It doesn’t get more metal than being chased across a wasteland by an army of zombies and using a weaponized drum kit to survive. Double Kick Heroes is a rhythm action side-scroller by Headbang Club which has you hitting notes in time with the beat in order to take on furious hordes of zombies, demons, mutants and whatever else is thrown at you. Rock on!
When a gig is interrupted by the zombie apocalypse, the band Double Kick Heroes travel across the world in a ‘Gundillac’ (a Cadillac car fitted with guns that are controlled by a drum kit) in order to find out what has caused the end of the world. You play as Derek, the band's drummer, and the majority of the action depends on you hitting either the left (lower gun) or right (upper gun) arrow keys in time with the music to shoot at enemies.
On higher difficulties, you will be given two extra weapons to control with additional rows of notes; a grenade and a sniper rifle. Unfortunately because of this, the easiest mode "Rock" can become boring very quickly. With nothing else to do other than repetitively smashing the two arrow keys, it can become quite mind-numbing. I feel this could have been improved had the different rows of notes been available on all difficulties and the note quantity and speed was increased with each higher setting. The second difficulty level "Hard Rock" is a little more challenging with the addition of a grenade and another row of notes to control with the Control key on Windows. This was probably my preferred difficulty setting as "Metal" can become particularly punishing towards the later stages of the game and "Violence" and "Extreme" are just recipes for hand cramp.
Double Kick Heroes involves keeping an eye on both the beat map and what’s going on in the battle above. This is because you can hit the notes with either the upper or lower gun and this determines which enemies you hit. On top of this, some boss battles require you to move the car out of the way of charge attacks. This is where the majority of the difficulty comes in as it’s very hard to look away from the beat map whilst you’re trying to hit the right notes. On top of this, Double Kick Heroes is a beautiful game with stylish 16-bit imagery which you don’t really get to enjoy whilst your eyes are transfixed on the beat map. As you hit notes precise enough to score ‘perfect’, these will eventually add up and allow you to switch to a more powerful weapon. You’ll start off with an ordinary gun, then go up to a shotgun, and finally deliver the most damage with a cannon. Similarly, grenades and sniper rifles work in the same manner that you will hit enough notes to be able to charge them up and use them.
The story mode is short but sweet; although I only clocked in 3 hours in total to complete it, there are plenty of alternative modes to try out. The "Editor" allows you to import your own tracks and create levels, "Hellgate" includes bonus songs by some of the featured licensed artists, "Arcade" mode lets you just play the levels without the story, and "Fury Road" is split into Daily Fury daily challenges and Endless Rage where you can play level after level and unlock gear and power-ups.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find the story very interesting and there were numerous times when I felt the game was about to end but it just kept going. It starts off as an apocalyptic game about zombies but then takes a turn and we’re suddenly in Transylvania and Hell battling vampires and demons. It doesn’t seem to know which genre to settle on though the demonic film was more fitting with this style of game. On top of this, the characters’ personalities can be annoying and the dialogue gets quite cringey. There are pit stop moments where the player will take a breather and have the opportunity to talk to the other characters, but I found these moments to only get in the way of gameplay as I didn’t have much of an interest in their lives or problems. You’ll often have to backtrack to these pit stops too after clearing out several levels.
Thankfully, the music is where Double Kick Heroes takes a shine as Frederic “Elmobo” Motte’s soundtrack fits in perfectly with the gameplay style. His work mixed with licensed artists is easy to enjoy, even if you’re not a metalhead. But this is definitely a game for metal fans, especially with the nods towards famous metal artists.
Overall I found Double Kick Heroes to be an initially enjoyable experience which eventually lost its charm the more I progressed through the story. Although the music is well-produced, it would definitely be most appreciated by fans of its genre. The soundtrack manages to fit in really well with the rhythm action gameplay style and contributes to the satisfaction of killing zombies in time to the music. The higher difficulty levels are brutal enough to provide a real challenge to those with a quick enough reaction speed whereas the lowest level can be so repetitive it almost makes completing the story a chore. The art style is pretty, though is kind of wasted when the player spends most of their time not looking at it. Despite this, I think Double Kick Heroes would certainly be a fun game for metal fans.