A funky fresh rhythm game that innovates even when it complicates.
To some extent, rhythm games have been at odds with the actual act of performing music. Rarely do these games allow for any kind of personal expression in the songs or mini-games. Generally, the goal is to perfectly mimic what the game requires of you to get a high score. Whether it’s Rock Band’s mapping of popular songs to note highways or Rhythm Heaven’s simple button presses, the genre is focused on informing you of rules and guidelines, and then having you follow them. Floor Kids, from Merj Media, is the rare game in the genre that not only allows for personal expression in each song, it essentially demands it. Success in Floor Kids is not earned by just following a set pattern. Nope, you have to lay down some killer dance moves to the beat and make sure you’re original and stylish. Floor Kids is one of the coolest, freshest rhythm games I’ve ever played.
To summarize, Floor Kids is a breakdancing game. The main draw is a story mode where you need to build up your crew from one kid to eight. That’s done by beating songs, split into locations throughout the city each containing three tracks. In total, more than 20 songs are available, all made by Kid Koala. The beats are varied and fun, helping set the tone and style. The art is gorgeous hand-drawn animated work that’s wildly expressive. The fusing of the sound and art is magnificent. I would watch a cartoon with this outrageously cool style.
Breakdancing is executed with a hodgepodge of button presses that can be very obtuse to start. A tutorial walks you through the basics, but it didn’t emphasize a lot of the intricacies that are more or less mandatory for success. For the purposes of Floor Kids, breakdancing is split into four categories: Up Rock, Down Rock, Power, and Freeze. The first two involve tapping face buttons to the beat, and you can toggle between Up and Down Rock by pressing down on the left analog stick. Power moves are pulled off by spinning the analog stick in a circle, and Freeze moves are executed by holding a face button and the analog stick in a direction. Almost everything can be augmented by appropriate button presses for added flair. For example, you can do flips in Up Rock by flicking the analog stick up, you can do “hops” in Freeze moves for some fly cred, and you can change up your Power move by holding down a shoulder button. In addition to all of this, each playable kid has combos that, well, took me like half the game before I really understood. The breakdancing here is deep and complex, which is fantastic if your intention is to dig into the meat of the game, but the nuance is a little intimidating if you’re just messing around or facing off against someone playing for the first time in the two-player Battle Mode.
With all these moves at your disposal, the way you play each song is by just tapping buttons and pulling off moves to the beat. Stay in the flow and you’ll get more points. Further, each song is scored in five categories, including your ability to not fall down, follow crowd requests, and keeping your dancing fresh. Because of this scoring method, no one method of breakdancing during a song is superior. It’s all about what you want to do in a varied manner. At the midway and end of each song, a brief recurring beat shows up that requires button presses at the right time, much like other rhythm games. Those are nice breaks from the action, usually coming at just the right time.
The Story Mode is the focus but it isn't really that long, though 100% completion could take a while. Aside from that, the Battle Mode is the only other draw. It’s a neat two-player dance fight that also adds attack and defense. It scratches the surface of something cool, but your enjoyment will only go as far as you have people to play against. Overall, what’s in the package is awesome, but for better or worse, you might not crack five hours to see it all.
The mechanics of Floor Kids are truly novel, especially because the emphasis on originality and creativity really comes through in ways that other like games haven’t been able to nail. Outside of some convoluted details and a somewhat shorter length, this is a very rad rhythm game that stands out amongst others because of its gorgeous artwork and inventive take on breakdancing gameplay.