Review : Kinetic Edge : Welcome to the Grid

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When I was a child, my eyes gazed over in wonder at the Disney cult classic, TRON. The movie featured some intense visual styles that captured a sense of what it could be like living in a computer. This imaginative essence was then recreated decades later with TRON Legacy, which enhanced the visual fidelity while being accompanied by one of the best soundtracks ever made, courtesy of Daft Punk. Both TRON movies had a style that stood out, and helped give these movies an identity that lasts. I somehow feel like TRON was an inspiration for developer Seacorp Technologies’ (SCT) latest title Kinetic Edge.

At its core, Kinetic Edge is physics game soaked in black surfaces and accented with various neon colors and simple controls. You are a shape, and from time to time you will transform into other shapes that share the same neon-infused aesthetic as the world around you. Starting as a sphere, you will sometimes turn into a cube, cylinder, pyramid, a flat plate, an icosahedron (a D20 for all you fellow tabletop nerds out there), amongst others. Each shape gives you a different physics-based style of gameplay, making you think on your feet about what to do, and how to approach various obstacles. For instance, playing as the sphere is a fluid experience compared to the cube, which prompts an existential crisis, making you wonder if you ever really had control of anything in your life.

Despite the geometric shapes and various challenges that come with controlling them, the general controls are quite simple. You are equipped with a double jump, double dash, and a move that will push others away from you. The jumps and dashes are essential in navigating the twists and turns that Kinetic Edge throws at you, all while the push move doesn’t do much unless you are playing with others. And that brings me to the saddest part of this title: the focus on multiplayer. I played Kinetic Edge without anyone else to play with, leaving me to write this review from the perspective of a solo player who knows how bad they would lose if there were anyone else in the game.

Instead of feeling as if I was missing out on a whole part of the experience, I dove into the single-player modes. “Race, golf, maze, and gauntlet” variants each offered concepts that are wildly different from each other. In my experience with other smaller titles like this, I have seen where different modes only offer minor adjustments. Here, each mode feels distinct in bigger, more ambitious ways.

“Race” mode has you traverse larger areas, hit checkpoints, and get to the finish the fastest. “Golf” is mini golf, nothing too different. “Maze” gives you an old school maze to navigate. Then “Gauntlet” mode has you attempt to jump through obstacles to get to the end in a single shot. Unlike “race,” this mode is more compact and tighter. Each mode presents something different, but they also include their own faults.

While the other modes seem to be rather enjoyable, “golf” becomes the apex of my frustration. “Golf” is a major departure from the core controls of the game. Obstacles become more frequent and difficult to navigate due to the traditional golf control scheme of holding a button and letting go at the right moment, which careens your ball into the dark abyss. Kinetic Edge could have done more to give this mode flavor by adding the jump, dash, and control abilities. The design of the courses is mysterious, as at some points it was difficult to tell where I was supposed to send my ball due to not knowing what was ahead of me.

“Race” and “gauntlet” modes are not perfect either, as they seem to suffer from the problems of the black and neon aesthetic. There are times where I feel like the style works against itself. The sleek black tiles can reflect the light around it, making this game look impressive from an artistic standpoint, but it is inconsistent.  At times this reflective lighting looks neat, but other times it throws off my perspective of the environment causing a bit of confusion for me as I traverse the landscape in some modes, specifically a moment where I had a hallway with a mixture of lights that prevented me from seeing the ledge at the end of it.

Besides the lighting, the game frustrated me with the imbalance of some obstacles, with some segments moving either too fast or too slow. I can see how skilled players (a.k.a. not me) would be able to time some aspects perfectly to a point where bypassing them could put you in the lead. For others, I could see where anger would grow with moving walls operating slowly, and floors rising and descending too fast.

