Kickback is usually thought of as a unwanted but accepted byproduct of firing a weapon. For Kick and Fennick, kickback is everything.
I suppose when you're a small ten-year-old boy, and everything around you is taller than you are, you need a way of reaching new heights. The world's most famous ten-year-old boy, Bart Simpson, would probably have grabbed his skateboard and used his catapult in some ingenious way. Kick, one of the titular characters of Kick and Fennick? He grabs a gun taller than himself and sets out into the city on his own.
First of all, who leaves a kid in a robot city on their own? That's a case for child neglect by itself! Luckily for Kick, he finds a damaged robot who's had his tail bashed up and needs a new energy core. Side by side, these two are now a team. Albeit a slightly one-sided one.
Kick is only a small boy, so how would he even actually make any progress in fighting sentient robots who will attack you on sight? His huge gun! It has two functions: the first and most obvious being a rooty-toot point-and-shoot, the second is using the recoil to eject you into the air.
I've seen enough YouTube "fail" videos to know that even grown people can get knocked over from the recoil or kickback from certain guns if they're not properly prepared, and it's that force that is the literal driving force in Kick and Fennick. The kid has a big fun, points it at the ground, and launches himself into the air. It's a video game, it doesn't have to make sense.
The first few chapters are mainly just for becoming accustomed to this method of transportation. There isn't much in the way of threat, as most robots can be shot long before they get anywhere near you, but breaking through walls and discovering secrets is a decent enough deviation from the slow start. While aiming the gun, time slows down, giving you more than enough time to line up shots and chain jumps together.
The gun is able to fire off two rounds before you need to land, where Kick will automatically reload, which is fine when you're only using it to jump relatively short distances. To jump larger distances, higher, or further, you can double fire at the right times to propel yourself greater distances — but this is where the problem with Kick and Fennick lies.
It's not that jumping at the right time of the aiming arc is hard, it's that it could be hard for younger people, i.e. the audience that this game seems to be geared towards. Especially when after the third chapter, the game kicks the action up a notch and the pace of the game becomes much faster.
'Companion games' are usually balanced between characters so you're using them both a fairly equal amount, but in this outing Fennick doesn't actually do much. The only real use he has is to teleport Kick back to safety at the last second should he inevitably fall to his death, making Kick do all the legwork in order to get Fennick's core repaired. When you consider games like Banjo Kazooie, while Banjo is most often the 'lead character', Kazooie has her skills that you want and need to use on a regular basis — if you didn't use the Talon Trot as your main mode of perambulation, just because it's faster than Banjo's default walking speed, you'd have to be mental. But here, Fennick isn't really a companion, perhaps more of a flying barnacle.
For an offering of fewer than ten hours, I feel like the slow start really lets Kick and Fennick down. The last two chapters throw in a mix of bounce pads and teleporting, which is just too little too late. By the time you're escaping from bosses, you're already spent hours just popping from platform to platform, and shooting the occasional robot.
Kick and Fennick was probably made for younger people to play, but the mechanics are almost definitely too difficult for their target demographic.
- Relatively gentle experience with few battles
- Difficulty options means each level can be as hard or easy as you like
- Child-friendly story but...
- Children would probably struggle to play the later phases of the game
- Relatively unbalanced main character vs. sidekick
- First few chapters are almost unbearably slow
Kick and Fennick somewhat uncomfortably patronising experience, but generally Kick and Fennick has a silver lining in that it's short.
This review was conducted on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer.