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Trombone Champ’s triumph is making failure fun in a rhythm game

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Everyone is talking about Trombone Champ. Not since I’ve heard about Untitled Goose Game this spirited chat about a game from friends who don’t usually talk about games. This is because: 1) it’s a fun silly idea; 2) It’s so funny to miss a trombone tone and shout a trumpet in the middle of also Sprach Zarathustra. While I myself play Trombone Champ, I really appreciate it. It’s a rare rhythm game where bad gameplay doesn’t frustrate me or scold me, because the worst case scenario is making fart noises, funny fart noises.

Trombone Champ is a simple rhythm game. As the notes scroll along the timeline from the right, moving the mouse up and down changes the tone of the trombone, and clicking or pressing a keyboard key hits it. So just try to do it well. The music group is mostly old generic songs (including Skip To My Lou, O Canada, God Save The King, and a blast from Beethoven’s Fifth) with a few fun original songs thrown in (one simply called Baboon!, an exclamation point) and all). It’s hard at first, and some songs stay rough, but that’s okay.

While Trombone Champ requires dexterity to master, especially on fast and complex songs, it broadly wants you to progress without getting too frustrated. Even litter sounds pretty good because it’s, in essence, a comical game—and not just because of fart noise.) The movie begins with a movie scene parodying the Dark Souls, and has a hidden story with secrets, puzzles, unlockables, and baboons for you to discover. It gives you points to buy shiny trading cards for musicians and musical concepts (and an amazing number of sausages). Loading screens present ridiculous facts about the trombone. Silly animations playing during songs. He wants you to find out silly things and laugh along the way.

Mistakes and failures are huge components of most video games. Mood is strongly influenced by the way you try to avoid mistakes, how failure makes you feel, and how you react to failure. Some games make you rise to the challenge. Some games want you to stop and think about what went wrong. Some games are a series of mini-failures, each of which prompts you to fight back and recover or risk further complications for you. Some games will try to cool you down with a little XP for the battle pass. Some games are broken into small parts so don’t worry, just start over and try again. Some even just let you undo, don’t worry. While some rhythm games are gentler than others, I often find that this genre can feel punishing in a way that I don’t enjoy.

Trade trombone cards with the devil in Trombone Champ.

Just a tromboneer stuff, don’t worry about it

In games like Guitar Hero, groping to a musical tone can cause a stringy cry or a reflex cry. Play poorly and the audience may boo, and if you play badly enough, the game may end the song and kick you off the stage. Many rhythm games focus so much on high scores, amazing challenges, or perfect gameplay that small mistakes feel magnified. So it’s great in Trombone Champ when I stumble on a note and then the game makes silly noises and keeps me going without worry. I am pleased with the silly noise. Silly noise makes me feel good.

After all, it’s so funny that something makes noise.

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I have to warn that something about Trombone Champ feels completely wrong to my eyes, hands, and mind. Even after a lot of fiddling with mouse sensitivity and input latency in the settings menu, I can’t get the timings right and my eyes start spinning through a few songs. Just like in life, I can only fart for so long before I worry that something is really wrong. This is definitely my excuse for the wind noise filling my office today.

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