GOTY 2016: Best Tone Control

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This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are ten awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!

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Best Tone Control: Thumper

Drool | October 10, 2016 (initial release) | PlayStation 4, Windows

Runners-up: VA-11 HALL-A, DOOM

Thumper is all about the way it makes you feel.
It makes you feel fear.

Thumper is a competent, challenging rhythm game, but let’s be real: there are dozens of competent, challenging rhythm games on the market today. And would be easy to cite these games in an attempt to describe Thumper. “Audiosurf meets Rez” leapt to mind when I played the first level. I’ve heard Amplitude mentioned more than once. 

These comparisons are, simply put, pointless.

Thumper is no more and no less than the sum of its carefully-crafted parts. Its violent, abrasive sounds. Its harsh, gleaming metal. Its pulsating, droning soundtrack. Its aggressive learning curve. The way those attributes fit together is what makes the game so compelling. Thumper is all about the way it makes you feel.

It makes you feel fear.

Not scared as you might be in a spooky first-person shooter. Not frightened as you might be in an adventure game like SOMA or Amnesia. No one aspect of Thumper is worthy of fear, but as you play it, dread sets in. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You sink into its surreal, unwelcoming void, and though you can’t put your finger on it you feel like something is wrong. Not in the game, not in the outside world. Just an unshakable sensation, like you’re falling down the pit that has opened up in your stomach.

This isn’t a game for the weak of stomach or resolve. Hell, it isn’t a game for most people. One could go so far as to say that it’s downright unpleasant to play (a opinion held firmly by Nick, for the record). If nothing else, that should serve as an endorsement. Thumper is so well-assembled, it will -- at least -- put you at unease. If that sounds like something you’d care to experience, then it’s a game for you. — Spencer Tordoff