A clever 2D platformer that overstays its welcome despite its charming aesthetic and unique gameplay.
Jaywalkers Interactive; Abstraction Games
World-building & Story
Like any good platforming duo, the titular heroes in Kick & Fennick meet each other accidentally, yet bond as they go on a long journey together. Here, it’s to find a new core to power the injured Fennick – with Kick’s recoil-heavy gun being the key to them getting into a futuristic tower which seems to have the solution to everything.
Not a word is spoken during the 5-6 hour adventure, with the duo communicating through facial features, gestures and the odd robotic bleep from Fennick. It leaves the pair as fairly devoid of any character – although Fennick is extremely cute he doesn’t offer much else, while Kick is an emotionless blonde-haired Aryan. There’s actually precious little story here in general, which is a shame as there was a perfect opportunity to explore the personalities of two platformer mascots here as they get to know each other, not dissimilar to what Insomniac achieved with the first Ratchet & Clank game.
At least the world it all takes place in is super interesting – a collection of Portal 2-esque clinical laboratories that have long since been reclaimed by nature with plants and wildlife running rampant. I wanted to find out more about how it got into this state but, as with the characterisation and main plot, it’s never really expanded on leaving a pretty but rather hollow shell.
Presentation & Sound
I was pleasantly surprised with the presentation in Kick & Fennick – there’s a Pixar-esque quality to the character models and the environments were often quite breathtaking with camera angles that highlighted their beauty. I could have done with a bit more variety as the game went in, but overall I was impressed.
Kick is a floppy-haired hero in a jumpsuit and although his facial expressions are a little limited during cutscenes, during gameplay both he and Fennick are animated quite well. Things like Kick reacting to his gun’s recoil or Fennick covering Kick’s face when the pair go underwater are nice touches that add a bit of personality to the title, making it more than just another forgettable 2D platformer on Vita (although I could have used a bit more enemy variety than just the handful that are here).
As previously mentioned, environments are a collection of overgrown labs that look fairly pretty at first glance, but quickly become repetitive due to overused elements that run from start to finish. Still, there are times where the journey will take you outdoors and this is when the game tends to be at its prettiest as you can see the tower you’re heading to in the background, plus the backgrounds can change and there are plenty of gorgeous orange or purple sunsets that reminded me of those in the Spyro games, which I loved seeing.
In terms of audio, there’s actually a pretty ace soundtrack that was like a complete throwback to 90’s platformers (in fact, I was reminded of an obscure PS1 platformer I loved called Adiboo & Paziral’s Secret), but it’s used sparsely and the majority of the time you’ll be playing in silence, save for the odd robotic bleep or straining noise from Kick. It’s a shame, as I’d have liked to here more of what was on offer, but the lack of noise does add to the atmosphere of it being a solitary adventure.
Gameplay & Content
While many of the puzzles and ideas in Kick & Fennick are ones we’ve seen countless times before, there is one major thing it does to set itself apart from the crowd – which is platforming built around using the recoil of a gun. It’s a unique idea that’s explored quite well here, although the game takes far too long to get itself into gear.
Kick can’t jump and his movement capability is limited, but he does have a massive gun that provides some intense firepower. This can be used in two ways – it can either be fired at enemies and switches to hit them, or fired at the ground which sends him flying in the opposite direction. In doing this, the platforming of Kick & Fennick starts – you use this recoil to leap between ledges, over barriers and between electrical obstacles.
To assist with aiming jumps, the game provides a handy arc (similar to Angry Birds) which allows you to fine-tune your angle – time also briefly slows which allows for mid-air shots and re-adjustments. Your gun carries two ammo at any one time, meaning some challenges are a case of using one shot to get yourself into position and the second to actually land on the platform you want to get to. The game takes every opportunity to use cinematic camera angles to frame the action, which I quite enjoyed.
Kick & Fennick is built around this idea – you’ll come across many electric barriers, walls to smash through and far-off doors which require you to line up perfect shots to make progress. It’s a good formula that is fun to experiment around with at first – the gun feels responsive and easy to use and everything is made more challenging by the fact that each level contains 50 gears and one special gear to collect which unlocks extra outfits.
Later levels introduce new ideas such as travelators that automatically move you (and usually require quick reactions if you land on them to get to the next area) to tractor beams that pull you upwards and can completely change the trajectory of your shots (there’s also some underwater sections that work well because you have infinite shots). There’s a definite Portal feel to the way Kick & Fennick experiments with new puzzle ideas using its existing mechanics that works well.
The big problem is just how long the game takes to get going. There’s four sets of ten levels here (plus 5 tutorial levels) which doesn’t sound like that much, but for some reason it feels like an almighty slog to make progress as you’ll be doing the same kinds of challenges in the same kinds of levels over and over early on before the better stuff kicks in. I originally played the game a couple of years ago and made it about 25 levels in, whereas this time around I got about 40 levels in when my interest started waning.
Outside of platforming there are occasional boss battles with a giant robot who the duo stumble across – these end up being platforming puzzles like the rest of the game and never really grabbed me. I did feel that there’s a distinct lack of combat in the title in general and what is here is fairly simplistic, which is perhaps a missed opportunity given that the developers included temporary gun buffs for platforming challenges, so could have included them for combat sections too (although it allows the title to focus more on its platforming gameplay).
If you’re looking for a challenge then the later levels will do a lot to test your reflexes and although Kick & Fennick is generous with its difficulty (if you’re about to die, Fennick will whisk you to safety as long as he has energy), I did find myself having to start levels over again a few times. This increased my playtime, but by this point I was beginning to lose interest which is a shame, as with a little more variety there could have been a real hidden gem here.
A charming, polished 2D platformer with an interesting gimmick, Kick & Fennick falls fowl of some repetitive levels that drag out its premise and cause interest to wane. There’s some clever design here and some intense difficulty in the later levels, but your patience may be tested getting to that point.