Review: Kick and Fennick

Ever had one of those days? Where you wake up, the house is carnage, all your friends have vanished, and there's no one else around but a burbling little flying robot with fox ears? Meet Kick (the kid) and Fennick (the foxbot), they are having that kind of experience.

Kick and Fennick looks gorgeous from the off, in native resolution, with vibrant colours across all layers of the 3D background. Their adventures start out with a few timid steps in a futuristic city, exploring across a 2D plane, before Kick stumbles upon an energy weapon, just casually left lying around the place.

Its purpose is two-fold. The laser side of it can knock out weak walls or blast the enemy bots, while the recoil allows him to take huge leaps around the scenery. That feature can be used to find plenty of hidden secrets and collectibles tucked away in the corners of each level, with some subtle 3D tilting and zooming to help show the way.

It maybe gets a couple of minutes to get used to the jump mechanics, and questions of 'why can't he climb?' or shouts of 'just walk around the obstacle' soon fade away. There's also the handy kickback of the weapon to help crash through obstacles. In later levels, power-ups for the laser-bazooka give you some extra zing, but the special cogs you can find around each level become harder to track down.

Their mission is to get Fennick a new battery, but surely there are battery shops in every high-tech future building like these? Still, off you trot through each level, heading to a tower in the core of the city. Your first encounter with an enemy happens to be a massive mechanoid happens a few levels in, but isn't really much of a battle.

From the second set of levels onward, there are more regular baddies to zap, and more electro-pitfalls that would lead to your doom, if Fennick wasn't around to restore you to just before your last klutzy move. Get things wrong enough times and you do go back to the start of the level, but they're mostly short enough for this not to be a crisis. Fennick can also show you where to go, if you run into a dead end.

Kick can survive pretty much any fall, and manoeuvre a little in mid-air to control his landing point. The double jump mechanic is essential to master, so spend some time practising it, using the slo-mo effect to land that second stage. You'll soon be double jumping under or over electric beams, making massive blind leaps and using magnets, bounce pads, teleporters to advance.

A New Breed of Hero?

It is hard to be critical of such a smooth game, that is so pure in what it does, with its steady progression of new tricks through the levels. Yet, there's remarkably little interaction between the duo. I suppose doing so would have risked having them labelled as a would-be Ratchet and Clank, or Jak and Daxter, but is that such a bad thing? Also, you find a Special Gear on each level, but rarely do they provide anything "special" beyond the odd costume change.

If I was being picky, there's little reason to go back and search for that last missing cog, except for completeness' sake and the trophies I guess. But, there's nothing like the replayability of a Mario level, and little in the way of alternate routes. Also, across 45 levels, they are perhaps just a touch too similar in look and overall design to each other.

That said, Kick and Fennick is a gorgeous, challenging puzzler that perhaps isn't quite ambitious in the gameplay stakes as it makes out through the superb graphics. Certainly a bigger, better, badder sequel would be something to behold (where's the speed run option?). And it proves that you don't have to be Naughty Dog or Nintendo to create a new generation of lovable gaming characters that could happily sit atop their own franchise.

File size 824MB
Not compatible with PlayStation TV

Developer: Jaywalkers
Genre: Platform adventure
Players: 1
Price: £7.99 (free on PS Plus in Feb)
Score: 8/10
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