September 28, 2023

When I learned that a spiritual successor to Jet Set Radio was on its way, I knew I had to be there day one. Its sequel, Future, is easily one of the highlights of the Xbox era for me, and I have very fond memories of blading around a stylish futuristic Tokyo. Pulling off insane combos and methodically tagging each area with graffiti are some of my finest gaming memories. It was a truly special experience that no game has come remotely close to replicating since.

Well, until Bomb Rush Cyberfunk that is. While it’s not Jet Set Radio 3 in name, it clearly aims for that lofty height. And, it comes remarkably close to pulling it off. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk gets so much of the formula right, and even advances it in a number of different ways. But, for my money, it just doesn’t quite stick the landing.

For a start, the visuals seem far more determined to emulate the past than genuinely impress in 2023. In fairness, this is a low budget indie game, but the art style does leave a lot to be desired. The environments are pretty drab, and, while varied, fail to leave any lasting impression. To this day, I can still remember Shibuya Downtown and the neon-soaked 99th Street from Future.

It might just be rose-tinted glasses, but I just don’t believe I’ll remember any of the levels in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk even in a few week’s time. That might have something to do with the fact it seems more interested in emulating areas from the original games than striking out on its own. That would be fine if the art style, lighting, and visuals were at least on par with the original, but they’re simply not.

The Visuals Are Too Determined to Emulate the Past Than Impress in the Present

The character models do fare slightly better, even though, again, many do look very familiar. Still, you can’t really get cel-shading wrong, and each of the designs stands out from the other. Each character is very unique in personality and appearance, and I quite enjoyed playing as each of them to see how the gameplay differed.

Which brings us nicely to an area in which Bomb Rush Cyberfunk does excel in, and perhaps even surpasses Jet Set Radio and its sequel: the gameplay. It absolutely nails the feel of the original games while pushing it forward in key ways. Pulling off huge combos remains immensely satisfying, and actually reminded me of the early Tony Hawk games.

It also helps that Bomb Rush Cyberfunk introduces a few new modes of transport to get around in. You can play in rollerblades like the OG, but there’s also a skateboard and BMX. Functionally, they’re identical but the different tricks you can perform helps to make them feel different. That was one of the biggest joys I had playing Cyberfunk.

The camera is vastly superior, even though it does frustrate at times. For the most part, I had no issue tweaking it on the fly while literally flying between rails, but there were a few occasions where I couldn’t quite find the right angle in time to pull off a tricky manoeuvre. An optional camera that follows you around would be welcome on those occasions.

Red performing a grind in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.

The Plot is Nonsensical Guff

Now, back to the bad: the plot. It’s utterly nonsensical guff that’s nowhere near as funny or charming as the game seems to think it is. It very much remains in fan fiction territory and it’s never interesting. It also fails to ground you in the world, which doesn’t help boost its lifeless feel overall.

Jet Set Radio Future’s world felt lived in. You really felt like an outcast blader getting on people’s nerves as you rode around, and the police felt like a legitimate, authoritarian threat. In Cyberfunk, it feels like the NPCs are just window dressing. The police are more comical than threatening, and not in a good way. I just felt like when they turned up it was because that’s what the game wanted to happen in that moment.

It doesn’t help that the combat is also awful. You basically perform tricks when on foot to pull off basic combat moves, then launch the enemies into the air to tag them with graffiti. There are no combos and no real variety, aside from an enemy that you have to boost into to break its shield. To be fair, combat in the originals was also naff, but this is a key area in which Cyberfunk could have progressed the formula.

I’m also not convinced that the new graffiti system is better. In the original you held down the spray can button to tag areas as you soared past them, but in Cyberfunk you press it once and pull off a QTE-style combo to determine which graffiti art you use. It’s good in the sense you can’t really miss a spot even while at speed, but it also breaks the flow of your combos in a way that the original style didn’t.

Tagging graffiti in Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.

The New Graffiti System Feels Like Change For Change’s Sake

I guess it is nice that you can choose which art you place in each spot, but, overall, I just felt like it was a change for change’s sake rather than a legitimate improvement in gameplay. Still, it is nice to see some effort made in changing up the formula, rather than merely mimicking the past. Cyberfunk could have used more of that.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed my time with Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. In gameplay terms, it’s a more-than-worthy successor to Jet Set Radio and Future. It feels very familiar, just as fun, and advances the formula in a few key areas. It’s just a shame that it’s a downgrade in almost every single other area.

The visuals are too determined to mimic the past than impress in the present, the plot is awful fan fiction guff, and world feels utterly drab and lifeless. None of the areas I explored were memorable, and I had no desire to return to any of them once I’d moved on. The result is a game that clearly wants to be Jet Set Radio 3, and because we’re all so starved for more, we’ll lap it up like it is.

But, ultimately, it’s not up to the same standards. I’d definitely back Sega giving Team Reptile the opportunity to make a genuine stab at a Jet Set Radio 3, as the love for the series oozes in every screen, but it needs the big budget that the series deserves. And, a vastly superior writing team.

How Does Bomb Rush Cyberfunk Feel on PC?

This section is written by Adele Wilson who played the game on PC.

As Glen mentioned above, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a blast from the past. It’s certainly reminiscent of Jet Set Radio, and that’s why I was drawn into it. It takes the stylistic retro art style, catchy hip-hop beats, and the frustratingly challenging combo system.

Now, that’s not to say that the gameplay is bad, maybe I’m just not cut out for this type of game – but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun while playing Bomb Rush Cyberfunk. In fact, I really enjoyed it.

Does it Run Well on PC?

In terms of how it runs on PC, well, I wasn’t overly impressed with the controls. The camera felt way too fast at times, even when I’d turned the sensitivity all the way down via the in-game settings. I also tampered with my own mouse to reduce the sensitivity further, but it didn’t make much difference.

In my opinion, if you’re planning on playing Bomb Rush Cyberfunk on PC, it works best with a controller. As soon as I plugged in my PS5 controller, traversing through the game felt much more comfortable. I just don’t think this type of game translates well to the keyboard controls.

The game itself performs well on the PC when it comes to the frame rate and overall graphics – but that can only go so far when the controls feel a little clunky without a controller. The vibrant colours pop, the animations are seamless, and you can see every little detail that was packed in to keep those old-school vibes.

I still found some issues with the camera when I was trying to get the combos that were on the trickier side, but I managed to muddle through.

A Modern Take on an Old-School Game

When I first sat down to open Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, I felt like I was back on the original Xbox console playing Jet Set Radio again – but with a slightly more updated version. I was impressed with the mobile phone feature that allows you to read text messages from fellow characters and contains a handy reminder of your collected graffiti.

I don’t want to constantly compare Bomb Rush Cyberfunk to Jet Set Radio, but it’s hard not to when it clearly takes so much inspiration from the game. If you enjoyed the latter in your younger years, I definitely recommend trying this game out, even if it’s just to relive those old memories.

The good

  • Nails the feel of Jet Set Radio
  • Gameplay progresses the formula
  • Solid character models

The bad

  • Drab, lifeless world
  • Poor combat
  • Awful plot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *