September 24, 2022

Recently there was a storm on the Internet Trombone Champ.

It’s a musical rhythm game where you play the trombone. Sounds simple, right?

You would be wrong. Although some of the most famous classical pieces are included, such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and even the national anthem, no amount of musical knowledge will save you here.

Trombone Champ: Release Date Trailer.

The story is silly (you have to play and improve to get the baboon’s approval?), but the game knows it’s not serious and does well with it. Combine that with the horrendously flat notes you can produce with Mii-esque trombones and well, you’ve got yourself a perfect game.

Trombone Champ aims to emulate every part of playing the trombone. You control the volume by moving the mouse up and down (which defaults to inverted and I had to change it right away), and press a key when the bars move across the screen to play it.

This is where Trombone Champ really shines compared to other rhythm games. You can play any court at any time. A note does not have to be within the strike zone to produce a sound. Trombone Champ also doesn’t stay within the confines of the usual chromatic scale we’re used to hearing in music, so you can experience all the horrible off-key tones you reach.

Trombone Champ
Just hit the boom note.

Another thing that sets the Trombone Champ apart is the glide. Trombones can slide through notes very smoothly, and you can do that here if you want. If there are two unrelated, consecutive notes that are quite far apart in terms of pitch, you can leave the key pressed and move the cursor to it. As long as you have enough breath to complete the phrase, you’re good!

Yes, there is also a breath meter. Just like real-life trombonists have to learn to control their breath and figure out phrasing in a piece so they know when to breathe without ruining what they’re playing.

I consider myself decent in classical music. I’ve played the piano since childhood and even studied some at university, but my efforts were… quite dissonant. I did a warm up which consisted of some basic scales and arpeggios, but other than that I struggled to get past the B grade on the tracks I tried.

You earn toots for playing tracks, which are then used to buy bags. Each bag contains four cards, which are the collectibles of the game. There seem to be 50 of them in total, and for now I can tell you that they consist of instruments, composers, musical clefs, hot dogs, and a red-eyed black baboon (“one of the most powerful trombone cards”). You can sell duplicate cards for shit. However, I still don’t know what they are for.

Trombone Champ sack drop
One of my sack drops included Claude Debussy and the strongest baboon ever. This game also has a strange fascination with hot dogs – there are prominent letters on a Debussy card and a card (not pictured) just for hot dogs.

After selecting a track to play, there’s also a screen to select your trombone player, which seems to suggest various instruments and orchestra parts to unlock either later in the game or yet to be added. A roadmap published by the developer Holy wow shows which updates are planned next.

I can’t help but remind myself Sweep singing Nessun Dorma while playing this I have to admit. According to the developers, in the free improv mode (where you can play whatever you want without the scoring system and music), if you press the backslash key, you can get a green screen background. If I knew how to edit video, I would definitely put Sweep in this game. Besides, I’m pretty sure he’d be interested in a hot dog…

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