Double Kick Heroes sees you saving the world from the back of a musical Cadillac armed with rear-facing guns. Yep!
Zombie survival games are ten-a-penny these days. You can survive the apocalypse whilst protecting people. You can survive it by strapping multiple weapons together. You can even survive the end of the world by driving over all the undead you can find. But I can’t think of any in which you survive the zombie apocalypse by driving cross-country in a Cadillac with guns powered by music. Feel free to correct me, but I suspect Double Kick Heroes may be the first.
We’re introduced to our characters, a metal band by the name of the Double Kick Heroes, who find themselves in the middle of the zombie outbreak. Cue a road trip across America to survive! In addition to being musicians, it turns out the band are quite the group of engineers, and so they outfit their car with a set of guns linked up to their various musical instruments. Their intention: to outrun the undead, putting down any that get close enough to threaten their sweet ride.
Along the way, they run into other survivors (seemingly based on real world musicians) as well as gangs looking to capitalise on the end of the world. Only the sweetest jams will help our heroes survive!
Whilst the story isn’t the main focus of this game, it’s clear at this early stage that a fair amount of effort has been put into it. There are plenty of cutscenes along the journey, with lots of dialogue that build the world and characters between levels. The levels themselves play somewhat like a multi-track rhythm action game, with A and B (I was using an Xbox controller) handling the drums and direction of fire, whilst X and Y handle other instruments and weapons.
Hitting consecutive beats powers up the associated weapon to cause more damage or have additional effects. On certain stages, you can also use up and down to steer the car and avoid certain attacks from larger enemies. All put together, there’s a hell of a lot to keep track of as you handle three instruments, two directions of fire and steering a car all at once, meaning this can be quite challenging on anything below normal difficulty! Add to this the fact that the game can be played with a Rock Band guitar and you have the recipe for a pretty cool — albeit hard — control scheme.
The music is very solid, which is great considering it’s the main focus of the game. There’s a wide variety of different sub-genres of metal, from lighter styles to far more heavy death-metal–inspired tracks.
Regardless of the style you’re playing for a given level, the songs are all powerful and fun to play. That said, boss tracks stand out compared to the general stages. Some of the tracks were fairly catchy, but none stood out as being especially memorable during my time playing. Lyrics are few and far between (as this is focused around music, that makes a lot of sense), meaning I didn’t find myself singing along to something in my head, but a few do have that ear-worm effect and might stick in your mind for a few days after your bout in the Gundillac.
The visuals are in the currently popular pixel-art style and are handled especially well. Whilst the characters don’t look all that great in cutscenes, the gameplay looks fantastic, with plenty of high-quality animation visible when you have half a second to take your eyes of the music track. There’s a lot of variety to the zombies in each level, ranging from standard, run-of-the-mill undead; sprinting, dog-like zombies; giant shark/human hybrids; and far more… bizarre creations which I won’t spoil for those who want to be surprised.
Suffice to say, the bosses look brilliant, and each one is quite distinct in visual, movement, and attack style. You’ll need to learn their tells before they attack to get your car out of the way in time. You can only survive a couple of hits, so quick movement can be the difference between success and failure.
As it stands, Double Kick Heroes is soon to be released into early access, but already has plenty of features. There are multiple game modes as well as an editor which allows you to create stages around your own MP3s. There are a few on the browser already, assuming you have the track available on your computer. I tried one based on The Metal by Tenacious D and found it insanely difficult, but I love the fact that this option is here. It reminds me of Audiosurf in that there are theoretically as many levels as you could ever want for this game.
There’s a lot of content already available here, considering it’s only just entering early access, and I’m very interested to see how it develops over the coming months.