Zen Studios’ move into rhythm action sees the developer set its sights on an under-supported system, launching as a PlayStation Vita exclusive. Kickbeat sees the players given eighteen licensed tracks to punch, kick and combo their way through, taking down hordes of angry foes in the most stylish way a kung-fu expert possibly can.
The premise of Kickbeat is a somewhat sugar coated action hero adventure, but at its core Zen Studios has buried a devilishly difficult rhythm action title designed to push for that ‘one more go’ effect that makes the genre so compelling. As the chosen track plays enemies will gather around the player, approaching in sequence according to the beat and tempo of the song. Should the player land a blow with perfect timing their continued rhythm will much that of the accompanying track. It’s an awkward fit at first, with gamer instinct telling you to mash that face button (or direction on the D-Pad) as soon as the enemy comes in line with the destination of your foot, but there’s a split-second gap that aids in convincing the player that Kickbeat is more Gitaroo Man than Streets of Rage.
Kickbeat features a number of notable tracks from global artists as well as some more independently presented performers. The likes of Marilyn Manson, Pendulum and Papa Roach line-up next to Celldweler and an offbeat electronic producer who goes by the name of Voicians, making for a mix that could be considered nothing less than eclectic. On top of this Kickbeat will feature a music analyser component allowing players to import their own music into the videogame. Sadly Electronic Theatre was not able to witness this part of Kickbeat’s package, and so the quality of its output is not yet known.
The visual design of Kickbeat appears similar to that of Zen Studios’ other new intellectual property, CastleStorm. Family friendly cartoon exaggerations of real world stereotypes are what are called for, and Zen Studios delivers some unique and interesting interpretations of that. Protagonists Lee and Mei offer some unique character when facing-off against legions of identical enemies and the power-ups offered to the player in-game present some pleasing special effects, though it must be said that the environments for the action do seem a little bland at present.
Coming to PlayStation Vita later this year Kickbeat still has plenty of room to grow and paste over any potential cracks, but even in the build Electronic Theatre witnessed there’s enough to convince that Zen Studios will offer a compelling rhythm action experience. As with most of the developer’s output there’s more to Kickbeat than meets the eye, and when that’s your seal of quality is unlikely that your products won’t find an audience on a console digital distribution service.