It’s not exactly a shocker that a lot of people believe zombie apocalypse scenarios have been played out in video games throughout this whole decade. There are indeed only so many times that you can put a unique spin on the numerous tropes that show up in various interactive Dawn of the Dead recreations. But even cliched elements like zombie invasions can still be used as the building blocks for something greater, which is exactly what developers Headbang Club are doing with their upcoming title, Double Kick Heroes. Here, the traditional mobs of the undead serve as a backdrop for a unique blend of action and rhythm games that takes place as you fire back from a tricked-out rig known as the Gundillac and the result so far is one impressive heavy metal-themed ride.
While the game does feature an Arcade mode that allows you to quickly slip into any song you’d like, there is a full-fledged campaign that’s worth checking out. It starts with our titular metal band in Los Angeles suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak and having to escape. As they travel east in their ride and battle various gangs and armed forces in addition to the crazed corpses, they find that there’s a lot more to this apocalypse than they thought. What helps here are the characters, which are nice and likable, and who all showcase a good sense of humor. But if we’re talking presentation, then it’s obvious the music steals the show here, with a lineup of amazing metal tunes that spreads across a variety of different subgenres. Backing up the tunes is some amazing pixel art, especially when it comes to the twisted enemy designs.
Gameplay-wise, Double Kick Heroes takes the “simple, yet fun” approach. As the Gundillac cruises along the road, groups of the undead and other enemies advance from the left and you have to blast them away. Notes/beats scroll across the bottom of the screen and you have to tap a button at the right time in order to fire shots at enemies, similar to PaRappa the Rapper. The difference here is that you can either press one button to fire towards the top side of the horde and another for those nearer to the bottom, depending on where you feel the higher priority of a threat is. The better you are at kicking out the jams, the more powerful your guns become. Things get a bit trickier when you also gain the opportunities to manage other weapons such as grenades and thus include more buttons, and during boss sections where you have to steer the car up and down, but it controls well for the most part and remains nice and challenging.
Being an Early Access game, though, Double Kick Heroes still has a few rough spots to iron out. For one, the first few areas could benefit from some fine-tuning when it comes to spawning enemies. It’s easy to blow away the first small hordes and easy to manage the relatively less complex patterns of the first few tracks, but in doing so the screen clears incredibly quickly and then you still have to tap the buttons in rhythm with the song. Except now you’re hitting off-screen enemies that have yet to appear, killing them before you can even see a hint of a severed limb. And when one of the game’s selling points is its colorful, chaotic zombie hordes showing off its impressive graphics, that does create a slight issue. Luckily, that goes away after the first few levels, but you still have other issues like menu options failing to appear at times.
While it still has a few kinks that could use some fixing, Double Kick Heroes still has the makings of a perfect kind of game that you can easily slip into, a rhythm game that’s easy to play yet hard to master, all while providing you with the kind of joy that can only come from lobbing grenades at a hordes of infected chickens traveling at 55 MPH. Double Kick Heroes is currently available in Early Access on Steam, so metalheads can help support and improve the game even further before its full release later this year.