Review: KickBeat: Special Edition (PS4)

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Title: KickBeat: Special Edition
Format: PlayStation Network Download (867 MB)
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
Kick Beat: Special Edition is available for Wii U and Xbox One. It is NOT a Cross-Buy title.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Editor’s Note:
The original review that was posted listed this as a Cross-Buy title with a Vita version. That information was incorrect and the review has been updated to reflect that.

Portions of this review also appear in our PS3 coverage of KickBeat.

Gameplay:
There’s a sphere containing all the music ever written. Or at least eighteen 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. But unlike the PS3 and PS Vita versions, you cannot add your own tracks to the game.

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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 available for couch co-op but 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. 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 final Boss fight is very unusual compared to the seventeen levels preceding it and it’s partly because of the visuals.

Visuals:
The game looks great on PS4. 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 Eighteen. 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.

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This special edition has something the other versions don’t, namely 3D support with adjustable depth. This reviewer couldn’t take advantage of the 3D. I have an idea that it’s pretty groovy. There is also an adjustment gamers can use if the timing feels off between the audio and the video for their particular system set-up.

Audio:
Voice acting is adequately professional. The music sounds good. The effects are fine. The opening Zen Studios theme music was way too loud on PS3. Far too loud. It was so loud that adjustments had to be made before and after it to keep pets off the curtains and neighbors from calling a SWAT team. They have fixed that for PS4.

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Online/Multiplayer:
The game has score chase. There is couch-versus split-screen for PS4.

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

Kick Beat: Special Edition contains a blessing disguised as a curse. Players cannot add their own music tracks. This fact is not the fault of the game but rather the PS4 which does not allow for any music playback apart from Sony’s Music Unlimited app. This omission with its little disappointments actually makes the game better. Fewer distractions with the whole world of music available from gamers own collections means a more distilled product.

The game fits into the same milieu as Peggle when it comes to bite-sized gaming experiences.

Perhaps it’s due to the improved visuals, perhaps it’s due to the PS4 edition being streamlined and therefore not trying to do anything it doesn’t do perfectly. Whatever the case, this Special Edition is better than its predecessors.

Now if only Zen, the kings of DLC, would add content in the future.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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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  • Makai Ookami

    This is the kinda game where you like it more, as you suck less at it. It really takes some reprogramming to get good at the game. Makes me wish they would make new Gitarooman like experiences, because at a base level these are spiritual cousins.

    Also, Keith. I don’t know if you’re still mad at me, or what I did that made you mad (probably had to do with my argumentative nature on one of your posts on Facebook), but I am sorry I made you upset enough to want to block me. Message me on PSN if you ever have a change of heart.