The Switch plays host to one of the best rhythm action games of the current gen, and you don’t have to like breakdancing to enjoy it.
At this point it seems clear that music games are never coming back, or least not in terms of mainstream success. Last year’s PaRappa The Rapper remaster failed to make a stir and we were very upset to see Project Rap Rabbit didn’t meet its Kickstarter goals. Give it a few years and we’re sure Activision will give Guitar Hero another try, but as of right now it’s almost as if the whole genre never existed. Almost, but not quite…
The good news is that rhythm action games are perfect for indie developers. As long as they don’t try to use licensed soundtracks they’re relatively inexpensive to make, and by catering to gamers who are being ignored by larger companies they have an in-built niche audience. And because the game makers aren’t beholden to soulless business execs they can also dare to experiment, which is how we’ve ended up with a new breakdancing sim.
Floor Kids is far from the first breakdance game. From the ancient Break Street on the Commodore 64 to the slightly more recent B-Boy on PlayStation 2, the subject has come up before. It’s never been done particularly well, but the fact that this is the best breakdancing game thus far is only a relatively small part of its appeal.
The most important point to get right here was ensuring the game is interesting to people whether they have any interest in breakdancing or not, and that’s something that Floor Kids has no problem with. Not only is the gameplay instantly accessible – and familiar to anyone that’s played a rhythm action game before – but the charming art style makes it even more inviting. The animation is actually fairly basic, but the pencil-sketched artwork is so engaging it manages to overcome that limitation all on its own.
Although it is, first and foremost, a music game Floor Kids is structured more like a fighter, since you’re almost always locked in a dance-off against someone else. These battles are organised into different sections, with the simpler breakdown sequences working just like a traditional rhythm action game – in that you’re trying to hit the buttons at the right time by following icons on the screen.
The rest of the action though is entirely freeform, and as long as you keep in time with the backbeat you’re allowed to string together whatever sequence of moves you want. Moves come in one of four categories and each is activated in a different way, from tapping a face button for Top Rock (i.e. standing) moves to rotating the analogue stick for Power moves or combining the two methods for Freeze moves like one-hand stands.
Whether you’ve heard of these terms before is irrelevant, as Floor Kids has been designed as a video game first and simulation second. It all feels like something that would’ve been invented for the purposes of the game even if it didn’t already exist, especially when you start experimenting with more advanced tactics like artificially speeding up and taking requests from the audience.
What’s also impressive is how much variety there is, with a large cast of characters each of who has their own specific moves and animations. Some have to be unlocked, and because they all have their own unique abilities the otherwise short story mode has a surprising amount of replayability. Although there’s also a two-player mode which requires the use of only a single Joy-Con and is thoroughly entertaining in its own right.
As a final proof that this is a game for everyone, the soundtrack by Kid Koala is great. Whatever your normal musical tastes, the purely instrumental track fits the action perfectly. With vocals it probably wouldn’t have been half as accessible for a general audience, but this does mean there’s less variety to the tunes than there might otherwise have been – and that does create a problem in terms of longevity.
The only other missed trick is that while you do unlock new characters all their moves are already set in stone, which seems a bit odd considering the way they’re all presented like collectable trading cards. These would’ve been more serious problems in a full price game but as an indie download Floor Kids is a delight, and one of the best music games of the current generation. Even if that’s not up against much competition.
In Short: An inventive and fun rhythm action game that keeps the genre alive through the unlikely medium of breakdancing.
Pros: A great balance between accessibility and depth, that keeps the game accessible in terms of both difficulty and subject matter. Distinctive art design and excellent music.
Cons: The lack of character progression or customisation is a surprising omission, and as good as it is the soundtrack can get a big samey.
Formats: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 18th December 2017
Age Rating: 3