Review: KickBeat (PS3/PSV)

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Title: KickBeat
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.1 GB PSN & PSV Cross-Buy)
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Original MSRP: $9.99 (PSN+PSV) *This is a Cross-Buy title
ESRB Rating: T
Kick Beat is available for PlayStation Network and PlayStation Vita. It is a Cross-Buy title. It is not Cross-Save.
The PlayStation Network and PlayStation Vita Download versions were used for this review.

Gameplay:
There’s a sphere containing all the music ever written. Or at least 18 songs written in the recent past. An evil man wants it. You play as an apprentice who helps his Master Fu, ya can’t make this stuff up, oh wait, you can; protect the sphere. The sphere is stolen, you get it back restoring all the world’s music and enabling you to add your own tracks to the game as long as they’re in MP3 format no longer than 6 minutes. The sphere scoffs at everything else. Until the patch comes out.

You enter various arenas of battle and fight yellow (quarter notes), blue (eighth notes) and red (whatever notes two at a time) enemies. They circle you and attack from each point of the compass. In Normal mode there is an indicator which glows at the moment you should hit the corresponding button. Perfectly timed strikes are worth more points than slightly early or late strikes. Miss and take damage of your own.

In Hard mode, these glowing indicators disappear and you’re on your own to strike at the right time. It’s the perfect mode for an obsessive to play. They will never leave the house again. Master mode is who-am-I-kidding-I-will-never-know.

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Along the way a few other play modes open. Split-screen is PS3 only and as I am currently friendless apart from my cats, I have not played it. Trust me, it will not affect the outcome of this review. The PS Vita version has world-wide leaderboards for a score chase. There is a Free Play mode in which the player can manipulate the songs they have beaten into playlists as well as character choices, difficulty and environment. The first time I played Marilyn Manson in Free Play it “encountered difficulties” and my Vita sent a report to the Sony Gaming Gods. The most interesting thing about that is that I switched to the PS Vita because the final boss had hard-frozen my PS3. Since then I have not had another issue, however.

The final Boss fight is very unusual compared to the 17 levels preceding it. I played it at least 30 times on PS3 before I finally beat it on the Vita. After beating the Vita version it only took two more tries to beat the PS3 version. At last I could play the music I had on my PS3 and my PS Vita as levels in a game other than Beat Hazard Ultra! Now do not be misled. I love Beat Hazard Ultra. It’s a really fun twin stick shooter that is reminiscent of Asteroids which uses your music to create levels in addition to the music composed just for the game. I really enjoy Beat Hazard Ultra! (Beathazardultradoesnotcausecancerinlabratspidgeonsormiceandhas-pleasantsideeffectssuchastoetappingandharmoniouswindpassingdo-notusebeathazardultrawhilebathingsmallanimalschildrenorwashingtomatoes.)

Wait. No I couldn’t. Not until I re-ripped the CD’s I wanted to use onto the PS3 as MP3’s instead of the superior encoding I had chosen before. Also PS Vita. So I did that. Then there’s the simple matter of tapping the triangle on the beat so the game knows what the BPM is but most irritatingly it attributes my button pushing as GOSPEL and uses the very touch of my very shaky carpal tunnel tapping as the enemy attacks. So now I have to repeat my slightly off beat tapping in battle or not get any “Perfects”. Sheesh. As it turned out, I was not too badly off most of the time. It was fun playing the game to An Tiomanai (The Driver) by Irish band Kila and Dirty Creature on the Time and Tide album from Split Enz. And yes, of course, Shirley Bassey. DON’T JUDGE ME!

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Visuals:
The game looks good. The cut scenes are effective and artistic. Occasionally an enemy’s body will be thrown and briefly block the view of the next enemy but it doesn’t break the game. The worst thing about the visuals is the final Boss battle, Level 18. Some cues are purposely blocked by animations and the strikes are cued from more esoteric elements of the music, often syncopated. It’s hard in ways no other levels are hard and it feels like a cheat.

Audio:
Voice acting is adequately professional. The music sounds good. The effects are fine. The opening Zen Studios theme music is way too loud. Far too loud. It is so loud that adjustments have to be made before and after it to keep pets off the curtains and neighbors from calling a SWAT team.

Online/Multiplayer:
The game has score chase for both consoles. There is couch-versus split-screen for PS3.

Conclusion:
With 18 songs and without counting cut-scenes the entire game is approximately 2 hours and 24 minutes long if you play it through twice for the story of the second character. The songs and enemy patterns are identical both times.

If Kick Beat could take MP3s and discern the Beats Per Minute, which is not a difficult hurdle, and create precise levels as custom add-ons the game would have more value. The fact that the player has to do all that work and then make adjustments is damning. Few people have the impetus to go to all that trouble. It’s easier to play another game they don’t have to baby.
The game only really has value as filler. KickBeat fits into the same milieu as Peggle when it comes to bite-sized gaming experiences. Unfortunately for KickBeat, Peggle has a lot more depth.

Score:
6.5

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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  • Neil Sorens

    Hey there, Neil from Zen here. Just wanted to point out that no game ever (not Beat Hazard, Audiosurf, Rhythm Zone, Dance Factory, etc.) has accurate beat detection. Even the best professional software designed exactly for that purpose is only accurate maybe 65% of the time. We felt that this was unacceptable for a precision beat-matching game and thus put it in the hands of users. In fact, this is the first beat-matching game in the history of beat-matching games where (if the tool is used correctly, or settings are shared), music import actually matches the beat without manual creation of the whole track.

    You can use the beat calculator tool, or you can ask for help here: https://forum.zenstudios.com/showthread.php?5967-Beat-Your-Music-music-import-assistance, where 100% of requests have been fulfilled (this is why we put up so many loading tips telling people to visit the forums). You can also ask friends who are better at using the included tool and then simply enter their beat numbers manually. It’s designed to be as crowd-sourceable as possible without violating any copyrights.

    • Keith Dunn

      THANKS sincerely and with no sarcasm for the clarification!

  • ChazzH69

    This is sitting on my Vita, whilst I complete GTA V and any reviews, then I’ll dive in!

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