an Wednesday morning, I saw a tweet from PC Gamer magazine that made me roll my eyes with laughter. It contained a video, in which a wide-eyed, agonizing-looking cartoon trombone player struggled to hit Beethoven’s fifth notes while the composer himself stared off-screen in apparent disapproval. It’s a golden comedy mix of horrible music, fart noise, seriousness and silliness. This is a video game Trombone ChampAnd since then it has spread widely.
Of course I downloaded it right away. I’ve been playing rhythm games for over 20 years, from Beatmania to Guitar Hero to Amplitude with fun music fads in Japanese arcades, and I take them very seriously. The hero trombone is Not Grand; It’s a great mix of occasional musical comedy, trading card deck, made-up facts about trombones and hot dogs (“the first trombone was made in 200,000 BC”), and real facts about baboons. (Don’t ask about baboons. This game has unexpected secrets, and baboons are one of them.)
Their playback is, remarkably, as funny as watching them on video, at least for the first few songs. You can move the trombone slider with your mouse and click or tap a key to turn it on. The sounds you make out bear only the ambiguous relationship with music. The visuals are eerily comical: Rosamunde is accompanied by a pie-krug and pretzels that jump and spin majestically on the screen. During a truly awful display of God Save Our King, images of London Bridge and Union Jack fade into the background and out of sight, followed by a giant JPEG image of a cooked breakfast.
Trombone Champ Made by A Developed for two It’s called Holy Wow, and it consists of Dan Vecchitto and Jackie Lalli, who also made a series of competitive typing games called Icarus Proudbottom’s Typing Party. It’s fair to say this game hasn’t been on my radar. I asked Chris Livingston of PC Gamer how he found it; He said, “I was browsing Steam on Monday night and thought: ‘That sounds nice,’ which by Tuesday morning had become: ‘This is totally fun work and I have to tell the world.'”
Ben Jacobs – AKA Max Tundra, electronic musician and multi-instrumentalist – composed a song specifically for this game. (He’s also featured on one of his trading cards.) When I asked how he got involved in the highly specialized indie tromboning, he told me it all started because he asked for a favour. On Twitter in 2018. He needed someone to recreate an image for a poster, and one respondent said he would if Ben wrote a song for his game. He’s before, and four years later, you can go with Max Tundra’s Long-Tail Limbo.
The developers have been inundated with the sudden interest that Trombone Champ is attracting. “We should make it clear that right now, Holy Wow is mostly a one-person operation. And it’s not even our primary gig! We work full-time jobs (!!!) and have built this entire game on nights, weekends, and holidays,” he wrote. veketo on twitter. “So, it will take us a few weeks to organize our lives and deal with the huge demand that this game has generated.”
Trombone Champ is a little gift from the internet, something that can be thoroughly enjoyed – unexpected baboons and all – during lunch breaks or a few evenings, then heralded for good. I kept noticing new little details about it, like the graph that scores every song on Spunk, Doots, Slides, Fury and Tears, or the scrolling lyrics to a warm-up tune, which concludes with “I’ve heated up my trombone! It’s over.” My nightmare, oh.” I dare you not to smile while playing.