Joining the ranks of rhythm games is KickBeat, the latest game from Zen Studios, famously known for their pinball titles. However, the game’s martial art twist combined with traditional rhythm gameplay brings an interesting mix to the genre. Imagine an old martial arts movie where the hero fights an encircling group of enemies. Now imagine that paired up with music and button cues.
Players follow the stories of Lee and Mei as they travel around the world to reclaim the Sphere of Music from the villainous Mr. Halisi who wants to use the Sphere to control the world. The plot unfolds through animated cutscenes with each character telling the story from their perspective. Unfortunately, it’s not a story that is likely to keep players on the edge of their seat, even with a Justin Bieber joke to lighten the mood. Despite its story, players might find the gameplay to be really unique.
With music from Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, and others, Lee and Mei time their kicks and punches to the beat of each song. Throughout each level, they fight three types of enemies, each with their own different color and rhythm pattern. A combination of two or all three enemies is in each song, and players must hit the corresponding button at the right time in order to score the most points. Indicators at the hero’s feet determine whether or not they accomplish this task. At first it’s a bit of a challenge to be on par with the beats since it seems that the game detects even a half-second before or after the beat drops, but multiple attempts can easily change that. The combat scheme is laid out in correspondence with the button locations, so the Triangle button is used to hit the enemy at the top while the Square button hits them on the left. Seeing the button makes the game really easy, so be sure to crank the difficulty to Hard to really challenge yourself.
Power-ups come in the form of point multipliers, health boosts and a wave that instantly kills enemies closest to the player. These can be obtained by double tapping the correct button on the enemy when they’re struck, and activated with either the L1 or R1 buttons. More often than not, I found myself obsessed in collecting these power-ups, but I didn’t pay attention to following attacks, which ended up costing me a large amount of life that could have otherwise been prevented. It’s a constant distraction that can really hurt a player’s streak if they’re not careful, and it could have been placed better in combat.
Aside from the story, players can also add their own music to the game. After a simple process to determine the beats per minute and where the song’s important beats are, Lee and Mei can fight to our favorite tunes that we’ve loaded up onto the device. Sometimes there are songs that don’t match up well due to the game’s limit on the maximum beats per minute, but it does work for most. There are also additional difficulties and game modes to unlock, but that requires another run through the story with the same songs every time. That’s fine if you really like every song, but the whole process in general is tedious.
On Vita, the game performs mush the same. The only difference is that players can use the touchscreen to activate the power-ups, however I didn’t use it that much since the L and R are buttons are more convenient to use, especially when a chain of enemies are about to attack.
For me, KickBeat provides the cool fighting scenes I love in martial arts films and the rhythm game combination is fairly unique, and allowing players to place their favorite songs in the game adds some level of personalization. Unfortunately, making us play through the campaign again and again to unlock additional modes and difficulties with the same songs becomes somewhat annoying. Even after all the work put into unlocking the additional modes, I didn’t feel like playing it anymore. KickBeat is an interesting concept, but the extremely repetitive nature of the game wears thin quickly, harming the desire to pick it up more than once ore twice.
This game was reviewed on PS3 and Vita with code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.