Mixing rhythmic button presses with the action of a shoot’em-up might sound a little strange but Double Kick Heroes sets the dial to 11 with their post-apocalyptic setting. This is a fast paced, challenging game that has a killer soundtrack to boot.
You know that scene in the latest Mad Max movie where psycho people are standing on the top of a moving vehicle while playing music with flaming guitars? Double Kick Heroes is essentially that but swap in undead zombies and creatures of the night. Driving down a highway at full speed while a heavy metal band plays music, the goal is to outrun all the zombies chasing you, destroying them with shotgun blasts that are directly tied into the music being played. In music games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, the player increases score by playing well. Here, the player stays alive by playing well. Miss too many notes and the band will succumb to the undead in the most gruesome way.
For a game based solely around heavy metal music, the soundtrack is outstanding. Even if you are not a fan of heavy rock or metal, it is difficult to argue with the selection and quality of tunes available. Some tracks are even licensed by real life bands but each track is composed of wickedly heavy riffs. It is awesome.
Unfortunately, the gameplay isn’t as substantial as the soundtrack. The bottom fourth of the screen is where the majority of gameplay takes place. This is the timeline, or note highway if you will, in which the player must tap a button when the note crosses the line – simple enough. The rest of the screen displays the action: gorgeous pixel art of your car racing away from throngs of enemies. The problem is the player will never be able to enjoy the shooter action since the note highway requires 100% focus. Making matters worse, the car that shoots the bullets in the top portion of the screen can move up or down, attacking baddies in either position. Using only peripheral vision, it can be difficult to distinguish a low or high attack. This only gets compounded on the higher difficulties when new lanes become unlocked, comparable to each track using those additional buttons on the Guitar Hero guitar controller. Since each tune is heavy metal, notes can fly at the player with intense speed, button mashing as fast as possible with an attempt to keep pace. It is very difficult to keep the beat let alone shoot in different directions at the same time without looking.
It is also a shame because the 2D pixel art is highly stylized, features some cool parallax scrolling, and is well animated but the player will never have the chance to enjoy it. Also, Arcade and the Story modes are the same thing only the player doesn’t get any story bits when jumping between stages in Arcade. The Fury Road features time sensitive challenges and an endless feature so there is some replayability on top of earning high ranks on each tune. It is also weird that zombies and all these undead creatures can not only keep pace with a car driving full speed down an abandoned highway, they have enough speed and energy to attack the player. This means these undead creatures are running around 80mph for a large distance. These are more like L4D zombies on crack as opposed to Resident Evil slow moving zombies.
The powerfully awesome soundtrack isn’t enough to save this mediocre rhythmic experience. Pressing a button in line with each track isn’t bad but quickly becomes disappointing when the player can’t enjoy the action of the game since the focus is on the tiny timeline at the bottom of the screen. There are a lot of tracks here and even more difficulty options but this music game misses a few notes along the way.
Also available on Switch and PC.
Also Try: the Johnny race in Chrono Trigger
Not As Cool As: playing with a full band in Rock Band
Don’t Forget About: Rock Band on PSP