KickBeat (PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Release: Spring 2013
If you've played any rhythm game of the past decade, you'll get KickBeat at its most basic level. Rather than hitting a string of notes or arrows though, you're hitting waves of oncoming enemies as they step on pads corresponding to the Vita's face buttons. In a traditional rhythm game, you lose after spending an ambiguous amount of time failing.
KickBeat records your staying power like a fighting game instead, represented by an onscreen health bar. If you fail to hit a note, that translates into taking a hit from your attacker, which deals damage based on difficulty. Successfully hit notes, and you string together combos which, other than looking pretty cool, act as score multipliers.
Enemies are quick to switch things up, though. You will start to encounter new enemy types, and while the method to beating them is ultimately the same, there is a nice risk reward system built into it. For example, yellow enemies go down the same as others, but if you hold down the face button you used to knock him out until you take out another yellow, you are rewarded with bonus points. A viable strategy on perhaps the normal setting, but leaving yourself a thumb short on harder tracks may not be the wisest of moves.
Eventually enemies will also start attacking in unison, requiring you to hit two face buttons at once. The d-pad is usable as an input as well, making defending against front and back attacks at once a lot easier. Ever try hitting triangle and X on a Vita? It's not the easiest.
While KickBeat offers a modest 18 tracks, the game does offer an analyzer, allowing you to import your own music. While this feature was not part of our demo, fingers crossed that it will work as promised, because the available music isn't exactly a who's who of music. While its great to see lesser known artist get a shot at promotion through music game, I can't exactly see Shen Yi setting your ears ablaze with awesome.
Perhaps another gripe would be the axed multiplayer mode, but for $10, its not an easy gripe to hold onto. If we're being honest, the Vita just needs some games right now, and KickBeat isn't a bad way to go.
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