Kick & Fen­nick

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Green Hill De­vel­oper Jay­walk­ers In­ter­ac­tive For­mat Vita Re­lease Out now

Vita

Slick & Finicky might be a bet­ter ti­tle for this in­ven­tive but in­con­sis­tent Vita plat­former, which fol­lows in the tra­di­tion of Bionic Commando by deny­ing you the abil­ity to jump. The aptly named Kick in­stead uses the re­coil of his beam ri­fle to carry him across gaps. There’s some­thing of An­gry Birds in the touch­screen con­trol scheme, which in­vites you to slide your fin­ger back and then re­lease it to send the boy arc­ing through the air, though you can also use the right ana­logue stick and trig­ger to aim and fire. Point the gun up­wards in­stead and you can shoot air­borne enemies, though th­ese present lit­tle threat; the real dan­ger comes from en­ergy bar­ri­ers. Should Kick ever come close to elec­tro­cu­tion, Fen­nick will promptly res­cue his com­pan­ion, de­posit­ing him from whence he leapt, at least un­til the bot runs out of power. Ac­ci­dents will hap­pen as you ac­cli­ma­tise to the con­trols, but hav­ing such an alert ally pro­vides plenty of mar­gin for er­ror.

De­spite some generic en­vi­ron­ment de­sign and a dead-eyed pro­tag­o­nist who wouldn’t look out of place in the next Five Nights At Freddy’s, this is a tech­ni­cally su­pe­rior work, run­ning at Vita’s na­tive res­o­lu­tion with some fine light­ing and an­i­ma­tion, and a laud­ably smooth fram­er­ate. There’s a sat­is­fy­ing weight to each You can choose to re­turn to the menu af­ter each stage, or keep play­ing through them con­tin­u­ously. It’s a fine con­cept on pa­per, but Jay­walk­ers’ rep­e­ti­tion of ideas be­comes even more ap­par­ent with­out short breaks shot, and there’s plea­sure to be had in hurl­ing Kick around the early stages. Yet the in­her­ent po­ten­tial of the cen­tral me­chanic is even­tu­ally squan­dered. The dif­fi­culty curve isn’t so much a gen­tle in­cline as a set of steep steps, since the level de­sign grows frus­trat­ingly ex­act­ing in its de­mands. Time tem­po­rar­ily slows while Kick lines up his shots, but find­ing a pre­cise tra­jec­tory while fall­ing is a chal­lenge that proves frus­trat­ing too of­ten, not least be­cause it’s harder to match the touch con­trols’ gran­u­lar­ity with the ana­logue stick. And yet the pull-and-re­lease ap­proach has its draw­backs, too, par­tic­u­larly when two rapid shots are re­quired. You’ll mud­dle through stages with Fen­nick’s help, though by the fourth chap­ter you’ll likely have been forced to sit through at least one long load to restart a stage.

Later, bounce pads and por­tals add a de­gree of va­ri­ety, but you’ll have grown weary of re­peat­ing the same sec­tions, fluk­ing the split-sec­ond tim­ing re­quired as of­ten as not. And with lit­tle more than out­fits for Kick to re­ward your ef­forts, you’ll soon be happy to leave be­hind the spe­cial cogs you hap­pily scoured the early lev­els to lo­cate, fin­ish­ing well short of a per­fect score just to get it all over with. The dis­ap­point­ment is keener be­cause the de­vel­oper’s tal­ents are more than ev­i­dent. Jay­walk­ers’ idea here is a good one, and with a lit­tle more at­ten­tion to de­tail, this might have been more than a briefly di­vert­ing PS Plus free­bie.

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