April 1, 2023

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Double Kick Heroes – PC Review


Developed by: Headbang Club
Published by: Headbang Club, WhisperGames, Kakehashi.
Reviewed by Emma Rees
It seems there is no end of rhythm games out there, all trying to draw you in with unique concepts, and bursting with special effects. With ‘Double Kick Heroes’, though, you won’t find any flashy, pulsating special effects. Instead, you will be leaving a bloody mess of pixelated zombies, because it is set in a zombie apocalypse where people are fighting to survive – particularly rockers and metalheads.
You will survive by blasting zombies to the beat of heavy metal, and rock tracks.
It is important to note, that, at the time of writing, the game is still in Early Access, so
features may change or be added at a later date.
There are several modes of play in ‘Double Kick Heroes’: story, arcade, user-made levels,
Hellgate, and The Furnace, as well as extensive sound options in the options menu. You can actually alter the volume of the different instruments that are used.

The story follows a rock band, whose gig is rudely interrupted by an audience of the undead. But this band has a trick up their sleeves. Their car has guns built into it, which are hooked up to their musical instruments, allowing them to shoot down zombies in true, head banging style.
Character’s personalities are diverse and instantly discernible if a little cliche. In fact,
the story and the dialogue actually poke fun at zombie movie cliches, which makes it more amusing than groan-inducing. But, while the story pads out the background nicely, the main pull of this game, is destroying flesh-eating hordes to a variety of excellent tracks. It is also possible to import your own, which, surprisingly, you can edit.
As expected of a rock rhythm game, the pace of the songs is intense, but there are 5
difficulty levels to choose from. If normal mode (hard rock) is too much to handle, you can change the difficulty at any time. On the main menu, the changes for the different difficulty settings are clearly described so you will know what to expect; the number of monsters and how forgiving the stages are for breaking a chain combo, for example.
Along the bottom of the screen is a stave, where the beats will cross. Your job is to fire your guns to the beat. Adding even more challenge to the rhythm formula is that as zombies chase your car, you have to watch where they are on the screen. If they are coming for you on the top-half of the road, you will have to press the button that corresponds to the top gun, whereas if they are on the bottom half, you will have to press the corresponding button for that.

If you manage to get a good beat combo going, your gun will upgrade during that stage,
for example, from a handgun to a shotgun. That is particularly handy for when you’re fending off stronger enemies, or a boss. Sometimes, levels also introduce the grenade mechanic where you must concentrate on extra beats that will build the grenade meter. Once it fills up, a grenade will be thrown from the car, blowing up crowds which are too close for comfort.
Grenades are one of the aspects which will be disabled on an easier difficulty setting.
The further in the story you progress, the more insane the enemy types become. There are sharks, which are angry enough (or perhaps mutated enough), to chase you down the road, birds of prey, chickens, and even a zombie aeroplane. There seems to be some Mad Max-inspired vehicle chasing going on, too, in one stage. Some of the later levels will put you in control of your car as well, which is nail-biting stuff when you’re trying to hit the beats as well as keep an eye on which lane your car needs to be. Of course, some tracks are shorter than others.
Before taking on a stage, the song title is displayed along with the artist and length of
the track. There is also a road meter along the top of the screen which shows your progression through the stage.

You have a certain number of hit points during the stages, represented by car tyres on the top of the screen. Once they’re gone, the band’s car will break down, they get overwhelmed by the horde, and it’s game over.
If you’ve mastered the songs and conquered the story-mode, the built-in level editor keeps things fresh. Here, you can use your own music, as well as set the scenery and the
monsters that will give chase, although currently, it appears that there’s no way to share your creations, only test them. You can play the user levels, but you must own the song,
otherwise, you won’t be able to access it.
There is also an arcade mode, where you can play the different tracks unlocked throughout story mode. Hellgate allows you to play through levels with music by real bands, such as: ‘Ultra Vomit’, The Fundamental Wisdom of Chaos, and ‘Hell In Town. Currently, it is just those three.

The Furnace allows you to play a chain of levels where you get to pick a card at the end of that stage which will power you up in some way. It may give a character more firepower, for example, or, slow zombies down. It is essentially a survival mode, as if you lose a hit point, they don’t reset when you get to the next stage.
Aesthetically, the hand-drawn pixel art has some fun details and gives off a nostalgic vibe. The characters are distinctly designed, the enemies are humorous and interesting, and the story’s roadmap gives an old-skool style overview of the stages, which your car will drive between.

There is a minor niggle that doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way, but would be nice to
include: it would be useful to show the difficulty that stages have been completed on, should you want to go back and master them on different difficulty settings.
You don’t even have to be a fan of rock music to have fun with ‘Double Kick Heroes’. The
music will have you tapping your legs and nodding your head regardless. If you’re a fan of rhythm games in general, or just fancy blowing away zombies to some loud, angry music, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Overall Score – 8/10