Double Kick Heroes Nintendo Switch Review – Highway To Hell!
Double Kick Heroes
Developed By: HeadbangClub
Published By: Plug In Digital
You must survive by killing monsters with your Gundillac!
Struggle through the 30 levels of total madness and escape from this nightmare! Only the power of Metal can save your band!
To Hell And Back
Double Kick Heroes brings with it a welcome twist on the music rhythm action genre. Driven by an intense heavy metal soundtrack, you and your band must negotiate the treacherous demon riddled streets as you journey across the USA and Europe to the source of evil.
Each of the 30 levels is accompanied by a professionally composed rock soundtrack that will get you headbanging till completion. The levels come in the form of a side-scrolling shooter (that’s right!), where the titular band race along in their Gundillac as they fend off hordes of undead nasties.
While most “conventional” rhythm games will have you tapping specific button prompts or thumbstick flicks that must be timed well before they reach the bar, Double Kick Heroes have done away (somewhat) with that mechanic. This is just as well as some of the songs are bloody fast!
What you are presented with instead, is a somewhat steady row of coloured shapes, each representing a weapon that you must hit to unleash some lead fury. Sound easy? Think again. As mentioned earlier, some songs can get very fast and frantic at times. As I am not exactly the biggest metalhead in the world either, this really caught me off guard.
I am a massive fan of music rhythm games so this was a surprising change of pace. Where most games usually opt for a pumping house or techno soundtrack, it was refreshing to see someone take a punt at a completely different music genre.
By default, your weapons are mapped to the face buttons. They consist of high guns, low guns, sniper and grenades. It’s here that I ran into my first issue as I soon realised my thumb really can’t move fast enough to keep up with the frenetic pace of the tracks (even on the easiest difficulty – ouch!)
However, the kind folks over at HeadbangClub have you covered. For what looks like a pretty straight forward rhythm game, they have included a plethora of customisation options for almost every aspect of the game. So feel free to tweak each setting to suit your play style or skill level.
The control options, for instance, are plentiful and surprisingly include motion controls. Your options are as follows;
Button Based: The default setting (and the least helpful for me) maps all your weapons to the face buttons.
Trigger Based: My personal favourite and the configuration I used for my playthrough. This option moves your weapons to the triggers and bumpers. It was after I switched to this control scheme that I realised my index fingers moved a hell of a lot quicker than my thumbs.
Motion Controls (Stomp Only): The first of the two motion control setups uses a pair of Joy-Con in each hand, held upright with your thumbs over the triggers as if you were playing ARMS. To fire your guns is a simple matter of thrusting the corresponding Joy-Con downward as if you were slamming your fist on a table! Then for grenade and sniper, you flick the assigned Joy-Con downward or use the triggers. I found this motion setup worked for me the best out of the two, as it interpreted my movements cleaner.
Motion Controls (Beat Only): Beat only requires you to hold the Joy-Con horizontally in front of you like you would normally hold them when playing in split Joy-Con format. Then by flicking the Joy-Con downward, like you were playing the drums, fires your guns and grenade and sniper are on the triggers and bumpers. I thought this mode might have been the easiest and most intuitive of the two options. However, I just couldn’t get it to work properly and the game really struggled to see my movements.
Motion Controls (Double Joy-Con Pair): If you really want to rock out, this is the control style for you. It will require the use of a second pair of hands, which I didn’t have at the time of review but I can imagine the hilarity that would ensue from this one.
There is also a wealth of other options in other departments to aid you on your journey which I found most useful. The metronome in particular really helped with my pacing. Auto-steering aims to unload the burden of having you control the Gundillac across each course.
Also included are very handy audio and video calibration tools which I used when setting up my motion controls and trigger inputs. Something was feeling a bit laggy and I found myself missing more often than hitting each beat. But I ran a quick calibration and I was nailing each note in no time.
There are a few different play modes to choose from and a couple of features that surprised me. First up is Story. As mentioned before, there are 30 playable levels in the main campaign, each with its own awesome soundtrack. My initial playthrough was on the lowest difficulty setting and took me around 2 hours to complete. I have no doubt that for those hardcore rockers looking for a challenge, you could double the playtime if you select Nightmare difficulty.
Then we have Arcade which is pretty much what you would expect. Here you can choose to play the level of your choice. Particularly handy if you have a favourite part of the campaign without getting involved in the story beats.
Next up we have Hellgate. In this mode, you get to play to some guest music whilst you mow down legions of the undead. Some or all (I’m not too sure) of the music is from other games – I see you Bleed 2 and Steredenn! An unexpected feature, but very cool all the same. I was particularly impressed with the presentation too. Each of the songs complete with album cover laid out like a Spotify playlist really caught my eye.
Lastly, there is Fury Road. This one actually comes in two flavours. Daily Fury and Endless Rage. The former has you completing a sequence of songs to clear your daily card and the latter should speak for itself, rock until you can’t rock no more. The best bit about these modes is that they both come with community leaderboards and they both allow you to unlock new gear for the Gundillac. It’s here that I can see most players spending their free time post-campaign and adds even more replayability.
If the action gets a little too intense during your journey to the Hellmouth, you’ll be glad to know that there are a number of occasions to which you can stop to catch your breath. It’s these locations that provide most of the important story beats and throw some fourth-wall-breaking comic relief at you.
You get to chat to your motley crew of metal-heads as they hang out and formulate plans going forward. Not only that but you are introduced to some great NPC’s that look suspiciously like real-life rock stars. Even for those that aren’t particularly into their rock music, I’m sure will recognise some familiar faces. Such as Marilyn Manson and Motorhead to name but a few.
I had a lot of fun with Double Kick Heroes and the change in music direction was a stroke of genius. The game is very accessible so owes itself to lots of pick-up-and-play sessions. There are also loads of different modes, features and options that will suit all play-styles and skill levels.
I feel that it is also fairly priced given the amount of content on offer here. The story campaign doesn’t outstay its welcome either which some may or may not like. But with all the other play modes on offer, there as at least a decent amount of replayability.
If there was one department that I would have to knock a point or two off of the game, then it would be the initial setup. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when a development studio provides plenty of options for customisation and settings, it did feel a little overwhelming the amount that was included.
For what looked like a pretty straight-laced music rhythm game, it did feel like a bit of a faff as I sifted through the various control options, sound settings, aids and calibrations. Fortunately though, once you find the settings that best suit your play-style, you are pretty much free to crack on and enjoy the wild ride presented to you.
This is definitely a must-buy for all rhythm game fans and anyone who’s into their rock music. I really feel that you’ll get a kick out of this one.
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Reviewed by Micramanic on Switch. Game provided by Plug In Digital.