Kick & Fennick - Review
It’s somewhat baffling that Abstraction Games’ humble little platformer, Kick & Fennick didn’t get much attention, because it’s a pretty darn good game.
You play as Kick, a young boy who quickly teams up with a strange little robot called Fennick, and the pair set off to go and patch up Fennick’s broken power core. It’s a charming story, briefly told by a few interspersed cut-scenes, but the main focus of Kick & Fennick is a very simple, but ingeniously effective, set of platforming mechanics.
You see, Kick lugs around a great big space rifle that, whilst far too unwieldy for him to use as a straight up weapon, does allow him to bounce around from the recoil. Fire the weapon at the ground, and the resulting force will send Kick hurtling up into the air, perfect for leaping across chasms and getting to higher places.
For such a simple mechanic (it’s barely more than a basic jump), it remains deceptively deep throughout the game’s runtime. Getting the trajectory just right to nail a particular jump becomes addictive incredibly quickly. What’s more, Kick is capable of firing an additional shot whilst in mid-air, requiring you to utilize some pretty quick reflexes in order to navigate around some of the game’s challenges.
And the developers do a reasonable job of varying those challenges. Most levels typically involve jumping from point to point, becoming more complex when you have to time said jumps to avoid electric beams and the odd enemy. Later sections introduce several new elements in order to keep things from becoming too stale, such as underwater segments, a platforming staple, as well as having to traverse across bounce pads or use a powered up rifle that fires Kick with a lot more velocity.
As you’d expect, considering the game was released on the Vita, the game’s jumping can be controlled with either the analogue sticks, or with touch screen inputs. Initially the touch screen controls make sense, and provide players with a stronger, tactile feedback which certainly benefits the gameplay. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly comfortable way of playing once the levels become more complex, and the size of the Vita’s screen means that you’ll regularly find your finger drifting too far down and triggering a jump when you didn’t mean to. If anything, this is a game begging for an iPad release some time down the line.
The game’s aesthetic meanwhile, has clearly been influenced by Portal; the grey lab rooms and the quirky robotic enemies all seem reminiscent of Vale’s portal-based puzzler. Even the nature of gameplay seems related, with the emphasis on nailing the correct trajectory and working out the right angle to jump out being oddly reminiscent of the challenges you faced in Portal.
Sadly, Kick & Fennick never seems to absorb any of its influence’s personality, and, after the first chapter or so, the game’s level design slips into bouts of blandness and repetition. Don’t expect any comic duo moments between Kick and Fennick, like you would in Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter. Granted, Kick & Fennick doesn’t have any voice acting but it would have been nice for some of their character to get through to the player, even if it was just in the form of a humorous cut-scene or two.
The biggest fault to be found in the game though doesn’t come from the game itself, but how it runs. Kick & Fennick is pretty to look at, which is all the more impressive when you see it running on the Vita. It’s disappointing then, to find the game crashing between levels at an alarming frequency. The game itself plays smoothly enough, but it’s annoying to have to constantly close down and reboot it every two levels or so because the game fails to load, leaving you staring at a blank screen.
Overall, Kick & Fennick is a solid game, and, despite a few flaws, it’s shocking that it hasn’t received much notice since its release. Its bite size levels, taking all of five to ten minutes to complete, mean that a level or two can be completed in a bus ride or morning break. It might not break the mould all that much, and its staunch refusal to vary its visual palette over its entire runtime definitely makes playing through some of the later levels more of chore. Yet, a smart core mechanic makes for some fun gameplay that works perfectly for portable gaming.
Kick & Fennick was released on February 3rd exclusively for the Vita.
© 2015 LudoLogic