Every now and then, I’ll go through my gaming collection and think to myself, “It’s a shame that more people don’t know about this game.” By now, I probably sound like a broken record but redundancies aside, there are many good games each year that very few people know about and that even fewer have played. One of those games happens to be a colorful indie platformer that came out of a small studio, Jaywalkers Interactive. The game? Kick & Fennick. Gameplay is the key in Kick & Fennick and it makes this game a gem that all Vita owners should give a try.
Kick & Fennick is a game about a boy named Kick, his robot pal Fennick, and his gun – his very big gun. Although he has a gun, this is not a shooter, it’s a platformer and a challenging one at that. Kick wakes up in what looks to be a desolate and destroyed city void of any other human life but filled with danger. A la a family friendly Terminator – there are robots everywhere and they are not very welcoming, except one – a robot named Fennick that looks like a cross between Ratchet and Clank. In fact, the whole game is reminiscent of the Ratchet and Clank titles and that’s not a bad thing. While still holding true to its individuality, Kick and Fennick seems like it may have been inspired by other great platformers like the popular adventure series, Ratchet & Clank.
With no voice overs, or narration of any kind, the story to Kick & Fennick is pretty vague and you’ll find yourself asking questions that will ultimately never be answered but in the end, you probably will not care. Kick wakes up, finds Fennick; Fennick is “broken” so you go on a quest to save your new (or old? We never really know.) friend. Who Kick is, where the other humans are, what’s really going on? You can make some guesses throughout the game, but unless we get a direct answer from the devs, we’ll probably never know for sure. Does it matter? Not really because the aspects of the game where Kick & Fennick shine brightest are the level design and gameplay.
Utilizing both the PlayStation Vita’s touch screen and its buttons for controls, you have a few options when it comes to how you want to play the game. But what do you do in this game? Remember that big gun that I mentioned earlier? That is the absolute key to playing the game. Using it less as a weapon and more as a tool for transportation, Kick’s mega gun acts as a catapult to launch you in the direction you choose. Being that this is a platformer, all sorts of obstacles and challenges will be in your way as you try to traverse this ruined city. I played most of the game with only the analog sticks and button controls because it was more comfortable for me that way but you can also use both the touch screen and buttons.
Like most platfomers, the challenges come with timing, accurate aim, and quick reflexes. Along with jumping over walls, avoiding electric beams, and fighting robots, you’ll have to aim precisely and time yourself carefully to progress in the game. Each level throws in new challenges and obstacles and new gameplay elements. During the first few levels, you’ll use your gun for basic platforming like jumping over gaps, avoiding enemies, and hopping on platforms. As you progress to later chapters and levels, new elements such as bouncing pads, portals, door switches, electric beams, and more – turn up the challenge. You’ll definitely find yourself replaying some levels after failing a few times (even on normal). But once you finally pass that stage, it’s rewarding to be able to move on.
Speaking of rewards, there are also collectibles in the game which have a twofold application. Each level has 50 gears (again – like Ratchet and Clank) scattered around for you to find and collect. Some of these gears will come out of defeated enemies, others will be strategically placed throughout the level. There are also special gears that when collected, unlock different costumes for Kick to wear in the game. The costumes really aren’t anything special but if you really want to change Kick’s outfit (which is basically a body suit), then collect away! The other application of these gears comes in the form of health packs. Yes, the game does have a health bar. Your robot buddy Fennick isn’t completely useless as he is the one who “saves” you and resets your position after getting injured by a robot or when you fail a platforming challenge. If Fennick’s bar goes down all the way, then it’s game over and you have to restart the level. However, if you collect gears, then that does help to replenish Fennick’s life and in turn keeps you alive.
Fighting enemies in the game is of lesser concern but will take place on each level. Enemies can be destroyed by aiming your gun directly at them and firing a few shots depending on the enemy. There aren’t really too many different robot enemies for you to fight. Most of them tend to be little box-like guys on the ground or some flying type robots. The blue ones are fairly easy to take out, the red ones may take a few more shots. Enemies are not a major focus at all. Instead the game focuses on level design and platform puzzles. Even when you have to fight a boss at the end of a chapter, you don’t really use your gun to do the damage directly to the boss. There are usually some sort of puzzles or strategies that you must solve in order to overcome your foe. Bosses do not really seem to change but each boss fight will have a different way of defeating them through platforming and level puzzles.
Overall, the level design was great. There are 5 chapters in the game and each chapter has a number of levels for a total of 45 levels in this bite-sized game. While some levels may seem slightly repetitive, more often than not, you’ll find yourself facing unique levels all created in ways to challenge you in ways that the previous chapters did not. Even if some of the obstacles are the same type, like beams of electricity, their placement or timing will be completely different. All of this superb craftsmanship really helps to keep your mind focused and involved in the game. I truly enjoyed each and every level although there were a few that had me wanting to pull out my hair from time to time.
Another aspect of the level design that I really appreciated was the absolutely beautiful and colorful palette that was used. Although the game’s setting was what seemed to be a post-apocalyptic world where robots had taken over, there were still bright colors that popped in each level; It wasn’t always dark and dreary. The art style is very cartoon-like and it helped to keep the tone not overly serious and fairly lighthearted. The levels were bright and the settings varied from place to place. There were some levels under water, some on the rooftop with a beautiful sunset behind. Other levels took place at night or in a building overrun by vegetation. The colors were bright and vivid and the Vita’s OLED screen definitely helped to make those pop out. I can imagine that if you have the 2000 series Vita (aka Vita slim) the LCD screen on there will make the game look great as well.
Kick & Fennick is an unexpected surprise – a colorful, fun, and challenging platformer. If you have a Vita and you’re looking for a game filled with rewarding, challenging, and colorful gameplay, Kick and Fennick is for you. I do hope that this first venture into this IP will not be the last for Jaywalkers because I would definitely love to see the characters develop and the overall game improve. Maybe next time there could be better focus on the story and an even wider variety of level settings. I really have few negative things to say about the game. Some of the levels may seem like they are repetitive and there were a few glitches where I had to start levels over but overall, if you’re looking for a platformer focused on unique gameplay – that’s what Kick and Fennick is and it does it well.
I really appreciate it when developers, especially indie studios, take on a challenge and a risk to produce games like these and I hope it pays off for Jaywalkers. My score for Kick and Fennick?
Give it a Try – A good game which, although not gaming perfection, offers an enjoyable experience with few negative points.
[Editor’s Note: Find out how WholesomeGamer scores games here.]