Kick & Fennick Review

Indie game. Platformer. They’re ten-a-penny, and it can be difficult to stand out in such a crowded field. Kick & Fennick developer Jaywalkers Interactive certainly hopes that this latest entry in the genre has what it takes to get noticed.

Kick & Fennick’s hook is a big one. Kick, a blue-jumpsuited young boy is the game’s playable character, armed with a  huge – and hugely powerful – rifle. Things aren’t what they appear though. So powerful is the gun that a single shot can launch Kick high into the air, and suddenly you have a new mechanic to play with.

Mastering this unconventional movement is the key to overcoming obstacles and progressing through the game. Kick can fire the gun twice in succession to leap great distances, the angle of takeoff dependent on the angle at which the gun fires. With full 360-degree aiming on the right stick, Kick can infinitely adjust his takeoff angle. Time slows down momentarily while aiming too, and it’s not long before you’re using that double jump to dramatically change direction in mid air and pull of some amazingly acrobatic leaps. It’s an instantly satisfying mechanic.

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Kick’s not alone in his journey – he’s accompanied by Fennick, an impossibly cute flying robot with an injured tail. Fennick will step in and save Kick from certain death should the young lad miss-time a leap and come a cropper. Fennick has a limited amount of restoration energy, though – make too many mistakes and you’ll need to start the level again. Saviour isn’t Fennick’s only role; he comes in handy in many a tricky situation.

Things start of straightforwardly enough, with a gentle learning curve that gets you used to Kick’s leaping skills. Chapter two brings an upgrade to the gun that doubles its power, and a handful of enemies who can be dispatched using the other end of the weapon. There are breakable walls too – vulnerable to that same pointy end of the gun, or simply to a jet-propelled Kick; bursting through crumbling masonry seems to leave Kick unharmed and, thankfully, the resilient youngster is immune to fall damage, too. Just as well, as there’s a huge degree of verticality to many of the levels.

There are 50 PowerNodes to collect on each level, and one Special Gear – MacGuffins to encourage exploration and drive completists wild. In truth, though, mastering Kick’s leaps is so immensely satisfying that exploration never feels like a chore.

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Soon, additional challenges are thrown your way – bounce pads to extend your leap even further, and more convoluted levels that require pixel perfect aiming and a desperate dredging from the depths of your memory whatever geometry you learned at school. As the challenge ramps up only then do a couple of niggles find their way into the game. Fennick’s limited restorative powers severely curtails experimentation – and there are some sections that require practice. Often, you’ll need to ace a particularly tricky section at the start of a level to have enough restoration energy left to clear the really tricky section near the end. We get there needs to be a limit, but a less stringent one – or a few more collectable energy orbs – wouldn’t go amiss.

Level design is a marvel throughout, though; no leap ever feels impossible, though frequently you’re left cursing your own skill, or lack of it. The only small flaw here is that the end of a level isn’t always signposted; inadvertently finishing a level just as you were about to double-back to grab those last PowerNodes is deeply frustrating. Boss fights, though, are nicely put together, and offer a welcome change of pace.

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Visually, Kick & Fennick is utterly charming. Kick is full of character – we love his little high five leap as he hops up to hit an elevator button that’s just out of reach. And Fennick is adorable – that rare sidekick who’s neither annoying nor an escorting chore. Environments are clear and designed to highlight the available paths through the level. There’s no jarring visual thematic change through the game – nothing to disrupt your concentration on lining up those perfect leaps. Aurally there’s a meaty pop when firing the gun, and Fennick’s electronic chirps are so cute he makes R2D2 feel like Dusty Bin (target audience reference, not). Background music is gentle, soothing and actually quite beautiful.

Ultimately, Kick & Fennick is a worthy entry in a crowded genre – completely satisfying to play and with a cartoony style that’s sure to charm all who play it. In truth this is a simple game about leaping from platform to platform, all the while hampered or assisted by environmental elements. But it’s the way all these building blocks are assembled that makes Kick & Fennick something special.

Kick & Fennick is available today from the Xbox Store.

The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.

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