One of my favorite Nintendo DS games was a little gem called Elite Beat Agents. It was a great premise, actually. You were an Elite Beat Agent, a secret agent that traveled the world helping those in need…by having rhythm. All you had to do was press the appropriate area on the screen at the appropriate time, dictated by the rhythm of the level’s song, and you would succeed. Simple, but stylistically and mechanically entertaining. KickBeat – Special Edition reminds me so very much of Elite Beat Agents, but with a controller instead of a touchscreen.
In Zen Studios’ KickBeat (you’ll excuse me, of course, if I refrain from referring to it as “KickBeat – Special Edition” for the duration of the review, as that can get a little long-winded, ignoring the fact that the number of times I would had to have referred to it as “KickBeat – Special Edition” would result in fewer total words than this little aside has [wow, I love using parentheses, but that one got away from me]), you play a member of a sacred order charged with protecting the source of music in the world. The source is in danger, and it’s up to you to defend it against its would-be destroyers. You do that with sweet dance moves that happen to result in bad dudes getting kicked in the face a LOT.
The musical variety of the game provides you with strong beats to play to, and the mechanics range from a simple press-press-press-press on the beat to half-presses, sustained presses, simultaneous presses, and more. Special markers appear over certain enemies, and if you hit them right, you can pick up a score multiplier, a defense power-up, an attack power-up, etc. That’s really all there is to the game. You stand in the middle of a circle, and baddies enter the circle a quarter of the circumference away from their eventual entry point to your central position. This helps set the expectation for rhythm and relevant button.
You’re able to import your own music, and define the beat, but it doesn’t really get to the same level of fluidity and function as the tracks included with the game. This is somewhat to be expected, as the included tracks were designed to work with the game, but it’s still disappointing. It works, but you might find yourself a little more frustrated with the game’s challenge level than you already will be.
As with games like Rock Band, much of the replay value is in improving your leaderboard score or track rating. The game isn’t particularly long, so you’re going to want to be the type who enjoys leaderboard/rating improvement if you’re going to enjoy the game for more than a little bit. That said, the controls are responsive, the visuals are fluid, and the music definitely has you, if not bouncing around, at least nodding along. As long as you look at it as a straight-up rhythm game, and not as a rhythm-fighting game (since you don’t actually control how you attack, just if your attack hits or not based on rhythm), and you’re a fan of a challenge, KickBeat – Special Edition (I know what I said, but I changed my mind) is fun for what it is: a light, quick rhythm game with a flashy style.
KickBeat – Special Edition is available on PS4, Xbox One, and Wii U.