Kick and Fennick is a functional, cute game with a neat central mechanic, and I just cannot summon up any strong opinions about it. It’s fine, it’ll fill the space, and if you have six hours and you want to play a video game you could do worse, but I won’t be picking it up again any time soon. Kick and Fennick is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer developed by Jaywalkers Interactive and ported from the PS Vita for a June 2nd release on PS4 & Wii U and June 3rd on Xbox One.
You play as Kick, a small boy who wears a parachute-pants jumpsuit. The game begins when you wake up and exit the sleep pod you’ve apparently been ruminating in and decide to walk to the right. The game is set in an industrial facility that we never get any backstory or explanation about, nor do we know who Kick is or why he was asleep in that pod device.
After a few minutes we find Fennick, a small robot companion and a high-powered rifle that provides the game’s primary mechanic. The rifle is so large that its recoil can propel Kick into the air. It has a large … Kick you might say. This is your jump; you can aim anywhere to propel Kick in the opposite direction. You’re able to fire your rifle twice before you have to land, which then reloads. This stops you from just flying through each level on a stream of bullets. Time slows down while you’re aiming so you can redirect yourself mid-flight with precision.
It’s really quite a fun system that will give you a bunch of cool moments where you slow down time, spin your rifle to make that last jump and simultaneously shoot down a hostile robot.
This mechanic is the best thing about Kick and Fennick. The weight behind each shot feels satisfying and it gives you a great deal of control over your character’s movement. Later in the game your rifle can be temporarily upgraded to send you flying further with each shot, ramping up challenge while also making you feel more powerful.
The recoil mechanic is Kick and Fennick's biggest strength but serves to highlight the game’s biggest failing as well. It simply doesn’t introduce new mechanics fast enough to keep your interest. Once you have the rifle in Chapter 1 Level 1, it could be over an hour before you’re doing something significantly different than navigating jumping puzzles with a recoil-fueled double jump. In later chapters bounce pads, underwater sections, and portals are introduced to the puzzling but it's way too late; by that time I just wanted to finish the game so I could start writing this review and put it behind me. Which is never a point in a game’s favor.
Gameplay is tight and satisfying but simple; you can feel that this game was made for a younger audience as you pilot this small child on his oversized firearm. Deaths reset you instantly to the last safe place you were and there is a generous amount of "lives" before a game over restarts the level. The game over feels unnecessary but the brevity of each level means this is really never a huge concern. Throughout the level you can collect power nodes (the game’s coin equivalent) and secrets that unlock new outfits for Kick. Collecting all nodes in the level will give you a diamond rating at the end of the level, but that’s it, so only hardcore trophy-seekers will bother by the the end of the game. The jumping puzzles can be neat, but the short iteration time on death and limited moveset makes it relatively easy to brute force each one. The answer will usually be jump further.
Kick is a silent protagonist and none of the other characters in the game do more than squeak, resulting in a threadbare story at best. When you meet Fennick early in the game, his power core breaks and we are off to find a new one for him in a nearby tower. It’s never explained where these levels take place or what this facility is and I found myself criticizing the visuals during cutscenes rather than engaging with the characters. Maybe that’s because I’m 24 and not the game’s target market, but that feels like letting the game off too easy.
When it comes to those visuals, it’s easy to see that Kick & Fennick is a ported Vita game. It’s not ugly by any stretch but doesn’t compete with any comparable side-scrolling downloadable title. Level environments are either repeated or just not varied and the only 2 enemies are palate swaps of one another.
So that’s Kick and Fennick. Its an entirely inoffensive side-scrolling platformer that does some cool things with its jump mechanic but lapses into samey platforming sequences as the hours tick by on its six hour clear time. If the idea of the game intrigues you, you’ll get your money’s worth bouncing around the screen on a high powered rifle but if the slug line doesn’t captivate you, save the 10 dollars on this title.
This game was reviewed on PS4 with a code provided by the developer.
Kick and Fennick is a cute platformer with cool ideas, but repetitive levels and sparse mechanics hold it back.(Review Policy)