Developer: Zen Studios
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment (Playstations)
Release Date: September 3rd, 2013 (Playstations), January 20th, 2014 (PC)
Available on: Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, PC
Reviewer’s note: I played the Playstation Vita version of this game. There may be differences between versions.
Rhythm games and kung-fu may not exactly sound like two genres that should be mixed, but here we are with KickBeat. A rhythm game with heavy kung-fu aesthetics, KickBeat is a lot of fun and well worth the asking price.
KickBeat puts you in the role of Lee, a member of a king-fu order sworn to protect “The Sphere of Music.” When a corporate CEO steals the sphere it’s up to Lee and Mei to get it back. The story isn’t anything mind blowing or noteworthy, but Lee’s tale works well enough to get you from fight to fight and keep you at least amused. The real problem is that once you beat the game as Lee you have to go through again as Mei. Mei’s whole story feels like padding as she pretty much does the exact same things Lee did and story points repeat themselves. It unnecessary extends a tale that doesn’t really need it, and forces you to play through the game twice for no real reason.
The game is pretty simple to pick up. Notes come in the form of enemies that advance to you. All you have to do is hit X, Square, Circle, or Triangle when they get close to the corresponding symbols. Sometimes they come fast, sometimes there’s multiple enemies at once, and sometimes you need to hold down the button to hit chained enemies. It’s not exactly a complex game, but that’s okay. KickBeat is simple to learn, but wastes no time in becoming difficult to master. You have to be able to keep track of the various enemies as they advance around you while having the reflexes to hit the notes on time. Some enemies carry items and you can double tap a note to pick up the item. Most of the time it’ll just be points, but sometimes you can pick up note-clearing shock waves or protective shields.
There’s a couple of boss fights in the game which do make a few changes to the game play. An early boss has you building up karma by hitting notes so you can unleash it to damage him. Another has you dodging missiles shot from a helicopter while the camera swings around to mess with your perspective. None of it is crazy, but it’s nice to have a little chang up here and there. After you beat the story you’ll be able to go again on harder difficulties. You can also unlock free play so you can play the songs that you enjoy the most. If you don’t care for the songs in the game then you can put your own songs in the game as well. You simply need to add them to the game and make the beat for them by tapping a button along with the music. It works well enough and helps add more life to the game, but it’s really time consuming so you have to be ready for that.
Since this is a rhythm game the soundtrack is worth talking about. The game comes with 18 songs which isn’t a lot, but for a $10 game isn’t so bad. There’s a few big name bands mixed in there like Rob Zombie, Papa Roach, and Marylin Mansion. Outside of that you have smaller bands like Celldweller, Pendulum, and Blue Stahli. Rounding it out is a few bands I’ve never heard of like Voicians, Shen Yi, Southpaw Swagger, and Styles of the Beyond. A lot of the music contains industrial, electronic, and rock tones. So if that’s what you prefer then this is a pretty good tracklist for you. Outside of Shen Yi’s War Dance (A completely out of place Taiwanese rap song) I found KickBeat’s soundtrack to be pretty great. I even ended up adding a few songs from the list to my iPod.
Overall, KickBeat is a pretty good entry into the rhythem game genre. It doesn’t light the world on fire with unique ideas the way Guitar Hero did back in 2005, but it’s a good addition to any music fan’s collection.