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The Internet Is Obsessed With the Absurdity of This Trombone Rhythm Game

When do we get a trombone-shaped controller?

Footage of Old Gray Mare from the trombone rhythm game Trombone Champ

Listen, if the first line of your game description is “Trombone Champ is the world’s first trombone-based rhythm music game,” I am instantly interested. I know to peg myself as part of a niche group of rhythm game nerds, but this time, it turns out it’s definitely not just me. Trombone Champ is currently taking over Twitter with videos of its delightfully absurd gameplay. The ensuing horrendous performances are an absolute joy to behold.

Trombone Champ launched on September 15, 2022, but it didn’t really take off until about a week later, when the popular gaming outlet PC Gamer took to Twitter and called the indie rhythm game a “game of the year contender.” And, critically, PC Gamer urged its viewers to watch a gameplay video for proof. Apparently, this same video was shared within the PC Gamer Slack channel, where numerous coworkers instantly purchased the game for themselves. And I now, in turn, urge you to watch it.

(By the way, as someone who went to college for music, I can indeed confirm that music teachers do not actually use the word “nasty,” unless they’re a super hip jazz-funk bassist commenting on an incredibly slick riff. “That was nasty!” etc. It is, however, the absolute perfect word for this game.)

Trombone Champ is played by sliding your mouse up and down to find the approximate pitch of the note, and then pressing down to articulate. Much like playing the actual trombone, you will quickly find that landing on the correct pitch is really hard. Fortunately, a poorly-played performance is arguably more fun than a well-played one. And it’s not just fun to play. I am now obsessed with finding all gameplay footage of Trombone Champ that I possibly can.

Everything about this game is spot on. The backgrounds and the bizarre figures who dance around in them. Your adorable muppet-looking trombone protagonist. The song choices of actual trombone repertoire. The rankings ranging from “Perfecto!” to the aforementioned “Nasty!” The curtains, the baboons, the card-collection of famous trombone players, which include (thank god) Melba Liston. Everything is excellent, and for PC Gamer to throw their weight behind this game during the same year that saw the release of freaking Elden Ring shouldn’t go un-noted.

This viral explosion was completely unanticipated by the game’s developer, Holy Wow Studios, which took to Twitter to point out they are mainly a one-person operation. And everyone involved has other, full-time jobs! The team “built this whole game on nights, weekends, and holidays,” they reflected. Holy Wow INDEED.

If you, too, would like to toot your way through 20 songs of pure joy, you can purchase Trombone Champ on Steam. Sadly, it’s only for PC at the moment, but given the game’s sudden success, that can hopefully change. The Steam page already says USB controllers are in development, which is the most exciting news I’ve heard since I found out the world’s first trombone rhythm game.

(featured image: Holy Wow Studios)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Pokémon, she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.