Over the course of the past three years or so, Zen Studios has become perhaps my favorite independent development studio. The studio is of course widely known for that amazing pinball games across various platforms, but really anything they put out is at the very least good (I liked their Planet Minigolf before I ever even knew of Zen Pinball). Earlier this year, they put out Castle Storm for XBLA and Steam… and it looked like great fun and bummed me out because I don’t have a 360 and can’t use Steam on a Chromebook, so I don’t get to play that. Lucky for us PlayStation fans, Zen Studios is back with another PlayStation exclusive called Kick Beat.
Kick Beat is a $10 downloadable title for both PS3 and PS Vita (and because Zen Studios are so awesome, it’s also cross-buy). It’s a rhythm game like a Guitar Hero or Tap Tap Revenge; you know the kind of game where you press a button when its corresponding image on screen lights up set to the beat of music. Like always, it doesn’t seem challenging until you start playing it and realize that it isn’t easy and it’s damn addictive.
KickBeat is different in that you’re a martial artist having to fight off hundreds of enemies. These enemies can come at you one at time a time, two at time, and a ton one right after the other.
Just as important as keeping up with who will attack next is keeping up with the next several guys in formation because you have to be fast, especially when the enemies start coming in a hurry, One mistake and you’re the one getting hit, and if that comes during a fast sequence, it can be very hard to recover from.
If your health depletes before the song is up, you’re having to start over. Failure, while not fun, is driving force in continuing on. There were several times when I was just starting the game where I was messing up like crazy and dying (if you want to call it that) frequently. But I got better with each death, and then I failed and realized that I only had four seconds left in a song.
The next try resulted in my getting past that stage, and the next several, with many perfect sequences, before failing again.
The game features a story mode, complete with cut scenes, but honestly you’re not going to care about the story at all. The story only exist to try and provide a reason for why this guy (and eventually girl) is fighting hordes of enemies to the beat of music and why there are boss battles. The story doesn’t take itself seriously and the cutscenes aren’t overly long and don’t wear out their welcome. Even if you don’t care about the story, you’re going to have to play the story. Beating the story mode is how you open up the other game modes, including an additional story (which is played through the same tracks as the first story).
Zen amps up the fun by sprinkling in power ups, like score multipliers, shields, health, etc. Getting the extra score bonuses and using the power ups at the right time is perfect for those who care about being on top of online leaderboards or simply beating their own high score. Getting these power ups are kinda risky though because they require you to double tap whichever face button the enemy corresponds to so if you’re fast or have poor concentration you can get into some trouble trying to get them.
There are 18 tracks to playthrough in the story by artists such as Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, POD, Pendulum, Celldweller, and more. Sure, 18 tracks doesn’t seem like a lot for a music/rhythm game, but it is and it’s only for the story.
Once you complete the story, you open up a killer mode called “Beat Your Music.” Here, you can take songs that you have on your PS3 and import them into the game. Want to kick dudes in the face to the “Mean” by Taylor Swift? Go for it. Want to go classical with some “Ride of Valkyries?” YES, YES, YES… you can import that into the game.
The game’s built in music analyzer allows you to import your library and play to however many songs you want, so go crazy!
In addition, beating the story mode unlocks another story mode, various difficulties, outfits, videos, split screen play, and more. For $10, Kick Beat is helluva value that anyone who is even remotely a fan of rhythm/music games shouldn’t even hesitate to purchase.
Outside of the fun and addictive gameplay, the game itself also looks and plays very well and smoothly. The visuals look similar to Zen Pinball tables, which is to say it looks good and has a certain charm to it. The animations are also top notch and smooth, and when you’re pulling off perfect sequences you really have to be in awe of just how well everything is done with regards to animation and being synced to the music.
Do it right, and it looks awesome like a crazy perfectly choreographed dance or fight. It may not seem like much if you’re missing constantly or whatever, but when you play it right and have great timing, it’s quite impressive.
Kick Beat is available now on the PlayStation Network. As said earlier, the game is cross-buy so if you buy the PS3 version you also get the game for PS Vita and vice versa. I don’t have a Vita at the moment, so unfortunately I didn’t get to try the game on that handheld (although it seems the kind of game that would be perfect on Vita), but the PS3 version runs smooth and I never encountered any problems with it.
I’d recommend the game to everyone simply based on the fun and addictive gameplay, but if you’re a fan of the genre then there is a ton of replay value here for a pretty cheap $10 and it’s pretty much a no-brainer to get it.
Kick Beat gets a four out of five: GREAT.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.