by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Turn down that racket
The mood, or vibe of the game, for lack of a better term, is one of KickBeat’s high points. Both in story and visual style the game seems like the love child of Tron and your favorite Kung-Fu movie. Players control Lee, who is a talented member of a somewhat mysterious dojo that protects a magical orb containing every piece of music that ever has been or will be written. Of course, an evil organization wants to steal it for profit, and fighting for it will pit Lee against ninjas, futuristic soldiers, professional wrestlers, and more in brightly lit techno-fueled arenas. If it sounds ridiculous and over the top it’s because it is, but the game goes all in and embraces the insanity enough that the settings and story were charming in their own way instead of annoying ( at least most of the time). It’s also worth noting that the game’s cut scenes, which are composed of 2D visual stills, are really quite pretty looking despite not always matching the in-game tone.
Unfortunately for KickBeat, the game suffers from a largely lackluster soundtrack, which is a pretty big deal for a music rhythm game in which you’ll be listening to the soundtrack very intently 99.5% of the time. There are around 30 tracks including some songs by recognizable names such as Marilyn Manson and enV, but many of the other songs just sound like the same fast-paced techno or rock/rap. After listening to many of these tracks over and over again (I got a little cocky and played on a harder difficulty than I probably should have and lost...a lot...) I just wanted to turn the game’s volume off, which I obviously couldn’t if I wanted to succeed. I realize that music taste is subjective, and I’m sure there are probably a few people out there who will really love every single track, but a little more variety would have gone a long way. Thankfully this is partially balanced out by the ability to upload your own music to play with. I say partially because 1) while it’s not too big of a hassle, the game doesn’t automatically recognize tempo like, say Audiosurf, forcing you to do some manual tempo-setting, 2) The game mode isn’t available right off the bat, only unlocking after other modes have been progressed in, and 3) even after you’ve put your songs in, they just don’t quite fit as well as the stock songs in the game (which actually match up with the gameplay really really well).
KickBeat isn’t a bad game. KickBeat also isn’t a great game. It’s just okay. I generally enjoyed the time I spent with it to write this review, but I also don’t see myself going back to it more than a handful of times in the future. True, it’s a budget-priced title that does not have the funding other rhythm games like Guitar Hero or DDR have to get access to mountains of popular songs. Yet KickBeat just seems like a small taste of something that could have been bigger, better, and deeper if it had more time, money, or just plain innovation to push it past its basic premise. If you’ve got a dying itch to play a rhythm game there’s enough here to scratch your it, but most gamers will find an averagely competent experience, no more and no less.
Reliable core mechanics that work well. Enjoyably over-the-top 'tone'.
Soundtrack leaves something to be desired. “Combat” is disappointingly shallow.