From Toe Twists to Charlie Hops, Helicopters and Coffee Grinders, there’s Air Chairs, Flares, Knee Spins, Jackhammers, Six Steps, Two Steps and Back Spins. No, that wasn’t an abstract poem, but a list of a handful of dance moves in the breakdancing rhythm game Floor Kids. There are over a hundred of these different moves, and through a combination of buttons and joystick directions the player can bust out their chosen moves on the dance floor, free-styling on their own or in a breakdance battle against a second player.
When you first play Floor Kids, it’s just a case of random button pressing to the beat and watching these cartoon kids twirl and twist their bodies in the most impressive ways. But as the game’s levels get more difficult, the only way to score higher is to pull some killer combos, which are prompted by the game throughout its songs. These prompts are in the form of the names of the dance moves, which poses two challenges: one, remembering the move that goes with that name; and two, remembering the button combination for that move.
This combo-memorising mechanic is at the heart of Floor Kids, and it’s reminiscent of old-school arcade fighting games. Remembering these sequences gives you the upper hand on your opponent. Pulling off the button combo for a Hadoken is the same as remembering the button combos to perform House Shuffles then a Hanger, then some High Flares, and finishing with The Worm to complete the sequence. It works the same way, and with hopefully devastating results.
With over a hundred individual dance moves to remember this could seem daunting, but the creative and clever naming conventions that breakdancers use works perfectly for this style of game. It takes a direct influence from Kung Fu martial arts films of the 70s, when moves like the famous Headspin and Windmill had an impact on breakdancers and in turn had a massive influence on the beginnings and evolution of breakdancing techniques. These combat-based martial art techniques were visually dynamic and rhythmical, making them perfect to be appropriated by b-boys and b-girls.
Floor Kids takes this influence from martial arts films further. Before each new area you get a philosophical pep talk as if a Kung Fu breakdancing master is speaking to you. “Remember the beat. Count it. Learn it. And then forget it. For the funk is in all things. It becomes a part of you. Don’t think, feel.”
Where most rhythm games can be quite rigid and ask the player to follow a direct set of instructions, Floor Kids lets the player be free with what they get to perform. It’s fun and dynamic, and a fresh take on the rhythm game.