Metal fans and drummer friends, if you were tired of seeing soft rhythm titles centered on the guitar and would rather play with drum partitions and wild beats, Double Kick Heroes is the game to try. The principle is simple. With one to three tracks, depending on the level of difficulty, the rhythm of songs composed especially for the title scroll before your eyes. The bottom line symbolizes the bass drum, the middle one corresponds to the snare drum while the last one represents the cymbals. Of course, the level of difficulty determines the number of tracks displayed as well as the number of notes on the screen.
Let us start with the soundtrack, which is a huge part of Double Kick Heroes, the work of Elmobo is more than satisfactory on the dozen of tracks in this early access title. In other words, the composer did a great job creating music that would fit both the gameplay and atmosphere of the game. And if no piece really upsets what Metal fans know of the genre, the ensemble is interpreted with great respect. Elmobo goes into a wide range, from garage rock to traditional hard rock, slipping through HxC, and Deathrock, without going to much into any extreme. So, unless you’re totally hostile to anything that’s close to a trendy music that could possibly blow a room up, Double Kick Heroes is also a rhythm game that can be seen as offering tracks that are a little more punchy than usual.
On the other hand, if you are an aficionado of the genre, you will undoubtedly appreciate the various tributes to famous bands, be it in the construction of the tracks or in the unfolding of the history and the numerous micro-details that are hidden in some pixel-art decors. The campaign flawlessly flounders in the cliché, a little too much sometimes, but is ultimately quite secondary and more of a pretext to find the many easter-eggs scattered everywhere.
Back to the game itself. Needless to say, it’s about hitting the right keys at the right time to score points, but not only that. Indeed Double Kick Heroes also introduces some shoot’em up elements.Whether you are in arcade mode or story mode, you main goal will be repelling hordes of opponents with the power of Metal. You play as a band, huddled in a car equipped with guns. The latter become more and more powerful as you string up the perfect notes, while successful snares increase a gauge allowing you to throw a grenade.
If everything seems simple on paper, things are in fact a little more daunting once you have your hands in the game. The game takes place on a highroad which is regularly invaded by zombies rushing towards your vehicle. If one of them reaches you, one life is withdrawn from the 3 available. Suffice to say that it would be best to not to let the enemy hordes reach you. Because it is not enough to spam two keys to succeed. Your vehicle is equipped with a high shot and a low shot, to kill enemies from the upper or lower area of the road. Therefore, in addition to managing the rhythmic accuracy, it will be necessary to look where the threats are coming from and press the key corresponding to their position. I’ve personally been playing for hours and have yet to get a perfect score.
Is the difficulty of Double Kick Heroes insurmountable, then? Not at all. In addition to its many difficulty modes that allow a progressive learning curve, the gameplay is natural enough to be intuitive. Of course, if you’re a drummer yourself, you will have a much easier time progressing, especially if you’re used to the frequent rhythmic parts in Metal in general. However, even if you do not really have a sense of groove, the visual indicators and a metronome make it easy to catch the various notes at the right timing.
Sometimes there is a certain frustration that is created by the imbalance between the number of enemies that show up on the screen and number of notes to play to kill them. If you have mismanaged your grenades or your perfect notes, you will be unable to shoot for a long time, which will almost always be synonymous with a game over. It seems that a little balancing should be done at this level, because some situations om the “perfects” are linked do not prevent to be touched systematically at the same time by the same enemies. It is not usual in a rhythm game to be sanctioned for being “almost” too good, and the rule of management of grenades is not necessarily explicit for the player.
Double Kick Heroes offers, for the most patient players, a level editor. In addition to the roads/highroads and the type of enemy that can be set, you can also include your own songs, which you can edit and then integrate them into the game. You can then share them, although, for obvious copyright reasons, the user downloading the level will need to have the song on their hard drive in mp3 format. Keep in mind that the creation of a level, while quite intuitive, can be quite tedious.
The early access of Double Kick Heroes is rather solid, there is no doubt about it. If there are still a few bugs, the Headbangers Club’s title offers punchy tracks, respectful of the diversity of the genre and very pleasant rhythmic sensations. In addition, the overlay Shoot’em Up adds an additional challenge to an already strong recipe, very pleasing to the eye, moreover. While I do not usually recommend Early Access games too strongly, Double Kick Heroes is already a complete experience, and will only be improving.