PAX South: Double Kick Heroes is True, But Not So Grim, Metal

There are times in every band’s life where the world is overrun by vindictive and fast monsters that can only be defeated by rocking out as hard as possible. Where taking to the roads can only be done if the group plays full f’ing metal from the back of a 1950s era convertible, adjusted to allow for full drums, bass and guitars to fit securely. Some musical acts handle this challenge with grace and dignity (KMFDM), while others get caught and infected, becoming the shambling undead (Aerosmith). Head Bang Club’s upcoming Double Kick Heroes chronicles this phenomena amongst musical acts in an almost reverential fashion.

The rhythm action found in this game is not complicated in the least. Using a horizontal track at the bottom as a guide, players hit one of two buttons to the beat of the original metal tunes. One button fires the top weapon from at the rear of the Gundillac, the other fires the bottom. The player can steer the vehicle to the top or bottom of the screen. Monsters come from the left, and they get shot. That’s pretty much it for input.

Such simplicity isn’t a hindrance to the experience, however. By mixing music with a defensive shooter, Head Bang Club could have gone overboard with the inputs and options. Instead, the gameplay is immediately accessible while allowing for a hefty challenge. Base enemies don’t pose too much of a threat until they begin to flood the screen, which they will in short order. Then there is the one boss that was available to try. Needing to dodge its attempted rams while keeping the screen clear of small mobs and trying to kill the bastard is tough enough without resorting to adding needless chords to impede the proceedings.

Fortunately, there is a combo system akin to hitting series of notes in a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game to reward the rhythmically gifted and alleviate the difficulty. As the combo goes up, the guns on the Gundillac get stronger, from a regular pea shooter, to shotgun, to a literal cannon. As long as it’s on the beat, it doesn’t matter if it’s the top or bottom gun being fired, though it became easier to hit the beat by alternating between the two.

As far as the type of metal on hand, it runs the gamut. Death, black, thrash, and more were all promised. As a fan of industrial metal, here’s hoping that it will be included, too. It should also be noted that, while only original tracks were promised, these aren’t garbage songs. They were giving away sampler CDs for a good reason: this stuff rocks. The short disc included some great genre representative tracks that will have a home on my music shuffle for some time to come.

All in all, while the play mechanics are easy to pick up, the large map that acts as the stage select, as well as the high difficulty, means that Double Kick Heroes has some muscle behind the metal. There will be a total of thirty tracks included, as well as the ability to import from a personal library, edit tracks and participate in community challenges, so the bang to buck ratio is high for the frugal thrasher. For those who still aren’t sure, the demo can be downloaded now. Otherwise, the full game will be hitting Steam later this year.