I’m a bit of a metalhead so a rhythm shooter like Double Kick Heroes seems right up my street.
And sure enough, after blasting my way through the first few tracks, leaving the long and weary highways desecrated in blood, I found a semblance of satisfaction in as much as I found some frustration.
On the one hand, Double Kick Heroes is the kind of game I want to play. On the other, I kind of wish it would give me just a little bit more.
What does it get right?
Well, it manages to nail a tone that sits somewhere between Lucasarts’ Full Throttle and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, with gameplay that takes you back to the Rock Legends campaign of Guitar Hero 3. And that’s as fucking awesome as it sounds!
You take the Double Kick Heroes, a band of outcasts and rebels out ‘on tour’ with their heavy metal instruments and high impact weaponry in a slick red Cadillac. Each character has their unique narrative trait, with Lincoln being the leader type, also seen as a bit of a ‘nerd’.
Meanwhile, Snake is young and impressionable and eager to please and Derek is the ‘Michaelangelo’ of the group and always seemingly hungry. To round out the group, James is constantly singing to himself and coming up with new lyrics and Randie is … well, as her name suggests.
Once you’re in the game, you’re driving towards the far right hand side, fighting a horde of incomers from the left. These vary from different zombie types to alien like creatures and even deranged pets. Nothing is off limits.
As the story progresses, the group stumble across allies willing to help, such as rebellion leaders, old-school rockers, and prison ringleaders, and they will set the group small missions, which ultimately require them to shoot lots of zombies and come back unscathed.
Gameplay wise, Double Kick Heroes is relatively basic in that you have a top and bottom cannon. Bottom is fired by A and Top with B and the aim is to alternate between these guns in order to keep the attackers away from your car. To do this, you follow a Guitar Hero esque scrolling screen at the bottom and have to tap the buttons in time with the music.
If you keep up with ‘Perfects’ and ‘Greats’, you build up a combo and gradually unlock new weapons, like shotguns and cannons. Obviously, these pack a much bigger punch than the standard gun.
However, the game doesn’t really open up unless you play on the higher difficulties. It’s with these that Randie can turn into a Grenadier if you hit all the right notes and James can act as a sniper. Naturally, though, the screen moves a lot quicker, there’s a lot more enemies to contend against and the challenge gets seriously real.
You also fight some awesome bosses and during these sequences you can actually move the car up and down. Which is great, but is part of the reason I’m confused and I’ll explain shortly.
Another great thing is the ability to not only edit and create your own tracks, but actually use real songs and bring them into the game. People have already started filling up the store with the likes of Linkin Park and The Deftones and this is sure to see a massive community surge once the game launches. This already gives the PC version a clear advantage over its console bretheren, especially since this is easily one of Double Kick Heroes best and coolest features.
The existing soundtrack is pretty great, though, composed by El Mobo. There’s a real mix of tracks, with one, in particular, giving me some serious Rammstein vibes. There’s a real taste of other bands as well though, with some chords really giving off the flair of a Metallica, Machine Head, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters and so on.
Double Kick Heroes is good, old school fun. At times, it can feel quite therapeutic, other times intense. Ultimately, though, it can be incredibly basic unless you’re willing to move up the difficulty ladder. In this, the game is probably going to lose people just as the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band did.
But while this all plays well together, Double Kick Heroes still isn’t completely polished. For me, it’s definitely missing a few steps in certain areas.
What does it get wrong?
Immediately, 2/3rds of the screen are taken up by the action, but you’re spending more than 90% of your time looking at the bottom and ignoring most of the ‘good stuff’. Especially during heavy beat moments, you might glance up for a moment, but then you’re right back to heads-down again and kind of missing out on all of the cool and neat animations the development team have spent a lot of time on. Such is the nature of these rhythm games, but it definitely becomes a noticeable thing, particularly late on in the game.
Another unusual choice, especially on the higher difficulties is that you can’t move your car up and down unless it’s a boss fight. However, you’ll often see your shots completely miss enemies and on some occasions, you’re actually defenseless and have no choice but to accept you’re going to lose health. This is still the case even on lower difficulties.
There will always be individual, and sometimes groups of enemies you cannot hit, almost until it’s too late. And it’s one thing to have to try and pay attention to the notes so you don’t overheat your gun, but something else entirely when you have to wait for notes to appear on the screen so you can defend yourself. Occasionally, there are long stretches of silence and you’re basically a sitting duck at that point.
In principle, the idea is sound. Practically though, it still needs a lot of work to get right. At least having the opportunity to move up and down throughout could let you be evasive to enemy attacks but also enable you to actually aim your shots. Sure, it can take some of the tension out of the game, but when so many of your shots misfire anyway, you need to weigh up the pros and cons with the frustrations.
Double Kick Heroes certainly has a lot going for it as it is very entertaining to play, and with some fine-tuning it’s on course to be a real indie hit. We very much look forward to the next content update to see how it grows towards a final build.
Areas for Consideration
- The driving portion of the game and keeping that to boss battle situations. Some enemies seem impossible to hit before they hit you. May also need to look at some sort of aiming system
- Note frequency which can leave you vulnerable and open to attack
- Whether to retain the other half of the content behind the top tier difficulties or open it up earlier but with more leniency.
- Input lag using a controller
(We no longer score Early Access games, instead offering some areas for consideration. Early Access Articles will be revisited after significant content updates and adjustments and later scored once they become a finished game.)