When I visted Indie Garden Assembly, I tested out a few upcoming indiegames and Double Kick Heroes was without a doubt among the most interesting games on display.
What I got to play from the Early Access build seemed to be representative of the final product and I have to admit: I like what I’m seeing /hearing! It’s a Rhythm game with a unique pitch: you’re fighting off a zombie horde with the power of Metal. So before we start the preview, perhaps it’s interesting to have a brief look at how it plays?
Our protagonists are members of a metal band and when they finally decide to submerge from their basement after rehearsing their new songs, the world has entered into a total zombie-apocalypse. Luckily they managed to transform their ride into an undead-slaying Gundillac so they have a fighting chance!
You travel across an overworld map, from the US west-coast further inland, fighting the zombies and mutants as you try to find other survivors
Most of the stops are different music tracks where you shoot down the running dead, but some of them are hubs where you can chat with survivors. These usually have a lot of references to game/movie and music-pop culture.
And some of the characters are flat out taken from the real world:
As you can see, the game has a distinct pixelated look which I found very fitting. The spritework is fantastic and the animations keep things lively. While the story isn’t bad (it’s sufficient to drive the action forward – quite literally) it’s mostly the attractive style and the rhythm gameplay that’ll draw in players to give this game a go.
The main gameplay has you shoot at brainchompers on the rhythm of the different rock/metal tracks, the gimmick being that enemies come at you on two lanes: an upper and lower lane. You can only shoot when there is a beat to hit and you’ll have to decide for yourself which lane you want to shoot by pressing the corresponding button.
If you hit enough perfect notes in a row, your weapon will upgrade from a simple gun to a shotgun and later a cannon. Most enemies go down in one shot, but depending on difficulty you’ll also encounter a few harder enemies so you’ll want to be hitting those notes as good as you can.
At later levels, grenades will also be introduced, requiring you to charge up a special grenade attack. It requires another button to be pressed at the right time and when you get a few quick regular notes and a few grenade ones overlapping, that’s when you’ll really be challenged. Another input required is during boss battles, as you’ll also have to manoeuver your car up and down to avoid their incoming charge or projectile attacks.
When you’re hitting the beats and you find yourself getting into the groove, the game is a blast to play! My main concern is when you’re asked to hit a few quick notes in succession. I usually managed these by pressing both A and B at the same time on my Xbox gamepad, but I still racked up a lot of misses. I can’t help but think the game would be best experienced with a different controllere: a Drum set or a guitar controller from Guitar Hero for example. The developers seem aware of this, as I’ve seen videos where people are enjoying the game at events using a retro arcade controller which allows for faster button mashing.
I played through the campaign and was saddened to see that the entire story wasn’t written yet and we’d have to wait for more content to be added (this is the Early Access build we’re playing after all) while the story itself wasn’t really what drove me to keep playing (it was my curiosity at which outlandish mutant of a boss I’d get to see next and which awesome song would Rock my socks off) it was a good method to make you play through all the songs in a row.
You can also just play the arcade mode, but it’s a bit strange that it requires you to play all the songs in order there. I’d have liked to have access to all the songs in all difficulties in the Arcade mode from the get-go so I could just replay my favourite track after beating the campaign.
What breathes the most longevity into the game is the awesome editor: you can create a level for any music you wish with this: You pick a location, enemies to battle and upload an .mp3 or .midi you own and then add the notes that players will have to beat. If you like your creation you can then share it online. I tested out a few of the popular tracks other people made (I particularly love anything from Tenacious D myself) but be warned that you need to own the song, you can only download the rest of the level. (You also have to make sure you have the exact same version of the song or the notes will not sync up). Either way, it’s awesome that this feature is present in the game and I could really see it gaining a cult following because of it (same as what happened with Osu!)
Does this seem like something you’d enjoy? Be sure to add it to your Steam wishlist!