KickBeat-PS-Vita-Review KickBeat PS Vita Review

   26/09/2013 at 17:12       Flying_Pig       1 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - KickBeat, Zen Studios, Vita, PSN, Rhythm Action

The first time I played KickBeat, I didn’t like it. After a relatively gentle tutorial which explained the basics, I launched into the first story level on Normal (the easiest level available) and lasted approximately 90 seconds before failing said mission. You see, KickBeat has a very tough, unforgiving exterior, but fortunately it also has an interior which is definitely worth persevering for.

But before I go on, KickBeat is a beat-matching music game fused with a kung-fu inspired fighter. Instead of pressing the right button to match icons on a scrolling bar, you are required to hit one of the Triangle, Circle, Cross or Square buttons on the Vita’s face in time to music in order to fight of wave after wave of enemies. Each fight is in an arena, with enemies coming at you from the top, bottom, left or right. Tapping the appropriate face-button (Triangle from the top, Cross for the bottom) causes your avatar to take down each enemy in a single kick or punch, in a typical dispensable minion way.

Story wise, you initially start as Lee – a scrawny cleaner with an improbably thin waist who becomes the ‘chosen one’ in a fight to save all music. OK, so it’s not the most involving of stories, but at least it creates a decent narrative to justify the various arenas and fights. Complete Lee’s story and you’ll be able to play through the game again with Mei – a female character – with slightly tougher difficulty and a follow-on story from Lee’s.

As I mentioned above, the Tutorial gives you a gentle introduction to the game; outlining the 3 types of enemy: Yellow ones attack one at a time, Blue attack in twos or threes with a half-beat between each and Red always attack in pairs, each coming in from a different angle. As with similar music games, you get rewarded for getting ‘perfect’ timing. In KickBeat, the better your timing, the more ‘Chi’ you accumulate. Fill up your Chi gauge (cleverly incorporated into the arena floors, alongside your health bar) and you can unleash a pyrotechnic score multiplier - think Star Power – for KickBeat remains all about perfecting each song and maximising your multipliers and score.

Each of the 18 levels, across 6 different arenas, is covered by a different song, with tracks provided by the likes of Pendulum, Marilyn Manson and Papa Roach – all very beat-heavy and certainly not to everyone’s taste – but they do work well with the overall feel of the game and (from my multiple playthroughs) there are no stinkers.

I’ve already said that KickBeat has a tough exterior – I can imagine quite a few players ditching this game after failing the first level on the easiest difficulty – and it is a challenging game, but one which you can learn with a little perseverance (and switching off the Dynamic Camera in the Options menu). The main reason for the challenge is the sheer speed at which enemies come at you, making each three or four minute track relentless and intense. It’s all too easy for one miss to result in you receiving four or five hits before you regain your composure. However, it’s the intensity which makes this game so compelling to play, because once this game clicks, you begin to play by instinct; pressing the correct buttons almost without realising it. Indeed, I was so ‘in the zone’ whilst playing that my contact lenses kept drying out as I wasn’t blinking enough!

For the masochists amongst you there are actually 4 difficulty levels, from Normal, all way up to Master. But be warned, even though Hard (2nd level of difficulty) becomes do-able with practice, going to the higher difficulties the game takes away those button indicators which you realise you’ve become so reliant on. Furthermore, difficulty aside, each subsequent playthrough remains exactly the same, so there’s little incentive to keep going. That said, complete Mei’s story on Normal and you unlock Beat Your Music mode – where you can upload tracks of your choice onto the Vita and incorporate them into the game. This mode has huge potential – giving you almost unlimited gameplay and overcoming any personal dislike of the game’s default track list. However, while the game promises that implementation of your chosen music is quick and easy, it isn’t. You need to select the right BPM for your track, so unless you’re particularly musical this will likely be something of a challenge. Finally, if you complete Master difficulty then you’ll unlock Survival mode – which, as the name suggests, is about playing through progressively harder levels with a single life gauge.

So, where does that leave us?  KickBeat is far from perfect: I’m not a particular fan of the music selection, and given that there are only 18 tracks the gameplay can become stale. However, the sheer intensity of each level is hugely compelling, as is the satisfaction of besting your previous score on a particular track or finally clearing Lee’s story on Expert difficulty. But the Beat Your Music mode is too fiddly, and the Survival mode is locked behind completing the game on Master difficulty, meaning that few people will get to play it.

I did find KickBeat a lot of fun, despite my initial reservations, and although it does have flaws, the core game remains an enjoyable, yet challenging proposition and one which I am happy to recommend.


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evilashchris - on 26/09/2013 at 17:15 wrote:
Looks really nice this, I'd love a Steam release!

1 comment(s) in total.
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