Trombone Champ: Absurd Rhythm Game Takes the World by Storm

Trombone Champ the indie game

From indie game developer Holy Wow in New York, here we have the cutting-edge of exceptional gaming genius.

It’s a rhythm music game (think the brilliant Runner2), but Trombone Champ is a little on the absurd side of things. Not that anyone has noticed, of course!

Embrace Your Terrible Music and Timing Skills in Trombone Champ

Okay, this launched during the week and is available on Steam. On the official website, the point of the game is described like this.

“Honk, blow, & toot your way through over 20 songs. Collect all 50 unique Tromboner Cards and uncover the mysteries of the Trombiverse. Do you have what it takes to become the true Trombone Champ?”

Right, so it’s pretty simple. You pick your character (who always look suspiciously like one of those Nintendo Wii user characters). And then, armed with your trusty trombone, you must toot your way to glory.

The most immediate thing you’ll get is just how ridiculous the situation is. Trombone Champ is bloody funny—positively hysterical in its absurdity.

Whatever composition you pick, say Old Grey Mare, the notes hurtle at you from the right and you must do your best to match them.

Part of the amusement factor is it’s bloody difficult to match them, leading to some truly berserk high-pitched notes and squeals. This is our effort with all of this. Prepare to be amazed!

Part of the amusement factor are the Terry Gilliam-esque visuals that go along with each video, above with the horses flying in from every angle like it’s My Lovely Horse from Father Ted.

It also reminds us a bit of the Wii’s Muscle March (2010), which we did a retrospective on recently. So knowingly bizarre and embracing of absurdity.

The reaction from most gamers has been to fall head over heels in love with the game, simple because it’s so hilarious.

Failure and errors are embraced—not being particularly good at Trombone Champ is encouraged, really, as that’s what ensures the highest amusement factor.

However, despite the game’s difficulty it does provide a bit of leeway with you. Scores at the end of a, seemingly, appalling session are pretty generous. What may have seemed like a disaster can end up being a C. Which is nice.

But, yeah, most people aren’t really paying attention to that.

Look at our moving rendition of William Tell Overture. It went really well. Better than any of you pathetic SOBs could manage, anyway.

Here’s another example, this one our take from some bloke called Beethoven.

This is Beethoven’s Fifth completed in a manner that would surely have even the stuffiest classical music snob clapping in sheer reverence.

As you can see, the game is tough to play. Those notes fly in from the right faster than it’s humanly possible to do anything.

That’s the point. Trombone Champ’s brilliance is in realising it’ll slot you into genius compositions, at which point you’ll screw up. Precisely because it’s impossible to stay on top of anything, leading to absurd notes and weird spurts.

And that does take its toll a bit on your wrist.

The dev team has acknowledged that, encouraging players to maybe use a keyboard. Otherwise you end up with a dead arm for the rest of the day.

Totally worth it, though, as Trombone Champ is a triumph of absurdity meets fun meets incompetence. It’s arrived at the right perfect time to give the world a laugh whilst everything goes to crap.

For which we must thank Holy Wow and encourage you all to go and play this thing.

Trombone Champ as a Viral Sensation

Due to its ridiculousness, Trombone Champ immediately became a viral sensation. That unexpectedly launched the game into Steam top seller status.

The press has been all over this one, including the non-gaming press. The Guardian picked up on it and ran the game on its front page, leading to the predictable misery guts in the comments section whining about how Trombone Champ is proof society is doomed.

Several tweets went viral, including PC Gamer’s below. The reviewer also noted the title as a Game of the Year contender. Which we totally agree with!

Trombone Champ will no doubt enjoy its moment in the sun. After the initial ecstatic reaction the hype will die down a tad. But what’ll remain is a gloriously silly title we think should leave a lasting impact in the comedy game sector.

Holy Wow’s founder, Dan Vecchitto, released an early version of the title. The game took four years to put together (a reminder of how complex and time-consuming game development is), with much of the humour missing early on.

Vecchitto spoke to The Verge magazine during September 2022 and journalist Jay Peters notes this of the encounter: More games need to go all in on comedy.

“In a conversation with Dan Vecchitto, the founder of Trombone Champ developer Holy Wow Studios, he brought up something I think is a major factor in the game’s success: we just don’t see a lot of comedy in gaming right now.

Games have been pushing the boundaries of capital-S Serious Storytelling for some time with series like The Last of Us. Others remain popular because of their high-skill and high-stress competitive multiplayer. But we just don’t see many games that embrace their own comedy in the way that Trombone Champ does.

While there are a growing number of games that are designed with intentionally lower stakes, Trombone Champ goes farther by celebrating failure. Missed notes, which are penalized in other rhythm titles like Guitar Hero, are part of the game’s appeal.”

Sentiments we concur with entirely. As gamers since the late ’80s, we’ve become increasingly bored of the elitist attitude a big sect of gamers have these days.

Especially with AAA titles, where these gamers obsess over the best possible graphics, mastering games by thumping 100+ hours into them, and sneering down at gaming experiences they consider too easy. It’s elitist nonsense.

The game is an active celebration of not being particularly good at something, but having a whale of a time anyway.

And whilst some people may look down at Trombone Champ and think it’s immature, we just suggest giving the game a go. As it’s fun.

It’s like with, say, Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. What may appear pointless and childish is actually a life-affirming, joyous, and highly entertaining time of it.

Don’t knock it until you’ve at least tried it, as games such as Trombone Champ offer escapist relief few other entertainment forms can match.

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