Bomb Rush Cyberfunk: Headless in New Amsterdam
Because skating and graffiti spraying are quite difficult activities without a head, the beginning of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a very unfortunate one: Just as my still nameless hero is freed from prison by an unknown benefactor and we escape head over heels from the maximum security prison, while the game teaches me the first gameplay mechanics, I get my head cut off from my body by a masked villain named DJ Cyber with a flying record.
Instead of drifting into the eternal expanses of the afterlife, I awake without memories, but with a robot head on my shoulders and in a completely unknown place. It is the hiding place of my prison liberator, who turns out to be a talented sprayer named Tryce, introduces me to his girlfriend Bel and briefly explains the situation. Since the two of them also have a bone to pick with DJ Cyber, the three of us form the titular Bomb Rush cyberfunk crew with the goal of conquering New Amsterdam. In plain language, this means: filling the city with graffiti and using skate tricks to put the gangs that rule other districts in their place in their place.
Only if we rise to the most famous sprayers and skaters, we get to the influential DJ Cyber and get the opportunity to exchange my tin bulb against my old meat head. Of course, he doesn’t give up his position without a fight, and the police also pull the strings in the background to finally put a stop to the illegal paintings in New Amsterdam. As you can see, graffiti and board skills are everything in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.
For the fact that the gameplay and the aesthetics are in the foreground in the spiritual Jet Set Radio successor, the weird story is surprisingly entertaining and is told in some dialogues and cutscenes set to music with occasional exclamations.
Unfortunately, they pop up far too often and interrupt the gameplay flow again and again: When I turn up the stereo and whiz through the streets of New Amsterdam on my rollerblades at top speed, I don’t want to be constantly stopped just to read five lines about the next mission objective or watch an admittedly impressively choreographed dance. Here, less would definitely have been more. The fact that two cutscenes remained completely black due to a bug and I had to blindly click through dialogs didn’t really make things any better.
Skating until dawn
Which brings us to the heart of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk: Skating, Jumping, Grinding Rails. Depending on my taste, I can go out with a skateboard, a BMX bike or rollerblades and impress the fans with a series of tricks while I push my combometer up into the air. If the B button is responsible for transporting me from rail to rail with jumps, I perform a wide variety of tricks with the A, X and Y buttons and the right stick without having to read through a long move list. Meanwhile, the right trigger can be used to continue the current stunt for a short time away from the rails, which is especially necessary in the later level architecture to achieve the highest possible high score.
My arsenal is completed by a turbo boost, whose bar I can increase by performing tricks and collecting capsules scattered all over the game, and which, like a certain blue hedgehog, transports me across the asphalt faster than sound. As for the feel of the game, Team Reptile deserves great praise: Bomb Rush Cyberfunk plays handy and accessible at the same time, the controls are intuitive and it doesn’t take long before I’m no longer sitting on the board like a monkey on a grindstone, but like a young Tony Hawk, shooting sparks.
There’s just as much magnetism in jumping from rail to rail that doesn’t require an exaggerated amount of precision, but missing remains possible, so I’ve never felt patronized.
From the rolls
Thanks to the well-done controls and the clever level design, where rails snake through the city at all corners and edges and allow for almost infinite combos thanks to well-planned routes, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk unleashes exactly the flow you want from an arcade skate sim in no time.
This is especially noticeable in the later, more spacious districts, although the shopping mall is a less exciting exception, with the large empty space in the middle and the statically placed rails on the edge. Also, the challenges distributed with the chunky mascots, where you have to pass all the specimens within a single combo, thus unlocking a song or an outfit, are naturally embedded in the level structure and not bluntly outsourced to extra areas.
It’s just a pity that the tasks within the storyline are conceivably repetitive. Every district follows the exact same pattern: I leave my graffiti art in so many predetermined places that my reputation reaches a certain value and I can challenge the crew that rules here to a direct confrontation. In two minutes, I now have to maintain my combo as efficiently as possible and perform as many tricks as possible to score more points than my opponents. Occasionally enriched by races and required tricks, this same task is still fun the first few times, but became a bit tedious by the end of my round twelve stay in New Amsterdam.