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Double Kick Heroes headbangs its way into early access

Chrome, flames and wailing guitars

In Double Kick Heroes, when the apocalypse is snapping at your heels the only thing you can trust is the power of heavy metal drumming. This unusual take on a familiar old arcade rhythm genre comes to us from French outfit Headbang Club and brings a lot to the table, including a full level editor, and is out in early access today.

As the title implies, your main weapon against a tide of undead, mutants and monsters is a double kick drumbeat. Once upon a time, Double Kick Heroes was a little Ludum Dare development jam contest entry based around the concept of two-button controls. In order to keep up with the kind of machinegun tempo heavy metal drumming requires, you needed both of those buttons to alternate between. This new iteration of the game uses up to four buttons for your arsenal of percussion, and another two to steer your bullet-spewing car.

I admit that I've not played many rhythm games extensively since Guitar Hero was big on the PlayStation 2, so maybe I've gotten rusty, but Double Kick Heroes feels surprisingly demanding. Granted, I'm playing on Hard mode (which unlocks all the possible buttons to use), and juggling multiple audio tracks (each tied to a different weapon) while keeping an eye on the gameplay screen itself for enemies to target and attacks to steer away from was a little more than expected. Satisfying, once I got the hang of it, though, but I'm tempted to bump it down to Normal.

The current Early Access version of the game contains around half of the final version's planned songs, levels and story-mode missions. Depending on how many other bands they can rope in, Headbang Club plan on adding some more guest tracks to the game to bulk it out a bit. They reckon it'll be finished in about six months, and will likely be accompanied with a small price increase once it's all done and dusted.

While Double Kick Heroes does include a fully functional level editor, allowing you to assign note charts to any track you may own, it's no surprise that Steam Workshop support isn't part of the package. Levels are packed in a nice proprietary format, but sharing through Valve's servers would undoubtedly be fraught with legal issues. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if community (and legally questionable, let's be real) sharing sites popped up if the game ends up halfway successful, as they have for other successful rhythm games.

Double Kick Heroes is out now in early access on Steam and GOG for £10.25/$13.49.

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Dominic Tarason