Those that know me best know that I have no sense rhythm, and especially struggle with rhythm games, but the concept of Double Kick Heroes intrigued me so much that I just had to give it a go. You find yourself in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland, a group of metalheads driving across the USA while fighting zombies with the Power of Rock!
The concept sounds outlandishly weird, and combined with the buildable elements of the rhythm aspect of the game, creates a thoroughly bizarre storyline that pulls the player right into this wasteland. You travel across the world, trying to build a resistance whilst meeting an array of other metalhead survivors, defeating zombies with your music-powered gun car called the ‘Gundillac’.
Each level plays out like a rhythm action game, but with your band firing from the back of the the Gundillac as it cruises along. Not only do you have to keep rhythm to the symbols running along the bottom of the screen, but you also have to shift your aim. Enemies approach from a wide area, and will approach and destroy your car if you don’t pay them enough attention…. with bullets. This extra element, while making the game more difficult, also made the game far more interesting, as you have to track more than just rhythm bar.
Throughout each level, you can level up your guns by creating multipliers via streaks that let you deal more damage – a fairly common concept within rhythm games. Furthermore, as you progress throughout the storyline, you can build and unlock more weapons, creating a higher level of difficulty from the initial A or B rhythm options.
The storyline is complimented by the convoluted, almost wild art style that depicts the changing landscapes and array of obscure enemies you fight. From zombies to chickens, to bikers wearing dead shark heads, and when you get to Europe, sheep-riding Nazis. Every enemy is unique, bizarre and plays into the storyline in a different way – the chickens simply appeared because one of the band members was hungry. The pixelated style still displays emotion from the characters, all of which have their own distinct look.
The campaign is fairly short, but with five levels of difficulty and a number of trophies to collect, it is surprisingly easy to get lost in the music and spend hours replaying tracks and exploring the world map. As I said earlier, I’m no pro with rhythm games, but managed to be fairly successful with the first two difficulties; Rock and Hard Rock. The other three levels, Metal, Violence and Extreme will cater to those more adept to these games, as the challenge jumped exponentially through the three difficulties I tried.
A rhythm game would be nothing without a solid soundtrack and Double Kick Heroes absolutely delivers. Each song showcases a different genre of metal, and while I obviously preferred some tracks over others, there wasn’t anything I definitively hated. Listening to the soundtrack separately gave me a different level of enjoyment from playing the songs. I’m no metalhead, though I do listen to the genre from time to time and thoroughly enjoyed this album. Some of the songs have even found their way into my playlists.
There is also a mode to let you play through songs without the story, or even create your own tracks. As I struggle with rhythm games, you can imagine my talent in creating tracks as well – painfully lacking. While I muddled through to try and create a track, it certainly left a lot to be desired, though I can’t exactly blame Double Kick Heroes for that!
While I enjoyed the story, the gameplay, and the NPC’s, one thing I found that wasn’t to my taste was the dialogue. Every third of fourth word was some sort of swear word, and while I’m not exactly prudish when it comes to swearing, it felt unnatural to read. A few cusses now and then would’ve been okay, and metalheads living through the apocalypse are probably going to swear fairly often, but it just seemed a little forced and excessive through the game.
Despite the reliance on swearing, the storyline was highly amusing, and even broke the fourth wall on a few occasions. The implication of Korea triggering the wasteland, for example, could be considered a very real possibility is the current world. Even Snake, one of the band members, refers to himself as the “Token Asian”, commenting on the representation (or lack thereof) of various ethnicities throughout media.