Developer / Publisher: Zen Studios
Platform: PS3 & PSVita (reviewed)
Price: UK £7.29; EU €9.99; US £7.99 Cross Buy
The rhythm action genre was once an over populated game type but since the demise of annual Rock Band & Guitar / DJ Hero games due to market saturation, there has only been one game of note that springs to mind & that’s Retro:Grade.
After seeing an early trailer and reading Zen Studio‘s press release explaining how Kickbeat was a different type of beat matching game, due to the main character being at the centre of the game and directly controlled by music matching button taps.
Playing the game on Easy gives you visual button prompts to indicate which direction the enemies are going to attack you from. There are three colours of enemy that will try to slap you silly. Yellow attack one at a time, Blue attack in quick succession and Red attack two (or more) at a time. They rotate into position in a counter-clockwise motion, helping you work out the pattern you need to respond to. All this is explained in the easy to follow tutorial levels, that explain how timings work giving you a ranking on how well you’ve timed your counters. The tutorials also explains how bonuses can be scored, some enemies have an icon above their heads. Bonus points, multipliers, shields, health which are acquired by double tapping the corresponding attackers button. This took me a while to get to grips with but when it does the points can be massive. Your character has a limited amount of life so mashing buttons without connecting will cause you to become fatigued and not hitting enemies will cause you to fail the level.
There is another major difference being there’s a rather well presented story at this games heart with a campaign requiring you beat box your way through 18 tracks by professional artists from Pendulum, Marilyn Manson & Papa Roach. The true prize awaits when you’ve completed a full story play through of allowing you to create your own fights using music stored on your device in “Beat Your Music” mode. When you chosen a track you want to use you are able to manual tap in the beat via Triangle button for a short period of 3 sections (beginning, middle & end) of your chosen aural pleasure. Allowing you to check if the metronome is hitting at the right time, you can manually adjust BPM & Variance of enemies. Experimentation is highly recommended, due to the games OST being fairly rock heavy, I pulled in a fair amount of electro, indie, pop & classical to see how it faired, leading to sum interesting surprises are a new way to experience some of my favourite pieces of music.
When I tried to import The Prodigy – No Good (Start The Dance) it trimmed it due to it being 6 minutes long. This was beautiful innovation the beat matching genre and turns passively listening to you’re favourite audio tracks into an engaging active experience which as given me a greater appreciation of what goes into making tracks. Currently I’m in love with manically matching moves to the music of Bjork – Army of Me and Scroobious Pip (feat B Dolan) – Solider Boy (Kill ’em). I had an issue with “Beat Your Music” mode not acknowledging certain tracks I had on my PSVita memory card. Thankfully Zen Studios explained that the issue is to do with the file type of the tracks needing to be .mp3’s sampled a 44.1kHz, .m4a & .wma’s actually cause problems and they are planning on patching the game to prevent infinite load errors.
The game becomes harder and looks more impressive when you change up the difficulty level, as button prompts disappear from Hard onwards but mechanism stays the same. The next enemy to attack has a white aura around them to distinguish them from attacking hordes. When you start to get the buttons presses flowing it looks and feels like the fights in Batman: Arkham City, with you character bouncing around the arena in a Dark Knight stylee. By the time you manage to open up Expert you’re having to press three button at once when attacked by Red guys. I found the ability to use the digital pad invaluable as trying to hit all three on the face button a real pain. Visually the animations flow and the use of dynamic camera movement (which can be disabled) and boss battles work brilliantly. I loved the presentation right down to the loading icon being a silhouette performing kata’s in a nod to the classic International Karate +.
Trophy wise this game is damn difficult to 100% but practice and perseverance seems to be the trick, the limited number of tracks is a little irritating but considering they are known artists it a real coupe. I’d love to have been able to play through the story with my own tracks. The overall presentation from original incidental music, silky smooth and fluid animations, nicely styled cut scenes and simple tight responsive controls make this a perfect purchase for pugilistic percussion pounding pleasure without pretentious plastic peripherals. Trying to perfect every level to open up additional costumes, as well as online score boards will keep you coming back for another Kick[beat]ing.
Connor McKervey aka (VDJOMB)