KickBeat Steam Edition
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

I have played many Rhythm action games over the years and KickBeat is definitely one that is as entertaining to watch as it is to play. Defeating opponents to the beat of the music is exhilarating stuff and it is made even better by the smooth animations. If you tire of the included music you can also import your own giving this game a lot of replay value.

Gameplay: A unique take on the Rhythm action genre.

Graphics: The visuals have been enhanced for the Steam release and look better than ever.

Sound: Six new tracks boost the complete list to a total of 24 tunes

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KickBeat Steam Edition

Developer: Zen Studios | Publisher: Zen Studios | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Action / Indie / Rhythm | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

The Order of the Melodic fist is a group of monks that has been tasked with protecting the Sphere of Music. As the sphere contains every song on Earth, past, present and future, it is rather sacred to the monks and they have been safeguarding it for centuries. When the sphere is stolen by Mr. Halisi, a sleazy corporate type who plans on using it for no good, a monk named Lee sets off in pursuit.

The lighthearted story which spoofs the whole “Chosen One” trope in martial arts movies is played out via gorgeous hand drawn cut-scenes that introduces each new area. Before jumping into the story mode, however, it is advisable to check out the training mode, which will teach you the basics of being a rhythm fighter.

Zen Studios have been delivering some of the best digital pinball tables around so I was interested to see what they would do with the rhythm game genre. Many of their pinball tables feature digital avatars that duke it out while you chase high scores so it’s not exactly surprising that they would try their hands at something involving martial arts. Anyone that has watched a martial arts movie should be familiar with scenes where the protagonist is surrounded by a mob of enemies and proceed to dispatch them using a flurry of kicks and punches while the soundtrack kicks into high gear. KickBeat is basically the gaming equivalent of these highly choreographed fight scenes.

Each level is set in a circular arena, shaped like a dartboard with the hero smack dab in the middle. Enemies mill around in a counter clockwise motion before moving in to attack. These attacks occur to the beat of the music and you have to press the correct buttons to counter attack. Enemies only attack when they step on one of four spots that match one of the cardinal directions. These spots are mapped to your attack buttons which you must press as soon as a foe sets foot in the designated area. Think of it as Guitar Hero or Dance Dance revolution, but with ninjas, wrestlers and bouncers instead of notes and arrows.

Enemies are color coded so you can identify which ones attack on notes, half notes or in groups. Below your feet is a yin-yang symbol which represents your current health and chi.

Fail to counter attack and you will take hits, which deplete your health. If your health runs out before the song is over you fail and have to restart. The chi bar slowly fills up during battle and when full can be activated to double your score multiplier. Some enemies also carry power-ups which can include shields and health, but to snag these you have to double-tap the appropriate attack button instead of the usual single press. Don’t even think about button mashing as your character becomes fatigued and will miss attacks. It takes some practice, but it all soon clicks into place and becomes very enjoyable. The game is  playable with a keyboard, but a good controller is recommended as on higher difficulties you might be required to press up to three buttons at the same time.

There are only six arenas, but you have to perform multiple songs in each area and take part in a boss battle. The boss battles play out the same as the normal levels, but usually involves filling up your chi bar to take down helicopters and other big baddies. Although originally a PS3 and Vita game the visuals have been spruced up for the Steam release and is looking better than ever. I like how the costumes your enemies wear change depending on the arena and the cinematic “finisher” move your character uses on the last enemy of each wave is also pretty impressive. The flow of the game is great and the smooth animation ensures that you never have to skip a beat while fighting.

The most important part of any rhythm game is obviously the soundtrack and I have to admit that I loved what is on offer with this game. The selection of tracks features the likes of Rob Zombie, Papa Roach and Marilyn Manson as well as Celldweller. It is admittedly not the most recent tracks, but as someone who has owned albums by almost all the artists featured I can’t complain. Depending on your musical tastes you might find the soundtrack a bit eclectic, but there is no doubt that the tunes fit the energetic fighting vibe of the game. New to the Steam release is six tracks by enV taken from the Electronic Super Joy soundtrack. Best of all though is the custom track support which lets you import your own songs into the game. After a quick setup to calculate the beats per minute you can jump straight in and fight to your own soundtrack. This mode is unlocked much faster than the PS3 and Vita versions, but you are still limited to only six minutes per track.

Apart from the training and career modes, there is also a survival mode available right from the start. As this is a Steam release you can expect the usual features such as leaderboards, Steam achievements, Steam cloud and trading cards. You can earn up to five stars per level and there are some new costumes to unlock which boosts replay value as well as a second playable character that continue the story albeit on the same levels. There is unfortunately no multiplayer mode so don’t expect to challenge your friends to showdowns.

Like all rhythm games, KickBeat does have an initial learning curve as you adapt to the playing style. There are four difficulty settings so you can kick things into high gear once you have mastered the basics. The ability to import your own tunes also gives the game some much needed longevity and it is one of those titles that you will find yourself returning to again and again. Best of all the game is priced very reasonably so there is no excuse not to jump in and bash some skulls.

*Review originally published January 2014.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8
  • Processor: Dual Core CPU @ 2 GHz
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: ]Geforce 8600 GT (GDDR2, 512MB) / Radeon HD 2600 Pro (512 MB) category, DirectX® 10 compatible video card
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX® compatible sound card
  • OS: Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8
  • Processor: Dual Core CPU @ 2.40 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Geforce 8600 GT (GDDR3, 512 MB) / Radeon HD 3670 (512 MB) category, DirectX® 10 compatible video card
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Hard Drive: 2 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX® compatible sound card

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