Publisher: Zen Studios
Genre: Fighting, Rhythm
Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Review Copy provided by Zen Studios
It’s not often I’m given a fighting game that has a different pretense from “Okay, now mash a bunch of buttons randomly to beat up this guy.” I mean, that’s what most side scrolling fighting video games of my youth such as Double Dragons and Mortal Kombat taught me. Of course, I was never really any good at those games save for maybe the one overpowered character that everyone hated and refused to play because “SubZero is for noobs” or something like that. It meant I spent a lot of time at home playing fighting games against the AI/Computer because none of my friends would play with me. After all, no one likes the guy who learned how to annoyingly spam Raiden’s flying attack over and over again.
I came into the whole rhythm game craze a little late than most. I was still mastering Guitar Hero when GH2 came out. And then I mastered Guitar Hero 2 when Rockband came out. Etc. My friends and I played a lot of Rockband and all of it’s incarnations, including the Lego version, since my wife and I really wanted to play a bunch of Queen songs that Harmonix was intentionally trying to avoid having to pay for on their own budget. When Rockband 3 came out, we were so spoiled by the previous version that we hated the new Career mode and promptly decided that we were just going to play Freestyle for the rest of our attention span, which was sadly two weeks. I also tried DJ Hero 1 and 2, and although that should have tickled my fancy as I am a DJ in my spare time, I was largely unsatisfied. It is NOTHING like being a real DJ. So I hung up the whole “push buttons, strum/hit drum/make sound” rhythm game in late 2012 with no hope of every finding another game that would scratch that itch.
Now I’ll admit – Dave gave me this game as a test to see if I was any good at this reviewer thing. I had just finished a stint of playing games on hardcore mode over on IronManMode.com and dying a lot. I decided I would give this a go and see if I could be productive with game reviews. So Dave gave me Kickbeat and said, “Give this a go and see if it’s any good. Let us know how you feel about game play and fun. Use another review as a template, but try to be unique, honest and downright punctual.” Which I figured I could at least meet his first two requirements, but as usual, my writing is late. This game came out in September, and here it is, October 29th. Here is my review of Zen Studio’s Kickbeat.
After downloading the game and starting it, I’m introduced to a little animated opening about how Kung Fu and Music (yes, capitalized since it’s so important) are extremely important to the world at large. I won’t spoil it for you, though. Mostly because while the story is somewhat humorous, it’s also really ridiculous. You’re basically controlling a guy named Lee (or a girl named Mei) in the quest, and the hero goes through a bunch of crazy, weird episodes fighting ninjas, wrestlers, ninjas, bouncers, ninjas, soldiers and … ninjas. AKA Saturday morning cartoon plot. See where this is going? I was kind of getting up and going in the kitchen for a bottle of soda when the story elements were less than satisfying for me.
Unlike other games, this game is a mishmash of Dance Central and Mortal Kombat, minus the Kinect. You don’t scroll from side to side, you stand in the middle and the bad guys come to you. Which is convenient, in a way. Step right up and get your backside kicked. Free butt-kicking for all bad guys, all they have to do is rush the hero. The trick is to hit the button in the corresponding direction as the opponent enters within range in rhythm with the song that’s playing in the background. If the guy is attacking from the right, you press the circle button. If the guy is approaching from the left, you press the square button. And so on. The better timed your button taps, the better you score. Easy settings gives you a better time of it – you notice when the words turn white that it’s time to hit a button, for example. Of course, you also have a health bar that tells you when you’re doing a terrible job, and when it runs out, you lose. There’s a mishmash of other things that pop up – dudes with auras require you to hold down the button for a period; the required quick beat attack; and red indicators that tell you to hit two buttons at the same time. There’s also a Chi bar that reminded me of the Star Power in Guitar Hero. Throw in the random power up, and your smashing buttons in the hopes of not missing too many beats/attacks and getting your tush handed to you on a platter.
This game is fun. Graphically, it’s very bright and nice to look at. There’s some music, too. I found myself actually humming along to some of the songs. I say some because there’s a lot of songs in there that harken back to the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Not exactly my favorite period of time, and there were a lot of overplayed songs that I really wanted to stuff down the necks of people who consistently requested I play them while I DJ’ed. So there’s that. The music is good, but not awesome, as there’s a lot of nu-rock in there that gives me awful flashbacks. I found it hard for me to concentrate on some stages. It’s also hard to stay in beat when the song is not exactly what I’d call rhythm game material. There’s a P.O.D. track on there that makes me twitch uncontrollably.
The other issue is that after my first play-through, I wanted to just play Master mode. This is where the game threw me for a loop. See, if you want to unlock everything, you have to play the game again. And again. And again. First on Hard mode, then beat every Master mode. That seems rather convoluted to me. The story is slightly interesting the first time – why would I want to play it again? Some people like that kind of thing, but I’m the same guy who gave my friends and wife the guitar to unlock all the songs on Rockband 2 for me. I like freestyle/Master modes, but this is extreme, even for my wife. To reach Survival mode … that’s another entire replay. You have to beat it three or four times in a row to get to probably one of the more interesting modes of the game. I tolerated it for the sake of the review.
FINAL RATING: 7 (FUN WITH A DASH OF FRUSTRATION)
Nathan is a 40-ish year-old gamer, father and programmer. His hobbies are board games, video games and watching his son. He wrote for http://www.ironmanmode.com/ for the years of 2012 and 2013 to make money for Child's Play. He has been basically playing games since the 1980's in one form or another. His very first favorite video game was actually an arcade game called Dig Dug. He has played every generation of video game console (including the Magnavox Odyssey)