Kick & Fennick on the PS Vita is a smooth and easygoing platform adventure about Kick, a little boy with a very big gun, and a small flying robot named Fennick. Apart from shooting down enemy robots, Kick can make huge jumps by using his gun's powerful recoil. Jump and shoot your way through 45 levels full of obstacles and challenges such as treadmills, bouncypads, magnets, teleporters and a big guard robot that just doesn’t want to leave you alone. Whilst been stalked by a menacing guard robot, players must use the powerful recoil of Kick’s giant gun to help them navigate a colourful but dangerous world on their quest to reach the Core Tower.
Kick & Fennick was developed by Jaywalkers Interactive for the PlayStation Vita this past February, 2015. The title was developed by a two man team based out of the Netherlands with the help of Abstraction Games (Hotline Miami, Rogue Legacy). This is an odd partnership and, perhaps, an ambitious one. The PlayStation Vita has struggled to pull in consistent customers with storied franchises, so the decision to start a new one has to give the guys at Sony pause. Still, all new games are worth trying if you have the right mind set so we dove head first into Kick & Fennick to see if the title lived up to the ambition behind it.
Kick & Fennick is a sort of 2D platforming game with 3D elements. The story is pretty simple and it consists of a young man named (unfortunately) Kick meeting up with a robot named Fennick. Kick wakes up on a strange and mysterious world where Fennick happens to live. Pretty soon the duo is attacked by a strange and dangerous enemy. In the process Fennick's battery is damaged and they are forced to adventure to the top of a tower in order to repair it. Thus starts your adventure into this weird, wacky, and sometimes downright difficult world.
Kick is no typical hero. Sure he has a gun but it isn't how good he shoots that matters so much. Being a little guy on a new planet Kick's gun launches him into the air every time he pulls the trigger. So using this to your own advantage, you will soon find yourself exploring the world of Kick & Fennick with an improvised rocket jump. You will explore a strange and futuristic city as you try to get past all of your enemies in order to save your new friend.
The beginning of the title goes slow enough to let you get accustomed to the type of game that you will be playing. Like dipping your toe into a cold swimming pool, Kick & Fennick lets you learn the ropes of what you will be doing without fear of too much repercussion. Starting with the basics of gameplay will have you testing your new rocket jump. You can shoot twice with your gun in order to stay propelled in the air before you have to land. Don't worry about reloading as that will happen for you automatically upon landing. Obviously this seems like a simple enough gameplay mechanic, and it is to a point, but there is plenty of room for strategy. Smart players will start to test out how to chain their shots together so as to avoid the need of ever landing or stopping completely, that is where danger lay.
As you play through the game you will come to learn about angles and momentum, using the warped physics of this strange world to your advantage. Firing straight at the ground will launch you straight into the air. Shooting at an angle, a 45' angle for example, will have you flying at that angle in the opposite direction. Shoot up in order to make your character go down faster. Think of the scene in the film Gravity where Sandra Bullock uses a fire extinguisher to move around in space. The basic concepts are not too dissimilar here. If this all sounds difficult, don't worry. The developers slow down time when you are lining up your shot so that it is easier to do.
The campaign mode itself will run you about seven to ten total hours of playing time. For the first couple of hours things are entertaining but rather cliche. You'll run across puzzles, fight some generic baddies, and learn the ropes of how to excel at the game. Then halfway through the title things shift onto their head. The puzzles that you need to navigate across will become suddenly much more difficult. While this definitely makes the game more fun, it also makes it more frustrating. Nothing is worse than seeing the pieces of a puzzle and not knowing how to solve the problem. Some puzzles will have you stuck between a pit of death and a floor full of bounce pits. If you don't time your jumps out right, and angle them correctly, then you could be going for a spin hat will leave you splatted against a wall. So you have to remember a little bit of your training, working the angles, in order to advance at these points.
While the game pushes you to become a better player, it is also unforgiving at times. We understand having insane difficulty for games like Angry Birds, where starting over takes five seconds, but in Kick & Fennick things just seem too hard. The more difficult puzzles may take you ten or more attempts to master, only you don't have that kind of health. After so many attempts you will be kicked allll the way back to the beginning of the level. Very frustrating especially when you think that you are almost there. Sure you can find health bonuses on the ground but they are limited and hard to come by. If you like challenge then none of what I just wrote will really matter to you. However, if you don't like feeling a little stupid than this game may not be for you.
There are five total chapters that you will be playing through in the game. Each chapter ends with a tough boss fight that forces you to use props in the right way. Typically we aren't a big fan of inorganic boss battles, but the ones in Kick & Fennick ended up working out well. The bosses themselves are interesting in their design and they force you to work in a different way than what you may be comfortable with - inciting even more challenge.
At the end of the day Kick & Fennick is a solid experience that is perfectly sized for consumption on the PlayStation Vita. While there are gameplay issues, and some problems with saving, the title is still enjoyable.