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KickBeat

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Fighting/ Rhythm


Graphics & Sound:

Over the years, I have played a lot of rhythm games. I got started reviewing just to play the rhythm stuff, so that is my forte. Some of them have been excellent, some have been horrible, and the majority fell somewhere in between. KickBeat is a new rhythm game that decided to change things up just a bit. Instead of just dancing, your character is fighting to the rhythm, which works out rather beautifully.

The graphics in KickBeat are rather simplistic, but when you are playing rhythm, you donít want graphics that are too flashy because it is distracting. Since the game is based on a martial arts concept, the overall look has an Asian feeling to it. The enemies are a bit generic, but once again, that is what I wanted to see. The only thing that matters is that the enemies are different colors, so that you can tell which type of enemy it is to help you figure out when they are going to attack.

For a rhythm game, the songs are one of the most important elements. There are 18 songs that are built into the game. They are mostly rock and some electronic. All have a solid beat that is easy to follow, which is crucial for the game. Some of the bands include Southpaw Swagger, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and Papa Roach. Of course, if that isnít enough music for you, you can choose the Beat Your Music option and play whatever songs you want!


Gameplay:

When you first boot up the game, the only options you have are Training and Story Mode. Training only take 6-8 minutes total, so I recommend you go through it to know how to play, other than what I have told you. If you fail a lesson three times in Training, it will let you go on to the next one without perfecting it. After Training, you will start Leeís story in Story Mode. There is a second character, Mei, but you will have to beat Leeís story on at least the lowest difficulty to unlock Meiís. While Mei and Lee do have different stories, they will play in the same area.

In the story, the Sphere of Music has been guarded by monks for centuries. It contains all the music that ever has or ever will be created. Mr. Halisi steals all but 18 songs from the sphere, so that he has a monopoly on all the music on the Earth. Lee has to go around the world finding the music and Mr. Halisi. Meiís story picks up where Leeís stops. As you play through, you will unlock other things to do with the songs that you have completed.

I think my favorite thing about Kickbeat is the Beat Your Music option from the Main Menu. After you have beaten Leeís Story, you will unlock the ability to Beat Your Music. In here, you can use any song that you have saved on your PSVita to play. Itíll take you a bit under a minute to help set the beat and after that, the game will create a suitable enemy pattern. You can edit the variance in enemies if you want it easier or harder. Once you save the track and go to play it, you can choose to play your music on any difficulty level that you have unlocked. The first track that I decided to test on was Kobra and the Lotusís "50 Shades of Evil." It is a very fast song with a strong beat (if you havenít heard them, go check them out now!). The strong beat made it work perfectly with the game, so I decided to try something slower. After that I decided to try a classic, Gloria Gaynorís "I Will Survive." I didnít think it worked quite as well, but was still quite playable. Then I decided to try some classic country, David Allen Coeís "Jack Daniels, If You Please." I didnít expect it to work very well because the beat is so slow, but shockingly it worked out rather well. My favorite though was when I added Sir Mix-A-Lotís "Babyís Got Back" because who doesnít love that song. It was definitely fun to play. As you can see, I tested a really wide variety of music and so far, everything worked well and was a lot of fun to play. They have done an amazing job with the Beat Your Music, better than any other rhythm game that would let you import your own music Iíve played.


Difficulty:

KickBeat provides four difficulty levels: Normal, Hard, Expert, and Master. Normal and Hard are the only options you have to start with. You will have to clear all of Hard to unlock Expert and then clear all of Expert to unlock Master. When you play on Normal, youíll have the symbols that you are supposed to press on the screen under the enemies to help you with the timing. Once you go up to Hard, those symbols disappear. It took me a couple of tries to get used to them being gone, but once I did, I found it made the timing easier because I listened to the beat rather than waiting on the symbol to appear on the screen. On all the levels up to Master, the enemy patterns are the same so you can memorize them if you play enough. On Master, the direction of the enemy patterns are randomized, just to make things a bit more difficult!

There are different types of enemies. You can tell what type they are by their color. This will help you figure out when they are going to attack. The red ones, for example, attack together so youíll have to press two buttons at the same time to defeat them. You will also see some that are connected by yellow energy. With these you will have to press the correct button and hold it until the second one attacks. You let go of the button at the exact moment of their attack to defend properly.

Certain enemies will have power-ups that you can collect. To steal their power-up, you will have to double tap the correct button. There are quite a few power-ups. There is one that will restore your health, one that will increase your chi, one that increases your multiplier, one that will send out a shockwave to destroy enemies (press (R) to use it after collection), and one that will shield you (press (R) to use as well).


Game Mechanics:

The controls handle very much like Dance Dance Revolution controls. You will see enemies attacking you from 4 different directions. The buttons correspond to the direction they are attacking from, (Triangle) is North, (Square) is West, (O) is East, and (X) is South. You can also use the D-pad to hit the directions as well, which is very important because quite often, you will have to defend against two enemies attacking at once. You donít need to worry about where your character is actually standing. The game takes care of that. The only thing you need to do is press the correct direction in time to the music. You can also use the touchscreen rather than the buttons to play, but I found that method to be much more difficult.

The Yin-Yang symbol under your character shows your life meter and your chi, or energy, meter. The bottom of the symbol is your life and the top is the chi. If an enemy attacks you and you fail at defending, your life will decrease. You need to collect a health power-up to restore life. Your chi will increase when you pick up chi power-ups. You can use chi to double your score multiplier. Simply press (L) to use your chi. If you go to defend against an enemy and miss, your chi will decrease slightly.

I love KickBeat. Ever since the first song, I found it to be a lot of fun to play. When you buy it, you get access to both the PS3 and the PSVita version, which is handy. I tried it on both, but personally I prefer the PSVita version. While they are the same game, on a large screen TV I found that I had trouble keeping up with which enemies were attacking next because I couldnít see the whole screen easily. On the handheld version, I didnít run into that much. I do wish there were more built-in songs for the Story Mode, but since the Beat Your Music works so well, I have infinite replay value available. If youíre a fan of rhythm games, you must go pick up KickBeat today. It is hands down the best rhythm game Iíve played in years.


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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