Floor Kids is a break dance battle game where you string together dance moves to win battles and build your crew in the process. Where most rhythm games prompt you to follow a set series of commands, the only set factor of Floor Kids is the beat, encouraging you to freestyle moves around it. Fusing perfectly with the winning soundtrack and animations to make for what is easily is the most enjoyable hip-hop game since Parappa the Rapper.
Battle It Out
The central premise of Floor Kids is a series of increasingly tougher dance battles that you must conquer to become the best dancer in the city, ultimately uniting and recruiting dancers for your crew through the process. There are 8 levels, composed of 3 stages each, and as you progress through the city, the minimum score gets tougher and tougher to achieve.
It plays like a normal rhythm game, entering a constant string of button commands, but as long as you’re keeping the beat the move you choose can be anything. Normally you’re hitting A, B, X, or Y but you can transition to different styles by hitting a transition. For example, you can press Up on the joystick for Toprock moves or start rotating the joystick for power moves. You can further modify moves by posing and hopping during holds to help add flavor. Each level also has a break section which plays like a more traditional rhythm game, where you have to tap a button on specific beats as told on the screen.
Keeping It Fresh
Randomly stringing moves together is fun at first but causes your routines to get stale quickly, which the game will remind you of with increasingly lower scores. The game also has a combo system to help avoid this and add variety to your routines. Depending on what move you do, you’ll be prompted as to what your next move should be. Each move has a specific combo it leads to as well, so you’ll need to get familiar with all of the moves and combos to pull off the highest scores, similar to an in-depth arcade brawler.
Your routine is judged on five factors. How well you keep the rhythm, combos performed, etc.. Depending on how well you perform in each category, you’ll receive a rating out of five crowns for your performance. Early on, it’s pretty easy to secure four or five crowns, but as you go through the stages, you’ll really need to rely on combos and move tweaks to get high scores.
All in all, it’s a solid system that proves a lot of fun. The only issues are that each character is limited to 16 moves, and controls are the same between characters. So, while one character’s dancing may look drastically different visually, the actual commands to do moves are the same, just with different names. This limits the amount you can successfully do combos without sinking in time to learn a character’s move names. Since combos appear as Move Name + Move Name, you have to spend time memorizing what a specific power move or hold is called in order to get a decent score. Especially in the campaign mode, this proved a huge deterrent to try out the other characters since I had already spent the time to learn the names of my chosen character’s moves. Allowing the combos to read as the button combos (Up + X, or Down, A (hold)), would have taken a lot of the headache away and made changing characters actually appealing.
It’s also difficult to focus on everything at once, so while you’re doing your best to stream combos together or making sure your moves are varied, you may find your Fire score trailing off due to all the visual information flying around.
The insistence on learning move names also holds back the multiplayer mode in Floor Kids, which is otherwise awesome. If you feel like taking on a friend, you can have a full-on dance battle with both characters on screen, trading off moves and trying to slip up their opponent in the meantime. Mashing the buttons to pull off fun moves is great, but if either character understands the combo system and the other does not, it’s not even a contest so much as a massacre. Given, if both characters are well schooled on the ins and outs of Floor Kids, it has the potential for epic heated face-offs, but in a casual setting, it doesn’t thrive as well as it could.
Negatives aside, Floor Kids is one of a kind. The gameplay is a solid foundation for sure, but it’s the visuals and soundtrack that helps this game stand as a work of art. The art is hand drawn by JonJon, all of it vibrant and lively. The characters each have their own unique style and watching them fluidly bust moves is a treat.
Nothing beats the soundtrack though. Composed by Kid Koala, the game essentially serves as a new record where every song is a must hear. Kid Koala’s been in the DJ game for awhile and this is easily some of the best music he’s released, not to mention the best method I’ve seen yet of listening to it. The tracks only run about 2 minutes long, but each one is an irresistible groove filled with samples, catchy bass lines, and funky breakbeats. I looked ridiculous for the entirety Floor Kids, more or less headbanging along as I was caught in its happy flow.
Floor Kids is a must play for anyone with even a passing interest in hip-hop or rhythm games. Its unique spin on rhythm gameplay does impose some limitations, but the core gameplay loop, stunning art design, and irresistible soundtrack make for non-stop fun.