"Just Kickin' It!"
KickBeat is a victim of varying elements that clash together to create a very niche experience. On one hand, the gameplay is pretty simple and the tutorial is pretty helpful. However, once the tutorial is done with, the game doesn't really help with anything else, putting a lot on the player to push themselves to go on to actually see the game's content.
In a nutshell, KickBeat is a four direction rhythm game. Set in a fighting arena, Lee is the world's last hope before chaos takes over (or something like that). The game's story is light and quirky, but it takes itself a bit too seriously considering Zen Studios last release was CastleStorm. Sure, there are some nice artsy cinematics, but I couldn't help but groan as I thought it was a bit too over the top considering the gameplay.
Over the course of the game's 18 songs, players must battle constantly approaching waves of enemies that attack on beat. There are a few enemy types, some simply strike, while others attack in groups that may require rapid button presses, holding a button or pressing two buttons at once. Defeating enemies without a mistake grants a multiplier, and other power-ups can be earned by attacking enemies with an icon over them twice.
While KickBeatt had all the pieces in place to be a great rhythm game, it falls apart due its interface and song selection. The gameplay seems to lend itself well to hip-hop, but the game begins with difficult rock songs, making the game feel amateurish and something I couldn't really get into.
The most frustrating part of this experience was that the game dangles a wealth of modes that would cater to different tastes, but these modes are only unlocked after having beat the game, at which point the people who don't like the soundtrack would have moved on. I literally mean half of the game's menus are greyed out until you neat the campaign, which would have been gravy in the 90s, but in the 2010 we are used to at least being able to play most (the ones that are special or DLC) of the songs without having to trudge through the story mode anymore.
Aside from juggling most of the content in front of the player, the main problem with KickBeat as mentioned before is its interface and song list. If the Kung-Fu aesthetic were removed, you would actually have a much clearer interface and experience. Gameplay simply consists of hitting the correct button as the enemies’ line up outside the outer parts of the circle the player's character is standing in, problem is that there is just too much going on with the enemies at any given time. They simply are too animated, and the different types of enemies with their visual cues overlap a good chunk of the time. There's also a huge gap between song difficulties in the line-up, and even the pace the tutorial moves at compared to the very first song. The tutorial uses metronome to help with pacing, but that doesn’t help at all with actually using the techniques used on an actual song.
KickBeat is an interesting concept, but it’s disappointing that the title is basically on the cusp of entertaining and frustrating, leaning towards the latter. The concept is novel and different, and there's definitely a wealth of content there for those willing to learn the songs, but it's hard to recommend when there are other music game experiences that aren't relying on old tropes such as difficulty and have more enjoyable song lists.
GameDynamo's Score for KickBeat (PS3)
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Akil is a big fan of video games and music, specifically fighting games and R&B. Other interests include game design, and comedy. His background in game design combined with his unique worldview and sense of humor makes him someone to follow.
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