Kick & Fennick: PS Vita Review

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 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.  
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
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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Kick & Fennick’s difficulty levels don’t affect its navigation beyond a less helpful trajectory arrow on hard, but they do determine how often you’re allowed to fail before Fennick shrugs his shoulders. You’ve got 13 ‘lives‘ on easy and four on hard, though that can be increased by picking up energy cogs. Some will only appear upon shooting enemies curiously, there’s no kickback whatsoever when you’re aiming the business end of the gun at anything other than the ground.


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