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Trombone Champ is the magnum opus of trombone rhythm games

A top-brass performance.

Tooting up a storm on the internet is the recently released Trombone Champ.

It's a music rhythm game where you play a trombone. Sounds simple, right?

You'd be wrong. Even though there's some of the most famous classical pieces included, like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and even the national anthem, no amount of music knowledge will save you here.

Cover image for YouTube videoTrombone Champ: Release Date Trailer
Trombone Champ: Release Date Trailer.

The story is silly (you need to toot and improve so you get approval from a baboon?) but the game knows it's not intended to be serious and rolls with it well. Mix that in with the horribly flat notes you can produce and the Mii-esque tromboners and well, you've got a pitch perfect game.

Trombone Champ aims to emulate every part of playing a trombone. You control pitch by sliding your mouse up and down (which was inverted by default and I had to change immediately), and press a key when the bars move along the screen so that you play it.

This is where Trombone Champ truly shines in comparison to other rhythm games. You can play any pitch at any time. A note doesn't need to be within range of the hit-zone for you to make sound. Trombone Champ also doesn't stay within the confines of the usual chromatic scale we're used to hearing in music, so you get to experience all the awful off-key tones you reach.

Trombone Champ
Just hit a bum note.

Another thing that distinguishes Trombone Champ is the sliding. Trombones can slide very smoothly through notes, and you can also do that here if you like. If there's two unconnected, successive notes that are quite far away from each other in terms of height, you can leave the key pressed down and slide the cursor to it. So long as you have enough breath to complete the phrase, you're good!

Yes, there's a breath meter to contend with too. Just like how trombone players in real life 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 at classical music. I've played piano since I was a kid and even studied some at university, but my efforts have been... pretty dissonant. I aced the warm-up which consisted of some basic scales and arpeggios, but other than that I've struggled to get past a B rating on the tracks I have tried.

You earn toots for playing tracks, which are then used to buy sacks. Each sack contains four cards, which are the game's collectibles. It looks like there's 50 in total, and so far I can tell you they consist of instruments, composers, music clefs, a hot dog and a red-eyed black baboon ("one of the most powerful Tromboner Cards"). You can sell duplicates of cards for turds. I don't know what those are meant for yet, however.

Trombone Champ sack drop
One of my sack drops included Claude Debussy and the strongest baboon ever. This game also has an odd fascination with hot dogs - there's the highlighted letters on Debussy's card and a (not pictured) card just for hot dogs.

After selecting a track to play there's also a screen to choose your tromboner, which seems to suggest a variety of instruments and orchestra sections to unlock either further on in the game or are yet to be added. A roadmap posted by developer Holy Wow lays out what updates are planned next.

I can't help but be reminded of Sweep singing Nessun Dorma whilst I'm playing this, I have to admit. According to the devs, in the Free Improvisation mode (where you can play whatever you want with no scoring system and no music), if you press the backslash key you can get a green screen background. If I knew how to edit video, I would definitely be putting Sweep in this game. Besides I'm pretty sure he'd be interested in a hot dog...