By: Matthew Striplen
Since its initial release for the PlayStation Vita in 2015, Kick and Fennick, a game about a boy with a giant gun and a robot on a quest, has made the jump to all the major modern consoles. It’s a classic 2D platformer with a twist: no jumping, just guns.
Kick and Fennick‘s controls are easily the most unusual part of the experience. Unlike the vast majority of platformers, there’s no jump button. Instead, Kick must use his trusty gun to launch himself wherever he needs to go.
Luckily, his gun packs a powerful punch, so if you angle your shot correctly, the recoil can send you flying across the stage. Aiming the gun is quite intuitive as well, though it can be a little trickier depending on the difficulty setting. More on that later…
When Kick aims his gun, time temporarily slows to a crawl. This enables the player to execute extremely intricate airborne maneuvers. When not firing his weapon, Kick maneuvers easily along the ground or through the air. Platform games need solid controls and Kick and Fennick doesn’t disappoint.
Kick‘s graphics look pretty good, but not too much has changed from the Vita release. Overall, the game has been cleaned up a bit and the menus have been redesigned, but the blockiness from the original is still prevalent. Still, the only major complaint is the unreliable camera.
As with most 2D platformers, the camera automatically follows the player through the level. It occasionally zooms in and out, depending on the demands of the area. However, sometimes the camera shifts at the wrong time or in the wrong direction, leaving the player with either too little visibility or pulling out so far that Kick becomes a tiny speck on the screen.
Kick‘s soundtrack consists primarily of ambient sounds, reserving proper music for special circumstances. Luckily, the ambient sounds are well done, especially Kick’s gun, which makes a satisfying thud. Also, Fennick‘s sound design takes heavy inspiration from R2D2.
The use of music can be a little questionable. Sometimes dark orchestral melodies appear for seemingly no reason. The music sounds great, but the foreboding lines can send mixed messages in an otherwise normal environment. Ultimately, the music stays appropriate to the game for the most part.
Kick comes hurtling down to a planet and is immediately met by Fennick, the friendly robot. Fennick soon proves his usefulness, but Kick notices he has a cracked tail, so the duo set out to repair Fennick. This is pretty much all the plot that’s given, but the engaging gameplay makes it possible to excuse a barebones story.
Kick and Fennick is essentially a linear platforming collect-a-thon. Each level contains 50 collectable gears as well as a larger “special” gear. Grabbing every single one isn’t required to finish a level, but it poses an exciting challenge for completionists. Plus, collecting enough special gears unlocks additional outfits.
One of the best parts of Kick and Fennick is how it uses a very limited amount of tools to solve a wide variety of challenges. Kick only has his gun, which can either shoot enemies or launch him into the air. The various levels make use of all kinds of obstacles, ranging from moving platforms to deadly lasers and giant weights that can crush you in an instant.
Each obstacle is used in many different ways, which shows tremendous creativity on the part of the designers. For example, the lasers usually provide a limit to Kick’s movement. However, they can sometimes have a timed disruption, which the player must exploit to move through them. These timed lasers can form mazes that Kick must navigate midair.
In addition, the progression of difficulty feels very natural. The game definitely doesn’t hold back in the later levels, but it adequately shows players the ropes before anything too crazy comes their way.
Although most level design is of a very high caliber, certain levels, especially boss encounters, lose their sense of direction. In particular, the second chapter’s boss left me scratching my head. The puzzle is cleverly hidden high above the boss, but it’s easy to overlook, considering the giant robot trying to kill you. Once the puzzle is found, it’s straightforward enough, but the time it takes to notice it wrecks the stage’s momentum.
The game’s difficulty can be toggled between stages. The most obvious change is the targeting system. On normal, Kick’s gun will display the trajectory of the shot, but hard mode replaces it with a less descriptive arrow. Also, Fennick possesses significantly less energy in the higher difficulty settings, enabling him to rescue Kick a fewer number of times before reaching game over.
Kick and Fennick is a refreshing take on the classic 2D platforming genre. The lack of a jump and reliance on Kick’s gun keeps the game from getting stale. Level design stays more or less sharp, with only a few weak moments. If you’re looking for challenging platformer to keep you busy, Kick and Fennick is an excellent choice.