As I ventured into the “maze” mode, I was left perplexed as it seemed like a metaphor for modern capitalism. The size of the maze could be set to three sizes, which did not excite me, as I was by myself. Instead, I opted to attempt to get the fastest score which had an interesting outcome. In some runs I was able to clear the maze in as little as 15 seconds. Other times it would take me up to a full minute. Knowing that I could complete it in 15 seconds while others could take a minute based upon where I am located leaves me to believe that this mode isn’t as much about navigation as it is about sheer luck. As a single player mode, I think it is fun trying to get to the end as soon as possible but on a competitive side, I am left wondering how good this mode could be.

The only real performance issue I had with Kinetic Edge would be the occasional freeze, where the game would pause for about five seconds and resume. In a fast-paced game that relies on your reactions, I found this to be quite irksome. Most of the time though, the game ran rather smoothly, and performance was adequate for a game of this caliber. Despite Kinetic Edge consisting of mostly black reflective surfaces and neon lights, I am honestly surprised that this game runs as smooth as it does, even when used on an Nvidia GTX 1050 laptop graphics card. For awareness, the freezing itself happened on both my desktop and my laptop.

When it comes to sound, there is not a whole lot to write about. The soundtrack features generic electronic music that still manages to match the TRON-like atmosphere perfectly. The heavy bass and various keys helped immerse me into this title, but it gets repetitive after a while, eventually fading into the background as I focused more on playing the game.

Much like Fall Guys, Kinetic Edge heavily relies on having a population. Granted, the game has yet to release to the public as of me writing this, so I expect the population to increase even by a little. I am saddened that the game does not take a similar approach to the infamous Monkey Ball titles, with puzzle-based levels as the main course, and the extra modes presenting themselves as sides dishes.

Yet, despite playing totally alone, I was fine with approaching each level like a puzzle. Where other games present a level of randomness, Kinetic Edge is a static experience that is quickly forgotten about like the leftovers you promised you were going to have for lunch two days ago. With only several hours of playtime, I found that there was nothing else really keeping me around, and that I have seen everything this game could possibly offer within the first 60-minutes. Kinetic Edge relies on having others playing with you and lacks any sort of personal reward structure, meaning player drop-off is most certainly an outcome.

Kinetic Edge is a basic experience that does not rise to the top of the “gauntlet” style of titles currently out there in the market. It has an identity, but that alone cannot hold this title up. It is enjoyable but not to a point that would keep me coming back to it. After fine tuning and additional adjusting over time, Kinetic Edge could possibly fit into the niche it is attempting to squeeze into.

Seacorp Technologies have implemented a roadmap for Kinetic Edge, promising to add more modes and features to mix up the recipe a bit. Additional levels for various modes will be released, along with a co-op mode that is specifically designed for two or more players. Coming much sooner is a Pool/Snooker mode, bringing the billiards classic into the game. Down the line, you’ll be able to create your own levels in a Workshop mode. I can’t rate the game based on unreleased future content, but it is nice to know that there will be additional support coming down the tube.

Kinetic Edge is heading to PC at the introductory price point of $12.99 USD, which normally is not a bad price for most games, especially knowing how SCT promises to support Kinetic Edge after initial launch with additional modes and features. The unfortunate truth is that the game needs a population to fully enjoy everything that it can offer. If people are hesitant to buy this game then there will not be much of a player base, so I do find the price to be rather steep for the experience I had as a solo player. As of right now, most of the modes are fun and the visuals are good. I’d go as far to say that they are quite impressive for such a basic concept. I can only imagine how much better Kinetic Edge could be with more improvements, a player reward system, and the new features to come within the next year. SCT has made something unique, and I could easily see Kinetic Edge gaining popularity with additional love and care. When that happens I’ll be glad to jump back in to experience it.


Final Verdict: 6

Fun Factor: 5
Technical Prowess: 6
Time Investment: 2+ Hours
Replayability: 5

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By Steve Esposito

Steve Esposito is a dedicated content creator with a focus on his love for technology, video games, and the very industry that oversees it all. He also takes part in organizing the Long Island Retro and Tabletop Gaming Expo as well as a Dungeons and Dragons podcast: Copper Piece. You can find him on twitter @AgitatedStove

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