Review – Trombone Champ

Every now and then, the internet becomes enamored with a small game that shows up from out of nowhere, captivating people with its simple gameplay loops, new ideas, or streamer-ready comedic elements. Back in 2019, the memeable darling ended up being Untitled Goose Game. A few years later, Among Us became the game of choice. I’d go as far as to say that the 2022 equivalent to this odd trend is the one-person-developed Trombone Champ, one of the weirdest things I’ve played this year, and I’m not saying this as criticism.

Trombone Champ God Save the King

Thank you for reminding me of the crap I used to have for breakfast when living in the UK, Trombone Champ.

Trombone Champ follows the sorely missed tradition of twitch-reflex music rhythm games, abandoned seven years ago after Rock Band 4‘s failure to reignite the expensive instrument game market. It’s basically Guitar Hero, being all about playing notes in order, amassing combos, and demolishing finger joints, but with a (very obvious) difference: you’re playing a damn trombone. Because why the hell not.

I have to say: genius concept. The development team masterfully managed to emulate the technique (or lack thereof) of playing a trombone, which is all about moving its pipes forwards and backwards in order to reach different pitches, with a mouse. All you need to do is move the mouse up and down, reaching the desired note, and clicking a button in order for the note to come out. In reality, yes, it works like a charm, but I had some issues with this gameplay loop, most of them stemming from the usage of the mouse itself.

Trombone Champ O Canada

Yes, each song features a really absurd (albeit thematically fitting) barrage of imagery.

You see, it takes a toll on your wrist. Compare Trombone Champ with Guitar Hero or Rock Band, for instance: in those games, the physical strain on your body is mostly limited to your left hand’s fingers, most notably your left pinky. It’s not a gameplay loop that becomes physically demanding after two songs. In Trombone Champ, quickly moving your mouse around like a lunatic (and occasionally missing notes because of a few framerate hiccups) hurts after a while. You either need the best mouse out there, or you’ll have to borrow your mom’s physiotherapy wrist gauntlet. The secret to enjoying Trombone Champ to its fullest is to play two songs at a time, then enjoy what little else the game has to offer.

Trombone Champ The Star Spangled Banner

Feel the freedom.

Beyond the utter absurdity of its visuals (where the Mii-esque characters are just a small footnote compared to the sheer lunacy of the background effects) and the handful of royalty-free tunes which comprise its soundtrack (the dev team is promising more tunes further down the line), Trombone Champ is all about collecting stuff.

Pardon my usage of generic English terms, but there’s no better way to describe it. You can collect trading cards featuring famous composers and trombonists. Said cards barely mention these musicians’ history and works, focusing instead on the developer’s assumption of how many hot dogs these musicians would be able to consume in one sitting. You can then sacrifice specific cards in a satanic ritual in order to collect new kinds of trombones for your character to use. Finally, you can collect trivia about baboons and fake (but funny) information about trombones. In short, there’s no other way I can describe this, you collect stuff in this game.

Trombone Champ Trivia Cards

Ever wondered how many hot dogs Mozart would be able to eat in one sitting? No? Me neither, but Trombone Champ is here to provide you some useful info.

It is really fun, don’t get me wrong. Considering its small size, limitations, and scope, Trombone Champ is a magnificent breath of fresh air. It’s an innovative concept, blending a tried and true control scheme with new inputs and comedic elements that make it stand out from the sea of barely promoted indie games on Steam. Even if the gameplay loop outstays its welcome after a few rounds, and you can play all of its songs in about two hours, I can’t help but love the fact that Trombone Champ exists. It’s just… weird. Weird in the most adorable of ways.


Graphics: 7.0

The Mii-esque characters aren’t what make Trombone Champ visually appealing. It’s the utterly dumb imagery being plastered onscreen while you’re playing any given song, like hamburgers and dollars when you’re playing the USA national anthem.

Gameplay: 8.0

Genius concept, using the mouse to properly play a trombone note, but occasionally shoddy execution, as said control scheme takes a toll on your arm after just a few songs.

Sound: 8.5

As of now, Trombone Champ‘s soundtrack is solely comprised of royalty-free music and some original compositions. That isn’t the issue, however: the small repertoire is. Hopefully the developers will add more tunes further down the line.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Even if the gameplay loop outstays its welcome after a few rounds, I can’t help but love the fact that Trombone Champ exists. It’s just… weird. I mean that in the best way possible.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Trombone Champ is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.