Parkour has always been one of the most amazing spectacles of physical prowess to me. Watching people pound pavement as they rocket over railings, scale buildings like Spider-Man, and take flight across rooftops never seems to get old. These athletes seem unmoored by the laws of gravity, untethered by the physics that rules our lives.
Something deep inside of me yearns for that absolute freedom, that ability to make the whole world into my personal playground. But I’m not exactly the most physically fit guy! If I tried the whole parkour thing, it’d likely end with me breaking my neck. Not fun! So naturally, that leaves me looking for other ways to exercise this compulsion.
There are always those first-person videos from parkour professionals on YouTube, but I still find them lacking. You’re not interacting with anything. There’s no haptic feedback. This medium lacks the one thing that defines the essence of personal freedom: control.
Video games, on the other hand, are special. They're an interactive medium. The player (almost) always has agency over what their character does. And thankfully, there’s a growing lineage of great parkour games to choose from! Are you solely interested in freerunning? Mirror’s Edge is probably right up your alley. Maybe you like a little gunplay in your games? Give the Titanfall franchise a try. Does navigating the concrete jungle in a world overtaken by zombies sound like fun to you? Dying Light is just the game for you, my friend.
And now it’s looking like there will soon be a new and unique entry into the parkour game space: Kick Bastards.
Y’know what I love? A game that knows exactly what it’s trying to be. The current shape of Kick Bastards is a love letter to its predecessors. The game’s demo has revealed it to be a mosaic of influences from some of my favorite games of all time.
Certainly, the game shares some DNA with Mirror’s Edge - I mean, that game basically defined the mechanic of using color to guide player movement - but Kick Bastards takes some of the best bits from other titles as well. The level design reminds me of a more recent title, Neon White, encouraging repeat play until you’ve truly mastered the content. The cartoonish graphical style, though at this stage is somewhat unpolished, calls to mind games like Human: Fall Flat and Totally Reliable Delivery Service. It only makes sense; the ethos of those games is to maximize the player’s fun, and dammit, Kick Bastards is hellbent on doing just that.
Already, the demo promises an interesting platter of content for the finished product. There are a couple different level types - and no one true way to beat any level. For the demo, it seems like Something Something Games put together 3 main level types, but it’s hard to say what will stay, what will go, and what might get added at this stage of development.
First and foremost, there are classic freerunning levels. These are all about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Variable offshoots from the main path allow the player to try and mix-and-match their routing to shave precious seconds off their time. The game’s featured quirk, the kick, allows players who master the mechanics to literally bounce off the walls, and I reckon that this will make for completely unprecedented speed runs of these particular levels.
The second level type on display requires a little more strategy. Here we have a parkour playground; there’s a slightly opened world to traverse, with enemies littered across the terrain. The player’s goal is to eliminate every enemy in the least amount of time possible. The game’s merging of the combat and movement systems really shines through here, forcing confrontations with enemies to flow into one another at breakneck speeds to lock down better times. I think this level type will be the one that sees the richest routing - it definitely has the most speedrunning potential, with a focus on both intimate map knowledge as well as raw skill.
The final level type is more… experimental feeling? Frankly, I don’t know if it’ll actually even show up in the finished product or if it was just designed as a neat lil bookend to the demo. Much like the linear levels, there’s an endpoint that needs to be reached. But this level is filled with disparate chunks of land, floating along across a scorching orange void.
Navigating this level feels like solving a kinetic puzzle, differentiating it from the rest of the game. The whole thing feels grandiose and weighty; there’s a sense that you’re being pulled into the gravity of the big red orb at the end rather than making it there of your own accord. And I love it. I hope that there are more levels that experiment with this weird tonal shift once Kick Bastards is fully developed.
In the end, I think it’s safe to say that Kick Bastards largely embraces the Clustertruck approach to speed-based parkouring: if the player can find a quicker way to get it done, let ‘em. If the demo is anything to go off of, I feel like I can safely make the conclusion that this game is absolutely going to sate my hunger for a new parkour-based adventure.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: that hunger is ravenous, and I will probably beat this game in a day and then feel empty inside until I can find another promising game to fixate on. But for now? Kick Bastards is one of the games I’m keeping a close eye on - and if any of what I’ve rambled about here sounds interesting to you, then you should follow the developer as well. Here’s hoping Kick Bastards makes it to the storefront; and to the lads at Something Something Games. Keep on kicking ass!