Review: KickBeat

So there’s this sphere that contains all the music that ever has been or ever will be, and the bad guys want it. Once they’ve got everything it has to offer, they’ll monopolize music for the entire planet, possibly by owning the copyright on all musical creativity. It’s hard to say how they think this will work, but they’re after the sphere and only a martial artist with a sharp sense of rhythm can fend off the dastardly nogoodniks and their music-stealing plans. They’re polite enough to attack on the beat, you see, so just thumping them with a slick selection of moves won’t cut it.

As plots go it’s hardly Breaking Bad, but it’s a cheap excuse to surround a martial artist with a pack of goons, kicking and punching their faces into the dance floor to the rhythm of the music. KickBeat is a martial arts music rhythm game, and while the fighting is nicely animated with a smooth flow to the moves, what you’ll be controlling is the timing of the strikes.

KickBeat_PS34

The fighter stands in the center of the floor, a red and blue yin yang symbol underfoot. Initially only the Lee is available, but a quick trip through Normal difficulty unlocks the Mei for use. The enemies surround the circle, and while the camera may sometimes swoop in to show off a finishing move at the end of a song section, for the most part it’s bolted into place providing a clean view of the action. As enemies attack they circle around to one of four points corresponding to the game pad’s face buttons, and you’ll need to hit the button to the beat to counter them.

The enemies attack in a couple of different styles, and once they start mixing it up it’s easy to fall out of the beat. The enemies with symbols about their heads carry items that can only be collected with a double-tap, but if you accidentally double-tap an attacker not carrying anything it will count as a missed attack and do terrible things to the score multiplier. Other enemies attack two at a time, needing two button presses at once to clear, while linked enemies need to be disposed of by holding a button down for the first attacker, releasing it on the beat for the second. It can get fairly tricky keeping everything straight when a giant herd of baddies surrounds the circle, some only watching while others (clearly marked) circle in for the attack. Still, most of the time you’ll be tapping just the four face buttons in time to the music, and once you’ve got a sense of the beat it’s a matter of learning the enemy attack patterns to start raking in the star rankings.

KickBeat_PS36

There are a few powerups to be had, however. The red/blue yin yang symbol keeps track of health and chi power, with the red half depleting as you take hits and blue side filling up as you deal damage. Once blue is filled you can activate chi, which doubles the score multiplier. Some enemies also carry items, usually point bonuses but sometimes health or other powerups. Chi uses the left bumper, random powerups on the right. If it wasn’t for trying to exploit chi for proper scoring, Kickbeat would be a one-handed game.

Closing Comments:

There are more features rounding out the KickBeat package, such as multiplayer and the ability to import your own music and manually enter the beat for the game to build the fights around, but the central gameplay doesn’t have the depth to sustain it. You tap the four face buttons to the beat, and it’s entertaining enough in short bursts. The soundtrack is kinda OK, or at least has a minimum of obnoxious songs. The fights look nice, when you can take time away from worrying about the enemy patterns to see the smoothly animate flow of combat. With all its bells and whistles, though, KickBeat never rises above its simple gameplay. Hitting the right buttons in the right order in time to the beat isn’t a terrible way to spend a bit of gaming time, but there’s just not enough meat on KickBeat‘s bones to keep the music flowing.
score2.5
Version Reviewed: PS Vita

  • Cronk

    Poor review. It’s not a 1-handed game unless you’re playing on noob difficulty. You use the left hand on the d-pad, duh. When the difficulty cranks up, you’re hammering out the rhythm with both hands. the fact that you couldn’t even figure this basic thing out means you probably played what, like an hour? Sounds like you barely played the game at all. Did you even try music import? What songs? How well did it work? Did you even unlock it and try or play multiplayer? Probably not, you don’t say anything specific about them in the review. Pathetic.

  • James

    Sorry, no. I’ll grant that I didn’t explore every nook and cranny, but I don’t play games simply to generate articles. I game because I want to, and Kickbeat didn’t leave me wanting to play it. I gave it plenty of time to persuade me otherwise. The review stands as-is.

  • James

    Glad you liked the game. Wish I did too, but what can you do?

  • Cronk

    Hey Cronk,

    I’m the Creative Director at Zen Studios, and I worked on this game for almost 4 years. So if anyone should be upset, it would be me. But it’s just a game and a game review, man. Just enjoy the game and don’t worry what other people think.

    KickBeat’s a pretty hardcore, challenging rhythm game, and it’s not for everyone. The game is designed to be played on Hard and above, so anyone who’s not able to do that isn’t going to see the game like it was meant to be played…and if they aren’t having enough fun during the learning phase in Normal mode, then that’s on us for making a game that requires patience and skill (and an appreciation of the simple yet deep challenge of traditional rhythm mechanics) to enjoy rather than being immediately accessible.

    While the review is certainly disappointing, it’s not unfair or wrong. It’s just that the game is designed for a different audience. Our pinball games get the same response from some people because hey, they don’t like pinball.

    So please lighten up and just have fun with a game you enjoy.

    And James, way to stick to your guns. I think you’re taking the right approach to reviewing – as with game development, it’s no fun anymore if you’re just cranking out the product that everyone wants instead of the stuff you want to make.

  • James

    Hi, Zen Studio person. Thanks for the response, and the understanding. I’m looking forward to saying much nicer things about the next games you do. :)

  • marvz

    so you delete my comment. cant handle the truth ? also why is cronk talking to his own name ? wtf is that.

  • inplainview

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