Zen Studios are typically known for their pinball games, so KickBeat is a bit of a departure for them, but within 10 minutes of playing you can already tell that it's a game that's really got something good going on. The PS Vita just feels perfect for this kind of game, and if you love music in video games then the rest of this review should tell you what's different about KickBeat.
If you have ever played Daxter on PSP, one of the mini-games had Daxter reliving a scene out of the Matrix. This had you defending against enemies by pressing the four face buttons at the right time and this simple formula gets expanded on greatly in KickBeat. The game features a very goofy story mode that doesn't take itself too seriously, but knows when it is overstaying its welcome in cutscenes.
KickBeat is clearly all about the gameplay and while the story mode is a nice feature, it is a bit odd that you need to complete it before opening up more interesting game modes. Although it should be said that the game is surprisingly difficult for a music/rhythm game and even on the lowest level of difficulty it will give you trouble first time around.
While all you need to do is hit the correct buttons in time with the music, KickBeat offers many new kinds of challenges as well as optional power ups that will increase your score and multiplier. Much like with Zen Pinball and Pinball FX 2, KickBeat is designed for those who love being at the top of the leaderboards. Challenging friends and seeing your rank is always apparent when you are in the menus.
Presentation is where KickBeat really surprises on many levels, but let's save the best for last. The game has fine looking character models, but the way the art style is played with in later levels of the game is a welcome surprise. Also your characters animations as they move from enemy to enemy is as smooth as butter. The way each attack moves into the next so naturally, it turns a fight into a choreographed dance video.
At first, the 18 licensed songs used in KickBeat may seem like a very small set of songs for a game that is all about music. As you play the story mode you then realize that these songs are just to get you through the story mode. After that you unlock a mode that lets you take any song off your systems memory and play with it in the game. All it takes is a quick and simple BPM test then you can start fighting off waves of enemies to the beat of any song you have.
This brings about limitless replay value as custom soundtracks help to make the experience different every time. Now instead of simply just listening to a playlist of songs, you can try beat high scores and enjoy the gameplay. The songs that seem to work the best are electronic, rap, rock, and anything that keeps a pretty consistent beat. This means that unfortunately, songs like Stairway to Heaven will not make for very fun fights.
Playing KickBeat with your own music is what really makes the game go from something surprises in a good way, but have a great deal of appeal, to something that has the potential to keep you coming back. The only issue is that that in itself isn't a unique selling point "“ there are lots of other games that do the same. Yes, as long as you have a love for music and like to play a game interacting with your music then KickBeat has plenty to offer in terms of replay value. However, it shouldn't need that to be successful in this genre.
It is also a shame that most of the unlockables only happen while playing story levels over again for a higher score. So unless you like Pendulum and Marilyn Manson, then KickBeat may not be worth the trial of beating its story mode.
KickBeat is surprisingly title to add to your PS3/PS Vita library. Music lovers will be hard pressed to find a rhythm game that matches the style of gameplay, but there are question marks relating to its base content. KickBeat ends up being one of those games that you can easily find yourself losing an afternoon playing, but only if you have your own range of music that suits it.
|Use of Music.|
|Playing Your Own Music.|
|Need to beat story for more modes.|
|Only 18 songs in the game.|