When Kick and Fennick was announced as the PlayStation Plus game for Vita, I was intrigued due to it being an exclusive to Vita (a rarity) and the colorful artstyle contained within. What I got was an interesting and endearing 2D platformer that is very well put together with only a couple of hiccups along the way. This is a great debut from developer Jaywalkers Interactive.
The story begins when a young boy named Kick wakes up in a facility only to see destruction around him with no one else in sight. As he begins to explore, a massive quadrupedal robot appears and attacks him. Luckily a little robot named Fennick arrives just in time to save Kick but, in doing so, has its power source damaged. The rest of the game is dedicated to Kick repaying Fennick for saving him by getting to the top of this massive building where the new battery is located.
There isn’t much to the actual narrative or characters for that matter. Never is one word of dialogue spoken. Every once in awhile Kick will grunt if he has a hard landing, but that is it. The environment tells the story which is tough to pull off, but Kick and Fennick does it well. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would leave this game saying that the environment and tone was a mix of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and Shadow of the Colossus, but those definitely came to mind. The bright colors and post apocalyptic setting was reminiscent of the former while the isolation felt during the adventure was reminiscent of the latter. All in all the story isn’t a standout aspect, but the true focus is the gameplay.
And the gameplay is great. Kick cannot jump on his own, but he has a massive gun that he uses to shoot enemy robots, but also uses the recoil to shoot himself in arcs up to platforms. He can only do it twice until his feet touch the ground again making it so you can’t just recoil your way across the world instantly. There is some style and utility as well when it comes to the slow mo that Kick is entered into while in the air aiming his second jump. The recoil system is a nice alternate take on the platforming genre that I truly enjoyed. Fennick doesn’t play a direct role in combat but can save you a finite number of times and instantly reset you to the last platform you were standing on. Collecting the 50 gears located in each level will recharge some of that ability for Fennick, but once you are out of that meter and die, you restart from the beginning of the level.
The difficulty ramp up is satisfying with the first couple of the five chapters being relatively simple and relying almost solely on the core recoil mechanic, but eventually more environmental aspects are introduced. These include treadmills that will boost Kick to higher places, bouncepads to ricochet between, dangerous magnets and teleporters a.k.a. portals. All of these are fun and add some great depth and timing to the gameplay . . . with the exception of the bouncepads. If they are laid out horizontally, they are usually fine. However, when they are vertical and you have to bounce between them going up, they don’t feel quite right with angles that you would think would get you high enough resulting in going up for a second only to bounce your way back down. There were several times when this became very frustrating. Luckily everything else made up for it for the most part.
All of this is enhanced by some stellar and fluid animation. As an example, the gun Kick has is twice the size of him and when he has to move it around to boost into different directions, you can see him changing grips very carefully with almost every frame animated and this extends to idle animations as well. There are also some impressive cinematic camera angles adding to the dramatic tension of traversing through a level. Everything looks great overall with a Pixar-esque bright and cheerful artstyle that extends to everything. The facility has a destroyed and reclaimed by nature look that begs the question as to what exactly happened before Kick woke up?
There are some issues with the game, though. Besides the aforementioned bouncepads, sometimes those cinematic camera angles do not zoom out when a jump is necessary resulting in a death. I also had a game crash and a respawn glitch above an electrical trap which resulted in me dying over and over until I had to restart the level.
But these final two issues only happened once and didn’t affect my enjoyment overall of the game. It isn’t often that an original game is released on the Vita and this is a great one. The originality and jovial nature of Kick and Fennick drew me in and didn’t let go. Oh and the developer consists of two people which makes this even more impressive. This game is free for PS Plus members for the month of February, so pick it up and try it out. If you come to this review late, it is more than worth the $8.00.