Metal music is known for painting an alternative/futuristic/ancient world as a blasted, brutal environment of warriors and glorious fatalism. Fiction inspired by it shares these characterizing codes. Double Kick Heroes might crystallize all that is metal better than most games in any genre.
Using the heart and soul of metal music – powerful, dominating drums – as the primary mechanic has something to do with it. A band sits on top of a muscle car, playing a ballad to scare away the cursed beasts that chase them down the twisted freeway. And you, the most righteous of drummers, must keep the march alive and in rhythm.
Like any rhythm game, Double Kick Heroes tasks you hit markers when they enter a zone down a track. The markers approximate the bass drum’s booms, and nailing it on time gives you high scores. It also how you shoot your car’s guns.
I forgot to mention the guns. That beast of an automobile that is charioting your crew to Valhalla is also fending off the doomed souls, rabid zombies, and demonic creatures looking to drag your bunch to hell. The two buttons the represent your dual bass petals fire your pair of guns. Alternating between the guns is an important skill to master, not just because using both buttons will help you hit dense bars of rapid notes quickly, but the guns fire at different heights, covering different parts of the road.
Hitting notes in succession and creating long combos upgrades your guns in real time, so having better combos does better damage over time. Doing more damage becomes very important as stronger monsters appear to take you down. As the songs get faster and more intricate, the challenges pile up.
Guillaume Breton, Lead Artist for the Headbang Club (developers of Double Kick), smirked as he showed me that the sweat-inducing boss fight I had just conquered was done on the lowest difficulty. Four progressively harder modes exist, adding more instrument tracks like symbols and snares, restarting your combo meter when you miss notes, as well as your standard adding more notes and playing faster. He demoed what a song on “Violence” looks like, and the moniker is accurate.
The game hits Early Access on April 11th, where players will get access to 18 of the games 36 missions. It’s got a lot of promise, and the soundtrack is awesome. Do not sleep on this game.