KickBeat Special Edition Review – Rhythm Kung-Fu (PS4)

When KickBeat released on the PlayStation 3 last year, we enjoyed what the game had on offer. It has been ported over to the PS4, but does the transition fair well?

If you’re unfamiliar with KickBeat, it is a rhythm-based fighter from the pinball masters at Zen Studios. It was their second foray into a genre other than pinball, after the well-received CastleStorm. The game actually features a campaign, as you begin playing as Kung-Fu up-and-comer Lee and, later, Mei, in an attempt to save the world’s music after it is stolen by an evil syndicate. As is usual in most rhythm games, the story takes a backseat to the actual gameplay, though there are some nice stylized cut-scenes with admirable voiceover work.

Control is simple — you stand in the center of a stage, surrounded by enemies. As the currently playing song progresses, the enemies advance on you. Your goal is to press a face button corresponding to the direction they are coming from, timed to the beat. Enemies come in three colors depending on if they’re going to attack on the beat, half-beat, or together with another enemy, which requires you to press two face buttons at the same time. It’s easy to pick up, but at higher difficulties is truly hard to master, as enemies come for practically every note in a given song, and you really have to pay attention to succeed.

As you play through the campaign, you fight to a variety of songs from all different genres of music. The first track is “It’s Showtime” by Southpaw Swagger, which seems like kind of a strange choice, until you start kicking asses. Every song works very well for this kind of game. There’s Pendulum, a hard-hitting band that yours truly was glad to see, Marilyn Manson, POD, Papa Roach and more. This seems weird in a rhythm game, but each track is a joy to play to be honest. With the game so fluid and the action quick, the song almost takes second string while playing.

In an unfortunate omission, KickBeat Special Edition does not include the “Beat Your Music” mode which was included in the PS3 and Vita versions. This may have to do with the fact that the PS4’s media capabilities are currently much more limited than its cousin consoles. So although you can create custom playlists, they can only contain a mixture of the 24 tracks that ship with the game. This severely limits the game’s replayability.

So you get almost the same game as before, with a couple of bonus tracks. The gameplay remains the same, but the graphics have been upgraded to 1080p at 60 frames-per-second. But with the painful omission of custom soundtracks, there is little incentive to re-visit the game once you’ve completed it, and even less after you collect all the stars in the campaign (which will be quite a challenge nonetheless). If you’ve never played the game before and currently do most of your gaming on the PS4, then at $9.99 it’s an easy buy for rhythm game fans. Here’s hoping a PS4 firmware update coupled with a title update will enable custom soundtracks, or at least for some DLC tracks.

Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.

7.0Bronze Trohpy
  • Decent selection of songs.
  • Lighthearted campaign story.
  • Challenging gameplay at higher levels.
  • Fewer features than PS3/Vita versions.
  • Campaign is pretty short.
  • Songs are not for everyone.