervent sense of self, even when it's channeling such clear Y2K-era inspirations.
Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is so fun.
Need to know
What is it? Anti-cop, rollerskating graffiti 3D platformer full of cool combos and music
Reviewed on: AMD Ryzen 7000, 32GB CORSAIR Vengeance DDR5 6400MHz RAM
Price: £33.49 / $39.99
Release date: August 18, 2023
Publisher: Team Reptile
Developer: Team Reptile
Steam Deck: Verified
Multiplayer: Singleplayer (with a multiplayer mod already online)
In the first 20 minutes, an evil DJ decapitates my protagonist with a vinyl, my friends rebuild me into a cyborg, and I'm off on a revenge mission to overthrow this beat-dropping tyrant and "Go All City," becoming the definitive spray painting crew in the area.
Before I gush about the great stuff, which there is a lot of, I have to say that this wild conceit is funny, and generally lithe on its feet. But it also feeds into one of my few issues with Cyberfunk: the writing doesn't deliver convincing motivations or personalities for its characters. I love that it attempts to flesh out the world with a twisty turny narrative, but little of that storytelling bleeds into the physical environment where I could've absorbed it while doing backflips on a bike.
"We're going to make it All City!'
Each sprawling cityscape I dash through is a well-prepared canvas for play, though, ripe for a cheeky tag (which comes in the sweet form of a smartphone unlocking minigame). This is the loop: Grind on rails, perform gravity-defying tricks to boost your score, complete your rival gang's challenges, out-spray their leader, and gain enough REP to challenge them to a real turf battle until you eventually take the whole city under your control.
Every one of the many rollerblades, skateboards, and bikes feels buttery to ride. Aside from a slightly disorienting map, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk modernizes the controls from Jet Set Radio and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater so that they scratch the floaty nostalgia itch while dropping the clunky frustrations. It's easy to jump right in, yet there's also enough depth to satisfy players who might want to 100% it or break the levels open for optimal speedrunning paths.
The city serves as a colossal playground, teeming with hidden collectibles, challenging time trials, and quirky NPCs who provide you with side missions and enrich the world-building. Exploring the city is an adventure in itself: I constantly found myself getting lost in (mostly) a good way, stumbling into new secrets at a rapid clip. Each borough is varied and gorgeously stylized to suit its current ruling gang—the first area is a court of basketball players who have been frankensteined together by a young boy named "The Flesh Prince."
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The tagging system is a standout feature. As a graffiti artist, your primary goal is to leave your mark on the city. You'll encounter various surfaces that you can tag with your crew's logos and designs. The more daring and stylish your tags, the higher your score and the more you contribute to your crew's reputation. It's a simple yet incredibly satisfying mechanic that kept me wanting to replay levels to strive for the perfect tag.
A seemingly endless supply of graffiti tags are at the core of Bomb Rush's aesthetic. They're so ridiculous: a dude running a marathon with a cloud of comically large dust behind him and an anime girl repping their logo, are just extremely funny things to write on walls when you're running away from a fully armed SWAT team. Finding new tags kept Bomb Rush Cyberfunk's moment-to-moment joyous.
Beats to spray paint/fight cops to
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The soundtrack is an unpredictable force that contorts my face; the sound waves furrow my brows, raise my nose, and compel me to bop along to the beat. It’s all immensely rhythmic electronic music that refuses definition. One minute you’re skating in Swami Sound’s smooth pool of melancholic ambient drums, the next locks you into GRRL’s frantic high BPM acid house, the next shuffle cools you off with 2 Mello’s seasoned breaks and vox. These tunes inject a bizarro future feel into a game that is otherewise deeply entrenched in emulating the past. They're the spark of life that makes Bomb Rush feel like a modern gem rather than a rerun. I'm not sure I’ve ever heard a game soundtrack that compliments the gameplay in such a way.
I love that it's coming at the peak of the Y2K resurgence, a nostalgic wave revisiting the cultural and technological landscape of the late '90s and early 2000s and capturing the imagination of a huge pocket of the internet. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk taps into what so many people of the digital world have been longing for: a time capsule blend of optimistic futurism and chunky, colorful aesthetics that defined the era.
More than just a trip down memory lane, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a fantastic videogame: a cultural reawakening that celebrates the optimism and innovation of an era that straddled the line between the analog past and the digital future.