If Double Kick Heroes existed during last-genâ€™s rhythm action/novelty peripheral craze, chances are it would have been bundled with a car-shaped controller. Rather than jamming out on a guitar or pounding the drums, it puts you behind the wheel of a sleek â€˜Gundillacâ€™ – a weaponised Cadillac. Each beat fires up the carâ€™s machine guns, which assists in thinning out the undead hordes chasing behind your crimson-hued gas guzzler.
The ragtag road warriors face not just zombies, but all manner of living creatures â€“ a plague has swept across the land, affecting all forms of life. On this rockinâ€™ road trip, itâ€™s your job to reach out to survivors before taking on evil incarnate with heavy metal riffs.
The story mode is surprisingly text-heavy, with cut-scenes frequent, and each safe house has fellow survivors to talk to. Missions are short, lasting 2-3 minutes each, but high in number. One complaint is that objectives arenâ€™t always clear â€“ sometimes you need to talk to the right person to progress the story. Thereâ€™s plenty of variety within missions though, not just with the music â€“ which includes both vocal and instrumental tracks â€“ but also within the backdrops and enemy types.
Barely a mission goes by without a new enemy introduced, some of which have health bars to whittle down. At the end of each stage a colossal, often comical, boss battle commences. On harder difficulties, youâ€™ll need to hit at least 95% of the beats to take them down before the track ends.
Button prompts scroll along the bottom of the screen, and itâ€™s essential to alternate between guns as enemies charge along two plains. If they hit your car, you lose a life â€“ two hits and its â€˜Game Overâ€™. While this may sound unfair, enemies move slowly and go down easily â€“ the machine guns are almost constantly firing due to the beats coming thick and fast. Itâ€™s a shame there isnâ€™t always time to take in the gore-filled sights occurring on the top half of the screen.
Easy mode is precisely that, using just two buttons. This mode is so simple that itâ€™s entirely lacking in challenge. This was the difficulty we opted for originally, and consequently found things a little light and underwhelming. Itâ€™s no surprise that the harder difficulties are recommended. By providing a tougher challenge, theyâ€™re far more rewarding. The harder difficulties use all four face buttons, cranking up the carnage by adding a grenade and sniper rounds into the mix. Itâ€™s much easier for the guns to overheat though, which causes panic-inducing warnings to appear.
In terms of presentation, Double Kick Heroes is reasonably impressive. It has smartly drawn pixel art thatâ€™s lavishly animated, as well as detailed backdrops and a world map spanning several screens.
Arcade Mode allows you to revisit past stages, tackling the harder difficulties to obtain missing achievements, while Hellgate lets you jam along to guest tracks including some from other indie games. On top of all this, thereâ€™s a randomised Fury Road mode with daily runs to partake. Between missions perks can be chosen, helping to achieve a perfect run. Thereâ€™s a lot of content here.
Double Kick Heroes has the feel of a passion project â€“ this is something the developers were obviously keen to create and share with the world. Itâ€™s rife with references too, some of which are beyond brazen. If you regularly crank your speakers up to 11, youâ€™ll likely want to wallow in its bloodstained, swear-filled, satanic delights and see everything it has to offer.
No, it doesnâ€™t bring the rhythm action genre back from the brink of death – this is a simple game, even by genre standards, offering simple pleasures. But when one of those pleasures is gunning down clones of popular fast-food chain mascots while jamming to thrash metal, itâ€™s hard to nit-pick.
Double Kick Heroes is out now on Steam and Switch. Xbox One version due end of August.