As a special treat today we have a preview of the upcoming title from Dejobaan Games, 1…2…3…KICK IT!(Drop That Beat Like an Ugly Baby). Well known for their last game with an insanely long name -AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity- Dejobann games has taken some of the tools it used for that and made what is essentially a music visualizer game. The whole point of KICK IT (I’m not spelling out that whole title every time I need to address the game, god damn it) is that you turn your music library into levels, a fun idea even though it’s been done before. When I was sent this pre-release version of the game, Ichiro Lambe -Prez of Dejobann- gave me very specific instructions, tear this game a new one and let the people know. Little did he know I already had a battery of tests ready to go to do just that. How’d the game do? Read on and find out.
Before we get too deep into my method, let’s actually describe what the gameplay of this title is all about. Similar to their last game (Aaaaa…fuck spelling all that you people know what game I’m talking about) the gameplay here consists of falling down a long cylindrical area and trying to just barely dodge objects, I’m also told you fight monsters though I never really saw any in my time with the game. The way you score points in this game is two-fold, you can fly through rings that grant small bonuses or more importantly (and much more fun) you can get very very close to some of the floating obstacles but not close enough to hit them; when you get close enough in an act calling “kissing the objects” obstacles change colour and then you can move away. The big catch here compared to the prior game is that all of the obstacles and even the pace of the level are set to the music of your choice.
My method involves three major tests: a fast song, in this case a bit of metal (Dethklok to be specific); a slow song, “It was a very good year” by Sinatra because I love me some Sinatra; and a long and uneven song, an episode of the Giant Bombcast while not technically a song took up this spot on the bill. By running the game through these three types of songs that on an elemental level cover all the extremes of the music files people generally listen to I managed to get a good snapshot of what this game has to offer and of what it’s capable. That said there are some other fun features that didn’t fall under my spectrum and we’ll discuss those as well near the end. To start though we’ll talk about how the game contended with my tests.
So the first test was a fast song which as I mentioned earlier some music by Metalocalypse’s Dethklok, to be specific the song was “Awaken” from the troll episode. I’m happy to say that the game passed this test with flying colours and delivered an experience that was fast and fun. It seemed the speed you fell was directly tied to how the fast the music was and the busier a song was the more crap I had to dodge; this meant that when a frenetic song got me in a frenetic mood, the game followed suit. For some reason as well as this worked with metal it ended up being even better with hip-hop and rap, the ebbs and flows of those genres created distinct arcs in the levels and the beat worked well with the vibrant floating techno landscape the game provides.
The second test, slow music which in this case was Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year”, also worked well but for a different reason that caters to a different play style. The thing is with a game like this it really serves two functions, that of an actual game and that of music player/visualizer. Fast songs make KICK IT play like a video game but when you play slower music it acts more like an interactive visualizer, which when you’re playing it with slow music is probably what you want. When you play on a slower song the general pace is reduced and objects are a bit more spaced out, this means you can relax and enjoy the music but still stay involved rather than just listening to it passively. Obviously this won’t be exciting to the person who is using the game to play Dragonforce but chances are they aren’t interested in using the program to play slower stuff anyways, so everybody wins.
Two positive marks are all well and good but unfortunately the game failed my last test, a long and uneven song for endurance purposes. The things I ended up using were a podcast (an old episode of the Giant Bombcast) and an audio book (The Daily Show’s Earth). I’ve always enjoyed listening to long files like that, especially when writing, so I always make sure to see how they do in an environment like this. My hope was that I could leisurely listen to a podcast while listlessly avoiding objects (similar to the way I did with the slow songs) but instead I got objects that pretty much just grouped towards the middle and even worse the game cut the files off at about 10 minutes leaving me unsatisfied. While I can understand technical constraints and maybe cutting things off at an hour would be reasonable, 10 minutes is just too short; there even some actual songs that would end up getting cut by that limit, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” for example. That said one cool thing speech heavy files did was that the point rings often matched up with the enunciation of words creating fun trails of talking “points”.
So final tally for the game (at least at this pre-release stage, who knows what they’ll change) is that as pure music game/interactive visualizer it works really well but if you try to go too far outside that wheel house things get less pleasant. There are a couple of other cool features this preview build has as well, which I really hope make it into the main game. The first is a special level called “Genome City” in which prior to the level you can adjust the size, frequency, curvature, and hue of the obstacles and the level in general; while it can be really easy to make a broken impossible level this way, finagling with and seeing exactly what the engine could deliver was fascinating and if this becomes more fleshed out it could be one the title’s greatest selling points. Another neat thing is the way it handles your music collection, rather than going to ridiculous lengths to sync your iTunes library with it or some BS like that it just has its own folder into which you copy mp3s that as soon as they’re in there are usable. This method makes things so fast and easy you’ll really be able to just pick and choose the way you want to play and not feel constrained by the technology.
In the end I really enjoyed my time with KICK IT and I’m looking really forward to its full release and seeing exactly how they make this package fully worth the ten bucks. If they really play to their strengths and work with the customization stuff and maybe add some options to make it work better with certain types of files (I really would like to listen to a full podcast with this game) than this title could be a dark horse smash hit when it does finally release. If you’d like a taste of what this game is right now head to Steam and pre-order the game, you’ll receive the same pre-release version I’ve been playing to fool around with and when the game actually releases it’ll get upgraded to the full deal. That said even you don’t plan on pre-ordering keep your ears open for this game, I have a feeling it might end up being surprisingly popular when it finally hits.