KISS your butt goodbye.
Ah, the franchise, gift of capitalism and vortex of allowances. Franchises play off the theory that if an idea is good in one place, it must be good in another. Just take a look at the Jar-Jar Binks merchandise that no doubt litters your house from seemingly innocent visits to fast food restaurants.
Many icons have attempted to extend their respective franchises into the gaming world, but where all have tried, most have failed. In the past, such greats as the Simpsons, Aerosmith, and The Crow have all tried to "branch out" into the gaming world only to fail in almost every way possible. Now KISS, eternal rock & roll icons, have decided to go digital.
But thankfully, KISS: Psycho Circus - The Nightmare Child succeeds where most other franchise games have failed. Not a complete success, mind you, but not an unqualified disaster either.
Third Law Interactive, the new game developer responsible for KPC, is playing it safe financially by deciding to place KISS within the First Person Shooter genre, a category that has always had a steady following and strong financial success. Top that off with the fact the game is based on a comic book by Todd Mcfarlane and you can see why KPC was a great game to start a company with.
The game places you in the role of one of four band members (oddly, not KISS) who find themselves caught in the web of a fortune teller by the name of Madame Raven. She must find four mortals to champion the cause of Earth and defeat a growing evil. Like any responsible evil entity, the menace did not simply accept its fate but instead left an offspring gestating in space in order to once again ruin everyone's good time. And now it is up to you to battle your way through the elemental realms to collect the Armor of the Avatars (the KISS costumes) and defeat the Nightmare Child.
There are four realms to start with: earth, air, fire, water, and a fifth that is opened after the main levels have been defeated. Each level has a different twist, usually of an elemental theme, but overall the levels feel very similar.
The setup of level progress is old school...and a bit boring. You don't really get the chance to advance through one giant complex like in Half-Life; rather, KPC relies on more traditional design with each level existing independent of the others connected only by "magic mirrors" that teleport you to the next stage. Very Doom.
No matter which level you choose to play first (they are supposed to go in order, but don't have to) you can be sure of one thing - gratuitous amounts of monsters. Think of what might happen if you mixed the hoards of nasties from Starship Troopers with Todd Mcfarlane's unhealthy obsession with clowns, and you'll begin to understand what you're up against.
Because of the sheer number of monsters, (sometimes up to 20 at a time) KPC excels well as a melee based FPS but offers very little in terms of strategic battles. Most of the time you'll find yourself up against the insect-like "Headless" and the fire spitting, dog-like "stumps", which are easily taken out with a simple hand-to-hand weapon. The more destructive guns are reserved for the larger and less frequent enemies.
While the swarms of enemies are fun to hack through for a while, the whole process begins to grow old as just about every battle feels the same and we've all played "hide and go shoot" games before. Ohhh, another monster behind another corner! Big surprise.
The technical elements of the game are impressive and hold their own against most other FPS games. The controls are tight (if a little simplistic), the graphics are sharp and the animations are fluid. So even if the game is fairly formulaic, it's still nice to look at.
One aspect does stand out from the rest however, the sound. The sound is simply amazing; if you have the opportunity I recommend hooking your computer up to a large stereo. The intros are theater quality and the in-game sound effects are disturbingly clear. While most of this game offers nothing new, the sound rocks.
Serious fans of KISS will probably want to pick this title up (though you may be disappointed with how much the KISS element is downplayed), but the rest of us have seen this game before. Call it what you will, but DOOM is still DOOM, even in KISS makeup.