Double Kick Heroes by Headbang Club
The popularity of rhythm games has waxed and waned more dramatically than many genres through the years, and whils they no longer command the giddy attention they received in the 2000s, they still endure, with notable entries emerging from time to time. Double Kick Heroes is one such entry, and it comes packing a horde of zombies, an apocalypse and – of course – various flavors of heavy metal.
Test Your Metal
This is a metal-themed rhythm game, and it embraces its chosen genre with enthusiasm, from the diverse cast of band members around which the game’s story is built to the almost synergistic combination of apocalypse, hungry dead and demonic forces with a dizzying spectrum of metal subgenres.
Double Kick Heroes offers story and arcade modes, the former featuring colorful narrative scenes between levels and the latter omitting these story sections in favor of direct access to each stage. An editor also offers the potential for considerable replay value.
The story itself is playful and over the top, and while the text-based dialogue is a little ham-fisted, this doesn’t get in the way of the characters becoming likable for their trope-y quirks as they battle their way through doomsday with the power of metal. I found that some of the story scenes could drag a little, and in a game about rhythm and momentum this can be an issue, but on the whole they are amusing and set the scene for the apocalyptic action well enough.
Speaking of action, Double Kick Heroes packs plenty. Each level is a chase as the band speeds ahead of the enemy horde in their custom car bristling with guns. Strumming along to the rhythm of the metal will fire the car’s aft weapons and thin out the pursuing enemies. It’s hard not to appreciate the match made in hell that is heavy metal and blasting endless lines of undead; Headbang Club strikes all the right notes when it comes to matching theme and setting.
All of the classic rhythm game mechanics are here; string enough accurate notes together and combo bonuses will stack up, improving your score and, in this case, upgrading the weapons used to pulverize the pursuers. More mechanics stack up as the game progresses, such as controlling the position of the car and hitting additional prompts to hurl grenades at the horde.
The difficulty curve feels a little irregular at times, and it’s safe to say that this is a challenging game; I played on normal mode and I found myself struggling to keep pace with the beats at times.
Like An Airbrush Painting on the Side of a Speeding Van
The art of Double Kick Heroes is vibrant and thematically on point for crafting a heavy metal armageddon. This shines in the narrative scenes, where the game can show off its character art, but unfortunately a problem emerges in the levels themselves. More than two thirds of the screen is taken up with the imagery of the band fleeing the ravenous hordes, and while this is well presented, I barely had the chance to appreciate it.
There are some enemies I’ve never even seen, as given the nature of rhythm games, it is necessary to focus on the bottom of the screen where upcoming prompts are displayed. This is a difficult issue to solve, but I find myself wishing the developers had found a way to incorporate the prompts into their impressive visuals.
On the audio side Double Kick Heroes comes brandishing a soundtrack packed with various styles of metal. I found myself enjoying most of the tracks, although generally I leaned towards the songs that correlated with my existing preferences regarding metal subgenres. Double Kick Heroes may limit itself to heavy metal, but it offers a wide variety of it, and most of it is enjoyable.
Double Kick Heroes breathes new life into a sleeping genre using the power of metal, and for the most part it does so with style. There are, however, some troublesome issues here. The aforementioned waste of good artwork is a pity, and I’d hope the developers can find a way to combine their art with the gameplay more fluidly.
More troubling are the stability issues I encountered while playing the game; in my time with Double Kick Heroes, I suffered two crashes to desktop and one complete freeze-up requiring a hard restart. In fairness to Headbang Club their game is still in Early Access and so, hopefully, these issues will be dealt with in time.
Beyond these problems, Double Kick Heroes offers an engaging and challenging rhythm game that will particularly appeal to fans of metal.
Double Kick Heroes is available in Early Access via Steam.
Watch the official Double Kick Heroes trailer below: