Going into Double Kick Heroes, I was pretty sure I knew what type of game it was going to be – a short rhythm game focusing on metal, killing zombies and the same basic gameplay loop. Although a lot of this is true, what I didn’t expect was a rhythm game that easily ranks amongst as one of the most difficult I’ve ever played. Double Kick Heroes isn’t playing around!
You play as the Double Kick Heroes as they travel on the highway and deal with zombies, sharks, hooded warriors and a whole lot more. There is a story mode and a surprising amount of dialogue and character focus, but the general tone was just a bit too on the nose for me. I love metal, but the characters here were just generally very unlikeable and stereotype-driven, which made me just want to get on with it. It feels like a purposeful tone-choice, but that doesn’t make going through the short story mode anymore entertaining.
This story mode is the main attraction of the game, but you can also just play songs in an arcade mode or create them yourself with an in-game editor. I personally have the musical talent of a shoe so I didn’t do much with this, but it’s a cool addition for those so inclined. If I hadn’t been playing the game for review, I would have skipped the story mode and just enjoyed the game through the arcade mode.
One of the things I love about Double Kick Heroes is the presentation. The pixel style works really well here and still manages to convey a lot of character in the animation. The sound design is awesome too, as you would expect from a rhythm game. It’s a bit of a shame though, as the gameplay means that you very rarely get to see a lot of what is happening on-screen, instead focusing on the general direction of enemies and the upcoming notes that you’ll have to hit.
I’m happy to say that the soundtrack here is really awesome, with a much wider range of genres than I was expecting to see. You’ve got cutecore, heavy metal, rock, death metal and a load more that really show a reverence for the music. Most of the music is unlicensed, with a few scattered here and there, but they’re all really awesome to listen to. If you’re in it for the music, then rock on.
The love-it-or-hate-it element of Double Kick Heroes is going to be the gameplay. This is not an easy game by any stretch of the imagination, and there is a very sheer difficulty curve that never quite seems to let up. If you’re playing on easy, it’s not really an issue but going up just one difficulty level will make things a genuine challenge.
I found the main challenge to be the fact that you have to shoot either upwards or downwards depending on where the enemies are, which means alternating your button presses and focusing really hard on both the position of enemies and actually hitting the notes. Throw in more inputs for other weapons and each track feels like an endurance race to get to the end. I’m not kidding when I say that Double Kick Heroes will have you mashing buttons and then somehow switching to a really precise rhythm and leaving your eyes no room to rest.
This was a big part of the fun for me, as I was genuinely loving being challenged and having to properly concentrate, but I can also see a lot of people simply not making it very far. You can always lower the difficulty, or turn on some modifiers that get rid of enemies or cooldown, but playing on easy feels like you’re not actually experiencing the full game.
Double Kick Heroes is an awesome rhythm title led by a tough-as-nails gameplay loop and some awesome music. The story mode is a little disappointing and the challenge can sometimes be a bit too much, but if you’re a fan of metal then this is definitely one to check out.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Headbang Club