Arts & Entertainment

The ingenious accessibility of Hi-Fi RUSH

Whatever kind of gamer you are, this game is sure to hit all your notes.

Photo by Tango Gameworks | Screenshot of ‘Hi-Fi RUSH’

“Hi-Fi RUSH,” a smash-hit rhythm action game from the incredible team at Tango Gameworks, is a masterpiece. The rhythm, hack-and-slash combo seamlessly combines two drastically different game genres in an experience unlike anything I’ve ever played. 

The game introduces players to Chai, a wannabe rockstar who gets infused with music in an accident involving an experimental prosthetic robot arm implant from the comically evil Vandelay Technologies. Now being hunted down by the company as a ‘defect,’ Chai and his rebel friends must uncover secrets and slash their way through the ranks, all while keeping up the beat.

“Hi-Fi RUSH” shadow-dropped at the end of January and has already garnered an overwhelming amount of positive reviews across multiple platforms. Many players would point to the success being from the games outstanding visual style, incredibly satisfying rhythm-based gameplay, or its high quality original soundtrack, I would argue that the thing that sets “Hi-Fi RUSH” apart from any other game is its innovation in accessibility.

Accessibility in games has always been a very important discussion in the gaming world. As game companies continue trying to make their products available to as many people as they can; accessible games must be able to be enjoyed by the widest range of people, regardless of any external factors or impairments. Aside from just ability, another way to reach this ‘widest range of people’ is to make your game as approachable and easy to get into as possible.

Rhythm games are generally a good example of inaccessibility, as they are notoriously difficult and have a high skill floor that is often a barrier of entry for many players, including myself. The task of making “Hi-Fi RUSH” accessible wouldn’t be an easy task to take on, but John Johanas, the director at Tango Gameworks and the mastermind behind “Hi-Fi RUSH,” was thinking about accessibility straight from the start. 

Photo by Tango Gameworks | Gameplay footage

“[In a rhythm game,] if you don’t press on time, you’ll fail. There’s a fail state. But the worst thing you can do in an action game is to press the button and nothing happens; it feels like it’s a mistake,” Johanas said.

“Hi-Fi RUSH’s” solution to this problem is to make everything sync up to the beat; from the background and the characters to the health bars and attacks. Johanas and his team designed the game from its very core so that missing a beat did not mean failure; your inputs will still go through and will be synced up with the music regardless of when you press. 

“You’re rewarded for playing on the beat, but you’re not punished for not playing on the beat… So even if you’re not good at rhythm games, you can enjoy the experience of being good at rhythm games.”

This inclusive design was not left unnoticed by the game’s audience. Sinfultrackster, a commenter on Steam, left this positive review for the game: 

“I have a hearing impairment and have been locked out of most rhythm games, but this one has been so inclusive! The multiple visual queues really help!”

To further aid this accessibility, the game has a plethora of accessibility options within these settings. Some notable ones are a colorblind mode, extra visual indicators, single-button options for quick time events and context subtitles.

The accessibility in “Hi-Fi RUSH” is inherently weaved into its core game design; I haven’t seen many games do so expertly before. Its innovation allows the game to be fresh, unique, and easy to pick up for a wide variety of  players.

If you’d like to try the game out yourself, it’s $30 on PC and Xbox consoles, and is also available on Xbox Game Pass for $10 a month.

Hi-Fi Rush Official Launch Trailer via Bethesda Softworks