LOS ANGELES — KickBeat is a new title from the pinball masters over at Zen Studios and offers players a few things most rhythm games don’t. It tells the lighthearted story of an unlikely hero that fights to restore music to the world and to win the heart of the girl he loves. It also involves using your martial arts skills to knock out mobs of enemies that come at you from all sides. I did say this was a rhythm game, right?
Like most games in the genre, KickBeat involves pressing buttons in sync with the music to gain a high score, but it’s a lot more than just that too. Each level puts your hero Lee at the center of the stage fending off enemies that approach him from four directions. The enemies will attack Lee on beat with the music, so you’ll need to press the corresponding direction on the D-pad (or face button) to hit them before they attack you. The starting levels highlight which enemy will be attacking you next so you can get ready to press that button, but the more difficult stages remove this indicator and require you keep your eyes on your surroundings. Not only do the later levels get more difficult, but they will also require you to hit multiple enemies at once.
Because the game includes a protagonist and actual characters, getting hit actually hurts you and decreases your health bar. Some enemies also carry health packs and power-ups that can protect Lee and increase his skills. After he builds up enough energy during combat, Lee can enter chi mode, which actually increases how many points you get with each successful hit. As you can see, while KickBeat is a basic rhythm game, these features elevate it to another level.
The game’s soundtrack includes artists like Pendulum, Marilyn Manson, and various others, but what really got me interested in the music is that you’ll be able to import your own songs and play along to them. KickBeat will feature a music analyzer that will create levels based on your song’s beats-per-minute and other specs. I was also told that if your friend also owns the same song you do, you’ll be able to share your creations. The game will offer offline and online multiplayer modes as well.
While the game is still in development, KickBeat looks like it’s shaping up to be a great Vita title. It uses simple controls, but the amount of depth that it comes with makes it more than just a game where you match beats to a song. Expect it to come out later this year!