Kickbeat: Special Edition (Wii U) Review

By Lex Firth 01.11.2014

Review for Kickbeat: Special Edition on Wii U

Zen Studios may be more widely known for its hugely successful Zen Pinball series, but it has been known to delve into some other projects from time to time, such as the DS port of Ghostbusters: The Video Game and the recent CastleStorm. KickBeat: Special Edition, its latest release, takes the 2012 PlayStation 3 and PS Vita offering and rejuvenates it for the current generation of consoles. Unfortunately, a fresh lick of paint isn't enough to hide the game's flaws. After a look at the PlayStation 4 edition, Cubed3 now tackles the Nintendo Wii U eShop version.

KickBeat's basic gameplay works as follows: control a martial artist in the centre of the screen that is being slowly circled by an onslaught of enemies, with the task being to press the face buttons when within reach. If this sounds simple, it's because it is; the game is penetrable and uncomplicated, but this ultimately works against it.

Herein lies KickBeat's problem - it's far too basic to be enjoyable. There are three types of foes in the entire game, each acting slightly differently - yellows attack on the beat, blues approach in pairs on the beat and off-beat consecutively, whilst reds attack simultaneously - as well as three power-ups (a shield, a shockwave that wipes out a number of enemies, and "Zen Mode" that increases the score). These are introduced in the very first level and nothing new is brought to the table after that; the next few hours are more of the same gameplay, with slightly different environments, bad guys, and songs.

Speaking of the music, it's a pleasantly different experience here than in other rhythm titles: Marilyn Manson and Papa Roach are just two of the featured artists, and the tracklist contains various other songs in the same vein, as well as a handful of techno and dance tunes to round things off. This type of music simply isn't seen in videogames very often, and although it might not be to everyone's taste, it helps to carve out KickBeat's individuality in the face of such uninspired gameplay. There are 24 songs present (an increase of six upon the original PS3/Vita release), all licensed from other artists. The only complaint here is that in that playlist there are only actually 13 artists; a little more variety would have been welcomed.

Screenshot for Kickbeat: Special Edition on Wii U

Taking players through each of these tracks in turn is the Story Mode, which sees a martial artist named Lee travelling across the world in order to retrieve all of the songs of the world, which have been stolen (save, conveniently, for the 24 present in KickBeat, of course). The setup is uncomfortable, however, spreading the action across six stages of four songs each and everything quickly becomes boring. As mentioned before, the gameplay is uninspired, simple, and frankly tiresome, and doing the same thing for 15 minutes without rest turns this mode into a chore. A second story - featuring Lee's love interest Mei - is unlocked upon completion of the first, but the music is completely unchanged.

The cut-scenes between each of the six stages are a treat, though, save for some flat dialogue and rapidly ageing jokes about Justin Bieber. They aren't animated, but rather a series of gorgeous hand-drawn stills. Presentation is what KickBeat does best - it looks more like something a triple-A studio would make than an indie game, with impressive work done on the character designs and models. In motion, enemies can sometimes clutter the screen and become distracting, but it's otherwise a beautiful piece of work.

KickBeat: Special Edition isn't perfect by any means. Its gameplay lacks depth and it's difficult to play for longer than about half an hour at a time, but fans of the musical genre on offer will likely take more of an interest, and the immaculate presentation is something that all indie games should aspire towards.

Screenshot for Kickbeat: Special Edition on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 5 out of 10


KickBeat: Special Edition is thoroughly average. It succeeds in almost every area - except, crucially, its primary gameplay. It proves that Zen Studio is unafraid to step outside of the comfort zone it has carved out with its pinball games, but unfortunately suggests that the team should stick to what it knows best.


Zen Studios


Zen Studios





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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