WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS FOUL LANGUAGE, REFERENCES TO ALCOHOL AND LOTS OF HEAVY F*CKING METAL!
Double Kick Heroes was originally released on PC in April 2018 but is now making its way to the Nintendo Switch. It’s worth pointing out that I have never played the PC version so cannot make any direct comparisons, instead I will be reviewing the Switch version as its own bad ass, metal infused entity.
Double Kick Heroes is an arcade style, side scrolling, shoot em up rhythm game played to a large range of rock and metal tunes. You think that sounds awesome? Well you’d be right! Think that sounds lame? Well you’re lame, go home. Joking aside, if you’re into your rock and metal music like yours truly, then I think you’ll find it hard not to feel a ton of joy with this cool little indie game. If metal isn’t your thing though, then everything from the music to the humour and hilariously stereotypical characters may go straight over your head.
So how does this mishmash of gameplay mechanics work? Our protagonists are a group of metal misfits who have survived a zombie apocalypse and travel from place to place in their trusty and rusty Cadillac… sorry, the Gundillac! Armed with an arsenal of different weapons, you flee from a mix of zombie enemies ranging from people to sharks and even a dinosaur because you know, why not?
As the song is playing, you have to time your button presses to the right beat of the drum to fire your weapon and sometimes use snare and cymbals to launch extra weapons like grenades. With each beat you can choose to shoot higher or lower depending on the enemies giving chase The more accurate you are with the timing and your combos, the better weapons you’ll get. However if you fail to hit the combos right then be prepared to be downgraded on your weapons and potentially overran by the undead.
I loved the gameplay, it felt a little basic at first but as I got to the harder tracks it began to really take hold of me and I quickly found that I couldn’t put my Switch down. Listening to great tunes while shooting hordes of zombies with retro arcade visuals is way more fun than it has any right to be. I will say that the later songs had me very frustrated as my fingers couldn’t keep up with the pace but I can’t deny that I enjoyed the challenge.
There are five difficulty settings starting with Rock and moving up through Hard Rock, Metal, Violence and Extreme. I found anything from Metal upwards to be a really difficult challenge as you need to focus extra hard on hitting all the right notes otherwise you’ll be severely punished. When in certain boss fights, you need to avoid their attacks by moving the Gundillac. Luckily hitting good combos will automatically dodge for you, but there is an option to turn on manual dodging meaning you have to juggle the enemies as well as you’re positioning while never missing a beat if playing on higher difficultly…yeah no thanks!
The songs included in the game are brilliant but don’t expect to recognise any of it. Pretty much all the tracks are written and performed by game composer Elmobo who manages to cover every sub genre from death metal to bossphonic opera, which I can only assume means operatic metal for boss fights. Fuck yeah!
There are guest bands included, the most famous being the inclusion of Gojira with their song Remembrance. We’re also treated to the Ukrainian metalcore band Jinjer and French death metallers Gorod as well as dozens more. These are all great inclusions which I loved playing through but it would have been really cool to get a few more mainstream acts in, especially someone like a Tenacious D for example as they would fit in with the games comedic storytelling perfectly. However I completely understand that this is a small indie title so we can’t expect miracles, this isn’t Guitar Hero after all.
The story was a pleasant surprise! Our group of ragtag protagonists who just want to play metal and drink booze manage to cover pretty much every metal stereotype with hilarious success. The characters they meet along the way is where the story really had me hooked though. They clearly didn’t have the financial power to pull in real life cameos like we saw in something like Brutal Legend so Double Kick Heroes settles for humorous cheap knock offs instead, all of which had me laughing more than if they were the original musicians and actors they were impersonating. I don’t want to spoil too many but the likes of Marlene Branson (Marilyn Manson) and Metalchete (Danny Trejo) had me creasing.
As I touched on earlier, this is the sort of story you’d expect from a Tenacious D or Metalocalypse. It’s silly, fun and was a great excuse to push on past some of the really hard tracks in the game! It’s never going to win an award but it doesn’t need to, it did its job of making me laugh and that was enough.
I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear while shooting retro zombies to extreme metal and enjoying a hilariously daft story along the way. Double Kick Heroes is a perfect pick up and play game for the Switch which feels like it’s been made with someone like me in mind. Admittedly some of the later tracks become frustrating, the funny story is far from thought provoking and the addition of some more well known tracks wouldn’t have gone a miss but these are minor complaints. If you love Metal, love video games and enjoy a good laugh then do yourself a favour and pick up Double Kick Heroes, you won’t regret it.
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