KickBeat for Xbox One–Impressions

Game Reviews, Games

KickBeat_logo_SE

Kickbeat is a unique entry into the rhythm/music genre.  Developed by Zen Studios, it fuses elements of Guitar Hero/Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, and every fighting game ever made.  The result is a rhythm game where you press buttons in time with the music, and each successful button press lands an attack on a swarm of enemies.  These enemies just love to get punched and kicked to the music, because they all get into position just in time to get whacked.  I’ll try to explain how it works…

Gameplay

The gameplay area is a circle with your character standing in the middle, ready to kick people to the beat of the music.  The music starts and the enemies start to circle you.  As they circle towards one of the cardinal directions, they land on one of the face buttons. (in the case of the Xbox One version, XYBA)  You press the associated button in time with the beat and the enemy on that button gets a vicious attack knocking him out of the fight. 

Faster songs have more enemies to defeat and with higher frequencies.  There are a couple variations to the formula, including; blue enemies who attack in off-beat patterns like up beats, red enemies who attack in pairs (meaning you’ll press two buttons like X and Y), and enemies who are tied together with a yellow streak whom you defeat by pressing and holding on the first enemy and releasing on the second.

Some enemies will have a floating icon over their head with a range of powerups.  Double tapping their corresponding button will give you the knockout and the powerup.  Powerups vary between score multipliers, extra points, health, chi and more.  Then you have the option to fire off your collected chi or shield move to either double points or save yourself from a difficult section.

Difficulty

There is an old saying, “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought.”  The saying is in reference to being prideful and treating others as if they are less than ourselves.  But I am going to use it in the context of, “just because you can beat every Guitar Hero game on Expert and love rhythm games, don’t think that you should start KickBeat on anything above Normal.”

I have a confession to make.  When I first fired up KickBeat and completed the training, I figured I was prepared for the higher difficulties.  I was sorely mistaken.  KickBeat was, at this moment, “get your face Kicked in to the beat”.  Normal is challenging enough, you should start there.

Graphics and Sounds

Graphics are hardly the focus of a rhythm game so I won’t spend much time on them, but I will say I had trouble at times identifying the colors of the enemies.  Some times it was too late before I realized that the two enemies were red and would be attacking simultaneously.  Another issue I had, though also mild and infrequent, was the enemies occasionally becoming obscured by the player character due to the odd camera angle.

Sound is a completely different story here.  Sound is key to KickBeat’s gameplay.  The sound effects are few and unimportant beyond the sound of fist meeting face.  The music however, is the reason behind the (thin) story and what engages the player.  As you get better at KickBeat, similar to Rock Band, it will begin to feel like you are playing these songs.  But instead of playing the songs with instruments, you play with your punches and kicks.  Each blow delivered to your enemies is in perfect sync with the beat, guitar riffs, vocal lines or other musical accents.

The soundtrack that you will beat enemies up to is energetic but varied.  Rap songs, metal tracks, and electronic dance tunes are available.  And the set list seems to get better as you work through the story mode.

Better late than never

KickBeat has been out on other platforms for a while, but I came late to the party.  Xbox One owners who are fans of rhythm games should rejoice at this fun fusion of fighting and music.  It’s got its quirks, but the soundtrack is hard-hitting and the game shows off it’s excellent design at the higher difficulties.

CastleStorm Review

Game Reviews, Games

CastleStorm - gameplay - 2013-05-25 04-48-48

As a gamer, it’s nice to have developers that you can count on for creating great games and content.  Quite often, developers become known for a certain game series or genre.  And so it becomes easy to think of DICE as “the Battlefield guys”, or Bethesda as “the action/adventure RPG guys”.  Likewise, it would have been easy to think of Zen Studios as “the pinball guys”.  And sure, their most notable work, at least the most prolific, has been Pinball FX and it’s spawn.  But today, Zen Studios carves a new notch into its development record with 2D physics-destruction tower defense action game (it’s hard to put this one into a specific genre) CastleStorm.

CastleStorm has several modes of play including Versus multiplayer and Co-op modes.  I suggest playing through the campaign first as a sort of tutorial and to unlock other modes and features.

