Rhythm and music based games have come in many guises over the years. KickBeat from Zen Studios kind of takes its cues from a bit of a Gamestyle favourite.
The likes of Rock Band and Guitar Hero changed the genre, introducing the era of plastic instruments. They are fun, but there was a little game known as Space Channel 5 back in the days of the Dreamcast. We say little, but it was actually pretty well known. It used rhythm action as the main way to destroy enemies and complete levels and it is easy to see a bit of an influence in KickBeat from the SEGA classic.
If you have ever played a game like Rock Band then the premise is pretty much the game. You need to hit buttons in time with the music, but instead of having rows of notes flowing down the screen, you’ll be facing off against various enemies. The enemies themselves are coloured in such a way that they give a visual clue as to how they need to be attacked.
Yellow enemies are single notes, blue enemies need to be hit in quick succession and red enemies need to be hit at the same time. How they come at you is dependent on the song that is currently playing. Initially things will come across as incredibly difficult, even after the tutorials. However, after a fair amount of practice you soon adjust to how the game flows and will be taking on enemies like a pro.
The harder difficulties are very challenging, removing the button prompts that appear on the lower difficulty levels. These are for the most dedicated players though. Gamestyle will admit to not being the best when it comes to rhythm games and hardcore was a step too far for us, but it adds a nice extra level of difficulty for those that want it.
Much like Rock Band Blitz, there are various power ups that can be earned as you play, instead of single button presses, you can double tap a correct button and grab a bonus that floats above an enemy head, ranging from bonus points, multiplier increases, shields, etc. These will either help you get much higher scores, or keep your health intact.
Health plays a vital part of KickBeat, as it is also a beat-em-up mixed with a rhythm game, each time you mis-time an attack, you are left open to a counter by the enemy. Get hit too many times and you lose, but using the aforementioned power-ups, you can gain health or keep shielded.
There is a pretty decent range of music included with KickBeat, from artists such as Marilyn Manson and Pendulum. The included tracks work well with the main story mode, but you will want more, especially when you move out to the free-play mode. Luckily you can import your own music and play levels based entirely on that. We tried out some Jenny Lewis and also some Green Day and we did notice a distinct difference between the songs and how they played.
KickBeat isn’t a game that will stay with you for years, but the time you spend with it will be fun. It is a decent attempt at mixing up a genre that was getting tired. The ability to add your own music is a nice addition and adds a longevity to the game. It is more than worth your time and attention and another fine addition to the every growing Vita library.