LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!! GATHER ROUND!! I HAVE A TALE TO TELL!!! I ventured to a mystical land known as PAX East. While, I planned on going to spread my message of the end of the gaming industry, I was enthralled by all the developers and games available to try. I decided rather than rain on everyone’s parade, I would take part in the joy and fun… for now. With childlike glee, I skipped around from booth to booth trying new games and asking the developers if they were aware of the end of times. One of the booths that caught my eye was the booth with their gigantic poster depicting a rock band playing on top of a car. At first sight of the poster, the image of Rock Band’s commercial played through my head. Deep Purple’s Highway Star played as images of a band playing on top a car speeding across a barren road raced through my mind. Immediately longing for another fun rhythm game, I rushed to the booth, to learn about Double Kick Heroes. After giving the demo a test drive, I walked away, satisfied, with a game code and poster.
Immediately upon booting up the campaign for Double Kick Heroes, you feel the almost B-movie charm that make me think Shaun of the Dead meets This is Spinal Tap. The band, Double Kick Heroes, open up a show for what they thought was a normal crowd, but soon finds out it is a horde of zombies. They rush to their car that has machine guns attached to it, controlled by the drummer’s bass drum pedals. You then play a combination of a rhythm game and bullet hell to prevent zombies from racing up to you on a venture through a colorful pixel art Mad Max world that has listened to too much metal.
From the first crunch of the guitar, you can tell this is a game for fans of metal by fans of metal. The developers wrote all the music used for each level. As with all rhythm games, it lives and dies with its music, and I have found myself listening to the soundtrack as I walk to my daily heraldings. They say variety is the spice of life and this soundtrack is the spice rack for metal head’s. From German industrial metal to Japanese poppy metal, this soundtrack spans the wide spectrum of the metal genre. It is clear to me, fans of video games and metal worked on this game.
As someone who used to play the drums, I can tell they had some drummers on this development team. A lot of the notes line up perfectly, to give you the feeling of being Lars Ulrich at a Metallica concert. More times than I could count, I felt myself being flashed back to my high school days where I spend hours playing with my double bass pedal. A feeling I could never get with Rock Band’s single bass pedal. That being said, the gameplay is very satisfying when I turned the difficulty down to easy, which does lead to my first, whoa, on Double Kick Heroes.
I initially started the difficulty on medium. I fair myself a seasoned Rock Band veteran; I felt boiling it down to two buttons (left and right gun) would make things easier. It was a grave error. As I mentioned before, the game has a bit of bullet hell in it, in the sense you have to pay attention to which side of the car the zombies are coming and hit the guns for the appropriate side. An act that feels like trying to watch the crowd in rock band while playing, which if you tried, you know is easier said than performed. In later levels, you then have to steer the car to dodge incoming projectiles, making it more difficult to watch the notes being played. While, I was able to awkwardly stumble through steering levels, I truly met my match with the grenade mechanic.
In the second half of the campaign, they introduce a second note that charges up a grenade meter. Hit the note, increase the meter, get opportunities to throw a grenade when the meter is high enough. Some of you might be drawing comparisons to the Star Power mechanic for in Guitar Hero, but is not quite as simple. The grenade requires you to aim it, which has the same problem as the steering: you got look up from the notes. You can’t look away from the notes though, as you might miss grenade notes, which cause the grenade meter to drop. I have also been informed there is a similar third note and meter referred to as the sniper meter. I find unable to concentrate on both sides of the screen, causing me to frustratingly fail and repeat levels over and over again. Something you probably don’t want in your rhythm games.
So along with the game being only for metal fans, pixel art fans and fans of rhythm games, Double Kick Heroes, is dedicating itself to only players who have the twitch reflexes to watch the top and bottom halves of the screen. I fear this audience is almost too fringe to be sustainable, especially when this game has been cast out to the deep oceans of the Steam store front. Like a lost sailor, I fear Double Kick Heroes, will drift aimlessly lost in the monstrous ocean that is the Steam store library. Just like how the sailor doesn’t have many options for being found, I worry Double Kick Heroes hope of standing out with its unique style will not be enough. Which brings up an important question: why is this game not on console?
While I believe the PC indie market is too flooded at the moment, rumors of indie games finding home on consoles has reached even my tired ears. Stardew Valley has sold 1 million copies and Overcooked sold 500,000 copies on the Nintendo Switch leading to me to believe games with pixel art can success on consoles. All the hours of playing Rock Band in the living room has me sold on rhythm games coming alive on console, so it only makes sense Double Kick Heroes can find a home on consoles. It is most likely, this being a new development team, they do not have the funds to develop a console version. While it is not our job to fund every indie studio, I don’t find many games with much passion for metal. From the variety of music to the James Hetfield and Marilyn Manson inspired characters, I can’t help but look at Double Kick Heroes and smile. As I result, I can only be a lighthouse to the lost sailor known as Double Kick Heroes, and I will attempt to carry it to safe harbors of gamers who will enjoy this game.