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Star Wars Pinball Now Available on iOS

Games

Star Wars Pinball Logo

After a few unforeseen delays, Star Wars Pinball is now available as a
stand alone application on the iTunes App Store!

Star Wars Pinball is $1.99 and comes with the Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back table. Boba Fett and Star Wars: The Clone Wars are available as in
app purchases.

Star Wars Pinball on iOS comes with a special “Balance of the Force” feature, allowing players the choice to support the Light Side or the Dark Side. Players scores will go toward the selected side and alter the game UI in real time!

May the Force be with you!

Also, check out our Star Wars Pinball Review.

CastleStorm Multiplayer Modes Revealed

Games

The clouds of war are gathering on Xbox LIVE® Arcade as the spring release of CastleStorm draws ever closer. CastleStorm is a 2D real-time strategy physics-based destruction game from the developers of Pinball FX2.

CastleStorm is packed full of multiplayer and co-op modes for players to enjoy with the awesome Xbox LIVE® Arcade community. Featuring three multiplayer / co-op modes, each playable in local split screen or online multiplayer. Players will be able to use their own custom made castles created in the Castle Editor in online multiplayer battles!

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Star Wars Pinball Review – Two Lightsabers Up!

Game Reviews, Games

Star Wars Pinball LogoStar Wars Pinball Review

I am not the Star Wars geek that many (most) of my friends are, but I do respect the characters and the franchise as a whole, plus I had the O.G. Star Wars bed sheets when I was a kid.  My own kids use them now, so we are still a Star Wars family to a degree.  When I first learned of the Star Wars Pinball tables, I got pretty excited.  But now that the first pack of tables is here, is it worth your credits?

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Star Wars Pinball – Boba Fett Trailer

Games, Movies/TV

Star Wars Pinball from Zen Studios will be released next week on Feb. 25th. They will be offering up 3 tables. An Empire Strikes Back theme, a Clone Wars theme and a Boba Fett table. You can take a closer look at the Boba Fett table above. Prepare to take on the role of the universe’s top bounty hunter as he takes on Empire and Rebels alike.

Star Wars Pinball Releases Next Week!

Games

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Use the Force to guide the silver ball in Star Wars™ Pinball coming to digital stores next week! The first pack of tables includes Star Wars Episode V : The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Star Wars Pinball will release as DLC for the following platforms and dates:

Pinball FX2™ on Xbox LIVE® Arcade – February 27th for 800 MSP

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Star Wars Pinball is coming soon.

Games

Zen Studios has announced Star Wars Pinball for pretty much all major digital download services.

Star Wars Pinball will include three tables including Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  You had me at Boba Fett.

This may be the first of multiple packs as the wording in the press release calls this “The initial three-table pack”.  Star Wars Pinball is heading to a star system new you February 2013.

May the silver ball be with you!

An interview with video game music composer Waterflame (CastleStorm, Castle Crashers)

Games, Music

Waterflame logo

Video games, like movies, rely on many parts to make up the whole. These parts can be categorized by what you see and what you hear. As a good flim director knows, the music/sound effects can make or break a scene or even an entire movie. Unlike movies though, video game music is often called to be dynamic and evolving, based on the location and current situation of the player character. Whereas movies are entirely scripted, a video games pacing is determined largely by the player.

Because of this dynamism, video games require a music composer who is adept at setting the stage and can marry sound with an intended visual.

Christian M. Krogsvold, AKA Waterflame, is a composer from Norway, has been involved in several indie game projects, had his music featured in the very popular Castle Crashers, and been the recipient of Newgrounds’ “Musician of the Year” award.  He also provided the music for Zen Studio’s upcoming game CastleStorm.

Waterflame has released over 200 songs, many of which can be downloaded for free. His music spans many genres and moods. Some songs evoke a dreamy feeling of relaxation, or perhaps flying through space, exploring distant planets. Others feel like a fight for survival against a seemingly unbeatable foe. From ambient textures to exciting adventurous romps through an enchanted forest, Waterflame has the ability to capture the scene and the setting in audio form.

As an avid gamer and musician, it’s an honor to be able to interview a master of his craft who works simultaneously in two exciting industries, Games and Music.

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