KickBeat: Special Edition Review – Xbox One

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There haven’t been many notable releases in the rhythm game genre recently, particularly since Activision saturated the market with copious Guitar Hero titles back in 2009 and 2010. KickBeat, which is now receiving a re-release as a Special Edition on Xbox One, seeks to reinvigorate gamers’ passion for rhythm games, although this time you don’t need a bunch of additional plastic peripherals, just your regular Xbox One controller.

The premise of KickBeat is that a multinational corporation has stolen a mystical item known as the Sphere, which is both the source and storage location of all music in the world. Playing as either Lee or Mei, two disciples from the monastery at which the Sphere was previously guarded, players are required to travel across the globe on the hunt for both the Sphere, and Mr. Halisi, the head of the evil Earth Entertainment.

In reality, the story is unimportant to KickBeat’s gameplay, which consists of pressing various face buttons in time with the music, which is represented on screen by either Lee or Mei fighting waves of different colored bad guys. Ranging from red to blue to yellow, the colors symbolize the particular power that each enemy possesses, with yellow being standard, red indicating that two enemies will attack at once, and blue enemies attacking one after the other. It takes a little while to get used to registering which enemy is which, and who in particular will be attacking next, but once you get the hang of it, KickBeat becomes a game that seems to operate on a level separate from your conscious mind.

With KickBeat being a rhythm game, one of the biggest questions surrounding it is whether or not the soundtrack is worth listening to, or enjoyable enough to play through multiple times. If you’re an angsty teenager, or particularly, if you were a teenager during the early 2000’s, you’ll feel right at home. If you’re not, or weren’t, then the fact that there isn’t much variety within KickBeat’s soundtrack will quickly become apparent. Comprising of a mix of Nu-Metal and EDM, the most recognizable names (for me at least) included Marilyn Manson, Pendulum, Papa Roach and Rob Zombie. There are other bands listed on the soundtrack as well, but most of them appear multiple times throughout the game’s 24 levels. For a game with a narrative that places emphasis on keeping music freely available and letting people choose their own tastes, it’s strange that KickBeat puts itself into such a corner when it comes to the musical genres on offer.

With the focus of KickBeat resting heavily on the audio output, it’s quite surprising that the visual output is nice and crisp, even is there isn’t much to look at. It’s usually quite easy to register which type of enemy is coming at you, and there are a number of different environments you’ll be finding yourself in, such as wrestling rings, skyscraper rooftops and dance clubs. The only issue that became readily and repeatedly apparent during the course of the game is that character models will frequently block the button prompts, meaning that you’re unable to quickly make out who will be attacking next. In a game that relies so heavily on keeping a steady rhythm, it’s difficult to be successful when you have to think of something else, even if it is as trivial as which button to press next.

Whilst KickBeat doesn’t reach the heights of the rhythm genre that games such as Rock Band 3 achieved, it’s a solid entry in a genre that hasn’t seen much love as of late. The tracklisting is certainly limited, and the gameplay is very one-note (sorry!), but it’s an enjoyable enough experience which, given the gap between this and the last releases of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, comes across as novel. With multiple difficulties, and rewards such as alternate costumes to unlock, as well as an all-too-rare split-screen option, KickBeat offers plenty of incentives for replaying it, even once the story is done. If you’re desperate for the blast of nostalgia that the soundtrack provides, or if you’ve been pining for a half-decent rhythm game, then you could do a lot worse that KickBeat.

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