It’s not often that I paste a short video of me playing a game into PC Gamer Slack’s work and other writers immediately buy it on Steam. But all it took was a 90-second clip of me trying to sing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in a trombone-based rhythm game. trombone champion and several copies of the game were sold. Like, instantly.
You can see the clip in the gif above, as long as you promise to turn the sound as high as possible. Yes, my performance was terrible and if Beethoven didn’t turn over in his grave, it’s only because he had already come out of it, staggering screaming, then had vomited. But in Trombone Champ, playing the trombone badly is just as much fun as playing it well, which is just one of the reasons I love it.
In fact, since trying Trombone Champ for the first time this morning, it’s become – and this is no joke – a strong contender for Game of the Year for me. It’s awesome. Or rather, it’s a toot.
Trombone Champ works like other music rhythm games: notes move across the screen from right to left, and you move the mouse up and down to meet them, then click or press a key on the keyboard to play the note . Accuracy and timing determine the quality of your game, with little words popping up to tell you how you’re doing. Words like Perfecto! Or Nice! If you suck like I usually do you’ll get a Meh or sometimes a Nasty, which is perhaps the funniest word to use to describe someone who plays the trombone badly. I doubt many music teachers use it, but maybe they should.
You are rated at the end of each song (there are 20 in all, with a plan to add more to the game roadmap), and each time you play a song, you earn Toots, which can be spent on Sacks, which contain Tromboner Cards. At first I assumed these cards were just a joke. Some cards display famous trombone players and musicians and contain information on how many hot dogs they could eat in one sitting, while other cards feature things like baboons or a trumpet (described at marvel like “the coward’s trombone”).
But these cards finally have a function, a function I accidentally stumbled upon while clicking on something that maybe shouldn’t be clicked. Did I summon a demon in Trombone Champ? I may have summoned a demon in Trombone Champ. Listen, I’m not going to explain everything because there’s a lot more to Trombone Champ than just honking notes in rhythm. There is also… traditions.
In fact, before you even start ringing your first trombone, you’ll realize there’s more going on here, as an introductory cutscene describes the trombone’s ancient prophecies in a Lord of the Rings-esque way. A flame lights up in the dark. A dark trombone slowly begins to spin. Baboons are mentioned. This won’t be the last time baboons are mentioned either.
I’m not going to summarize everything, but by playing you will discover:
- New paperclips
- More new paperclips
- Music is usually not for trombones
- Fascinating history of the trombone
- Trading Cards and Card Making
- The hot dogs
- A song about baboons
- Baboon Facts
- Baboon Secrets!
- Non-baboon secrets
- A ‘baboon amount’ option in the settings menu
- Maybe that demon that I mentioned
And then there’s just trying to competently play fast-paced songs on a fucking trombone, which is really tricky and, like I said, great fun no matter how hard you play badly or successfully. (Fortunately, I would describe the grading as almost criminally generous, so even an absolutely awful performance won’t be graded too harshly.) . Part of the humor comes naturally from missing a note with a trombone in a song like Also Sprach Zarathustra or Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
But there’s also the game itself, which flashes on-screen jokes as you play, like during The Star-Spangled Banner. At first, an American flag flutters proudly in the background as fireworks erupt to the beat of the notes, but then the scene changes to a pile of cash, and then, finally, to a huge, greasy hamburger. And during the baboon song – there’s a baboon song – images of various baboons appear as you sing the lyrics, which mostly consist of the word “Baboon”. It’s a hilarious game. (And a great song.)
And as funny as it sounds, Trombone Champ is no joke. The songs are almost all incredibly fast (you can slow them down a bit in the settings) and the notes come to you at lightning speed, there are so many of them and they last for quite a while. How long does Hava Nagila last? Much, much longer than you remember, especially when you play it on the trombone.