KickBeat should have been released in the early noughties - it's a rhythm-action fighting game with a soundtrack that features Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, P.O.D., and Papa Roach.
In a pre-Guitar Hero world, where angsty nu-metal was king, KickBeat is a success, no doubt delighting young and old with beat-based beat downs to songs by men sporting goatees and trench coats.
While it remains a fairly entertaining offering today, KickBeat feels anachronous and doesn't quite fit into the music genre. Other than rhythm-action fanatics and Jacoby Shaddix, it's not clear just who this game is for.
The Beautiful People
You play as Lee, a happy-go-lucky sort of chap who happens to be a martial arts expert. You're sent on a mission to retrieve the Sphere, a glowing ball of energy representing every song that has ever existed and will ever exist.
It sounds like an original story, and the ending is refreshingly feminist, but it adds practically nothing to the actual gameplay. The humour is eye-rollingly obvious, and the voice acting falls flat. KickBeat also drops the ball at the height of its "music needs to be set free, man" arc by playing the censored version of Papa Roach's 'Last Resort'.
Each track you play is a level of sorts: you're plonked into an arena and surrounded by goons that you have to fight in time with the music. But the resulting experience is no more complicated than a Guitaroo Man or a Rock Band Unplugged.
Enemies approach from one side and then attack, and all you need to do is press the corresponding direction on the D-pad or face buttons. Some types of enemies attack in quick succession and are blue. Some attack in pairs and are red. Some simply attack you on their own and are yellow. It's conceptually very simple.
Yet this simplicity is belied by the game's visuals. The constantly jostling crowd in the background tests your ability to focus, and occasionally enemies will be thrown in front of the camera, obscuring your view of the action.
Everybody was kung-fu fighting
This is almost manageable until you hit the harder difficulties, at which point the helpful face button symbols that highlight the direction of your enemies vanish into thin air. This makes the game almost unplayably hard, and inaccessible to all but the most dedicated of warriors.
When you keep it on the standard difficulty, it's fairly entertaining, if repetitive. The global leaderboards and the five-star rating system for each level do help to encurage you to keep coming back for more.
The soundtrack has a few (more modern) artists than those I mentioned earlier, including Celldweller and Pendulum, but generally this is going to appeal to fans of industrial metal with an EDM edge.
You can use your own music in the game in an unlockable mode, but with the low capacity and high price of Vita memory cards I doubt too many people are keeping a vast library on their Sony handhelds to take advantage of this feature.
With a superfluous visual hook that over complicates the gameplay and a difficulty curve that spikes dramatically, KickBeat is probably a solid choice for die-hard rhythm-action fans. Everyone else should think twice.
This is a nice attempt at mixing things up in the genre, but it's let down by a couple of iffy design decisions and a limited soundtrack.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of KickBeat articles!