Game: Double Kick Heroes
Genre: Arcade, Fighting, Music, Action
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam & Xbox One)
Developers | Publishers: Headbang Club | Plug in Digital
Age Rating: EU 16+ | US M
Price: EU €21,99 | US $21.99 | UK £19.79
Release Date: August 13th 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Plug in Digital
WARNING! Double Kick Heroes contains excessive cursing and other material probably deemed controversial/sacrilegious.
Shawn’s Not a Metalhead: Sorry In Advance Y’all
These past few months have not been the easiest for me, as I’ve alluded to before in my reviews. Somehow the games I play resound with me. Listening to Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening battle theme song “Taste the Blood”, Nine Inch Nails, 331Erock, System of a Down, Bad Wolves and the entire soundtrack for the first Guilty Gear by game developer/creator/composer Daisuke Ishiwatari works for me. It primarily lessens my feelings of rage, helplessness, and depression that I struggle with expressing. What I used to avoid has become a personal musical therapy of sorts that works more often than not. Similar to Sanrio character Retsuko’s own emotionally purifying karaoke sessions.
But I bet that is not what you wanted to read! You want to know what I think of Double Kick Heroes as a game! Well, let’s start the show!
They Prefer to Be Called the Living Impaired
At first, a red-eyed orange haired person on a damaged television appears telling Americans and the people of the world everything is under control as various discolored feet stampede over it. Via an upward camera pan, the frightening remains of what was once the city of Los Angeles are witnessed. There’s a noticeable under quarantine sign too. Each of the band members for the Double Kick Heroes (Lincoln, Derek, Randie, Snake, and Jeff) are given a line of dialogue followed by a name intro card prior to their latest gig.
Their song begins, but realizing the attendees there are brain-feasting zombies, they run for their lives! Fleeing with the ongoing music, grisly blood letters on the white walls behind them spell out both ominous and funny messages. Thinking band manager Lincoln has abandoned them to their horrible fate, they are relieved when she arrives driving Sheila, her beloved Gundillac. They get in as the undead horde arrives. Cue the sequence from the title screen.
This opening cinematic really sets the tone for the rest of the game. Also, the soundtrack and gorgeously gruesome animation work increased my amped up feelings of getting this gory show on the road. Will the metal rhythm shmup from French developer Headbang Studios live up to the challenge? Or is Double Kick Heroes merely a shambling ghoul?
To start off, the gameplay mechanics of Double Kick Heroes mirror that of most rhythm games: by hitting buttons in sync with the song playing. Mashing-up the shmup genre into this formula is where Double Kick Heroes separates itself from other titles. One button shoots at the top enemies while the other shoots them at the bottom. These added wrinkles mean alternating between pressing the two buttons with one’s eyes carefully observing the situation since enemies won’t simply adhere to predictable patterns that will ensure the band’s survival.
Some enemies are out of position to slay earlier. Others might be impossible to strike until their inches away from snatching away a precious life. Another might launch projectiles of their own at Sheila. For boss clashes, dodging choreographed instant-kill attacks on top of firing to whittle down their longer life bar is key towards obtaining victory.
If you are ace on your timing, you can upgrades your weapon from the standard firearm to the stronger shotgun to a cannon. Additional helpful unlockables with their own control commands which may be necessary for success are available later on. For instance, an early acquisition is a grenade Randie lobs at enemies after filling up her meter to the right amount.
Likewise, when losing a life, nearby enemies will be caught in the Gundillac’s explosion. I found myself sometimes losing a life on purpose to decimate the writhing masses of enemies onscreen. I managed to beat a couple of stages when my best rhythm efforts were utterly atrocious in this manner actually!
Similar to Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, Elite Beat Agents and the Hatsune Miku video games, missing numerous notes brings the Double Kick Heroes ever closer to abject failure. Weapons are additionally impacted by playing a song poorly. For example, wielding a shotgun while being off timing-wise eventually drops the player back down to the lowest-ranked firearm. In harder stages, having this occur is pretty much a death sentence. Just restart the stage at that point. And overheating Sheila is worse because it disables everything for a period of time leaving the Double Kick Heroes in a likely vulnerable position.
Controls and Achievements
Somehow, the satisfying cyclical nature of the core gameplay elements doesn’t ever feel stale. Reload times weren’t much of a bother. The length of stages in Double Kick Heroes excellently lend themselves for quick bursts or extended haul sessions. From the time of writing, I’ve played a fair amount of the game in handheld mode with no issues. Motion controls and the regular controller are other smooth options for Double Kick Heroes though.
On top of that, the game boasts five difficulty settings, a story, arcade (for those wanting to play without a pesky narrative holding back the fun), endless enemies (shoot ’em until death comes) plus new stages that feature rad guest composers. To boot, there’s achievements, unlockables, and an online leaderboard as well! All of these inclusions amplify the freshness factor for Double Kick Heroes in one’s Switch library.
Rending Its Own Flesh…
Unfortunately, the aforementioned successful cohesive choices didn’t extend to the game’s storytelling. During the globe-encompassing tour, the Double Kick Heroes go from merely surviving the “pocka”, short for the apocalypse, to somehow being part of some stained-glass window cathedral prophecy to risking their lives for the sake of all humanity. This raising of stakes in a game that doesn’t take itself seriously generates tonal dissonance. I mean, by pitting the band against baby chicks and speaking expletives to the point that Snake humorously asks why they cuss so much while dropping an f-bomb himself, that doesn’t exactly fit together. According to the credits, turns out that two writers are responsible for Double Kick Heroes. Hmm, that might serve as an explanation for the game’s identity crisis.
On top of that, a specific revelation towards the end for one of the band members that wasn’t foreshadowed previously is quite bizarre. I re-read it a couple of times to be definitely sure even. After that, I wondered if previous earlier drafts of the game’s narrative, pit stops (used for character interactions and story advancement), conversations before a stage, with the cutscenes too were either shortened or altered further down the development line process.
In a nutshell, Double Kick Heroes is a violent enjoyable ride of ingenuity worth putting the pedal to the metal for! Besides the rushed odd in an argh way yarn jammed with an overabundance of profanities, everything else is about the game is essentially a smash hit! One-hit wonder doesn’t define the Double Kick Heroes.
Back to singing with the newest Aggretsuko season as I fill out job applications with 100 plus questionnaires between sessions with Double Kick Heroes.
Final Verdict: I Like It