Double Kick Heroes – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Headbang Club and published by Plug In Digital, Double Kick Heroes is a Heavy Metal rhythm action title, set in a post-apocalyptic world. Riding on the back of a heavily armed car called the Gundillac, open fire on the hordes as the drummer of a metal band. This title will be rocking out on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PC, links to buy the game will be at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank the representative for Hound Picked Games who provided the copy of Double Kick Heroes used for this review. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this article, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

So with the introduction out of the way, let’s get into the review, I will be skipping the Story section as I feel it should be experienced firsthand.

Gameplay – Double Kick Heroes is a rhythm action title similar to other music titles on the switch, including Taiko No Tatsujin and Eat Beat Deadspike. As the drummer of the band, use either button controls or motion controls in order to follow along to the beat, scoring points and building up a combo meter. With each successful beat, the Gundillac that the band rides upon will fire its guns, mowing down the hellish hordes that try to reach the band.

Each stage features a kick track that powers the basic weapon, chaining each attack together to gain a combo multiplier. As the game progresses, the player gets new weapons, the weapons have increased damage output which is maintained by not missing a beat. Additionally, a second track will be added to later difficulty settings, granting the player access to a special charged up grenade attack, with a third track added for a devastating sniper strike at the highest difficulty.

During stages, mini boss battles occur, with powerful enemies that must have their energy meter drained before being defeated. Alongside the mini boss enemies, the game features powerful and deadly boss battles, with the monsters chasing the player down, attempting to murder them. If the player takes too many hits in any stage, the Gundillac explodes and the player dies, however, in boss battles the player dies if the track ends without defeating the boss, adding to the risk.

Now, there are a total of four game modes available to play, each with the option of five difficulty settings. The playable modes are as follows;

  • Arcade – play through the soundtrack of 30 rock/metal tracks, ignoring the story if you just want to jump into the action. Perfect for practice and to enjoy the music.
  • Story – play through the plot of the game, learning more about the members of the band and the world around them as they battle the monstrous threats that block the road ahead.
  • Hellgate – play through a selection of guest tracks, with songs from Gojira, Psykup and more. Focus on earning a high score as you enjoy the special inclusions.
  • Fury Road – a score based, challenge mode with a rogue-like twist. Play through an endless gauntlet of songs, earning power-ups, skills and items with each stage completed. There are two settings for this, Daily Fury, with a new challenge for players to take on. The second mode is Endless Fury, play through the endless randomizer, trying to get the best possible score.

All four gameplay modes offer different experiences for players, with the Hellgate and Arcade modes having the option to jump in and out to play any song that has been unlocked.  These casual modes are great for playing songs while taking a break from the story, or just wanting to replay a previously cleared song. The story mode is a mix of Mad Max and a demonic apocalypse, with references and parodies connected to metal bands, movies and popular culture that are a delight to behold.

Fury Road is the last mode and by far the most strangely implemented. The two options of Daily Fury and Endless Fury make sense, as a new challenge each day offers a reason to come back to the game on a regular basis. The issue with the daily challenge however, is the lack of a global leaderboard as each new challenge is the same for all players worldwide. A ranking system could have been used to build a competitive scene for the game, possibly bringing more prominence within the rhythm gaming community.

There is a selection of options available for players to experiment with, this allows for customization of the gameplay experience. The options include difficulty options, audio feedback and gameplay modifiers. The flexibility in the settings menu provides a level of accessibility that some rhythm games lack, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the game, regardless of their skill level and capabilities.

Now, with all the gameplay elements covered without spoiling any key details, I will now be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the difficulty.

Difficulty – the difficulty of this title is separated into 5 categories, with the lowest having a single rhythm track and the highest having three. The settings in-between have at most two beat tracks, which is where the real challenge is. The difficulty builds over time, with faster rhythms and more complex patterns, what does make the higher levels tougher is the combo reset, as setting 3-5 will reset the combo to zero when a note is missed.

The last things I want to mention about the difficulty are the steering and overheat systems, steering can be set to auto or manual with the player having to control the car themselves, making bosses tougher. The overheat system is a punishment for players trying to button mash in order to hit the notes, if buttons are hit without notes in the target zone, a red bar fills which locks out hitting notes during overheat. Overheat can be turned off, eliminating the punishment for those who struggle.

Controls – Double Kick Heroes has two control methods, each with their own positives and negatives. The first method is the button/trigger setting, using Joy-Cons and the Pro-Controller. The standard method is the easiest way to play the game, however, there is occasional input lag which caused the rhythm to be thrown off and causing a life to be lost or in some cases death. The second method is motion controls, which is unfortunately the most flawed area of the game and put a real damper on the experience.

The motion controls are flawed and a real issue. During play with the Joy-Cons, the drumming motion can cause dropped notes, ghost inputs (inputs that occur without moving) and duplicate strikes that will mess up the combos. I tried my best to use this method a few times and really struggled, I used several pairs of Joy-Cons and even tried the four Con setup with even less success. With other titles that employ motion controls well like Gal Metal, this is a real disappointment and makes the game harder.

Presentation – the visual style for this release is simple pixel art, which works well as there can be a lot of sprites on screen at once along with the large boss sprites. The enemy designs are varied and creative, with both the mini boss and main boss enemies being the most creative, including a giant zombie dinosaur, a murder truck and hellish demons. The characters have a lot of charm to them, with a unique look to each of them adding to the experience, along with homages to and parodies of known musicians and pop culture figures, which I appreciated as a fan of Heavy Metal.

Now let’s get into the soundtrack for Double Kick Heroes. This is comprised of a mixture of Heavy Metal genres and styles. The main soundtrack goes from hard rock with electronic samples sprinkled throughout, to full on balls to the wall thrash/death metal. The shift in musical tones caught me of guard during play, but I enjoyed the selection of tracks by the games composers. The guest tracks were a delight too, I had only heard of the band Gojira before playing this game, but after playing more of the bonus songs, I gained an appreciation for bands that I wouldn’t have known of otherwise.

Final Thoughts – I enjoyed most of my time playing Double Kick Heroes, this was due to using a controller mapped to a custom layout. Unfortunately, the motion controls were not enjoyable at all, causing frustration, irritation and it soured the experience to the point I had to stop entirely for a time. The only other issue that I had was the lack of global leaderboards. Personally I feel that the omission of a ranking system is a missed opportunity, which would have given this game a chance to gain a strong presence in the console based rhythm action community.

I can recommend this game to anyone that enjoys rhythm games. The accessibility of the gameplay, the charm of the character designs/references and the soundtrack are all delightful choices. As mentioned above, the only issue that I think could put people off is the flawed motion controls, which is the biggest disappointment. I do hope that more guest songs will be added in the future, as I believe an expansion to the playable songs give this game additional replayability.

In the end, I give Double Kick Heroes a score of 4/5. A solid and challenging rhythm action title, featuring a rocking soundtrack, creative character/enemy designs and a slew of heavy references scattered throughout the experience. If you want to pick up this release, links to purchase the game are below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to Xbox One version (HERE) – Available August 28th

Link to Steam version (HERE)

Link to ITCH version (HERE)

Link to GOG version (HERE)

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