Merj Media’s debut title Floor Kids is pretty unique, and that’s a hard claim to make as a video game. It’s a rhythm game with fighting game sensibilities presented in an extremely appealing, hand drawn cartoon art style. This is probably the closest we’ve gotten to a dance battle video game.
The premise is immediately awesome: you’re a Dance Warrior in a city full of them. Your goal is to become the ultimate dancing force by assembling your team as you dance battle across the city. You start with a few characters available to you, and as you progress you will eventually have eight available to you, with various unique dance moves as well as different strengths and weaknesses.
Everything in Floor Kids is appealing. The dance warriors are all adorable, almost urban styled chibis. The dance battles are lively, and the animations–though they consist only of a few frames in most cases–are great. Each stage is also great, though they just serve as a backdrop to the battles with no other function. There is even a short introduction to each of these stages with its own series of hand drawn art and music based philosophical musings which are themed for the setting. As lovingly presented as everything is, Floor Kids is brought together by its soundtrack.
Canadian DJ/Producer Kid Koala did an excellent job with the soundtrack—the music is worth checking out whether you’re interested in the game or not. Its main tracks do have the game cues hard baked into them, though, giving them a sort of kid’s show feel with children counting down “4,3,2,1” every now and then. It’s extremely catchy, and has a pretty diverse range of songs to compliment the dance battles. Unfortunately, the gameplay leaves something to be desired.
I wanted so badly to like Floor Kids’ combination rhythm/fighting game, but I just can’t get into it. First of all, it’s extremely free style. While the character you play as has strengths towards different styles, you can pretty much choose to do whatever you want at any point. This leads to a wide variety of possibilities with dance combos. You tap a button to keep the beat, while you use different “stances” to perform different types of dance moves. How well you do is determined by a points system, which gauges things like move variety, and how well you flow from one move to another. While this sounds great on paper, its lack of feedback made it hard to determine what I should be doing.
There is a tutorial that eases you into the discipline of dance battles in Floor Kids, but despite following its advice, I found myself struggling to score more than three out of a five crown ranking system. There is an after battle screen that lays out how many points I got for what types of moves, but you don’t receive the immediate feedback you would get in a fighting game.
As a rhythm game, Floor Kids leaves a lot to be desired, too. Most of the “rhythm” element of Floor Kids has you tapping a button to the beat—and that’s really it. Every time a chorus comes up, you have to hit the button at very specific times, making these the most “rhythm game” type sections, but these are tiny parts of each song. It’s too bad, because those are easily the most fun parts.
There is 2 player multiplayer, so if you want to challenge a friend to a Floor Kids dance competition, its local multiplayer function makes it easy. In the multiplayer battles, each character trades off freestyle dancing for points, and then you both try to hit the beats during the chorus, much like the single player. Unfortunately, the multiplayers Suffers from the game gameplay issues the single player does.
Floor Kids is an auditory and visual delight. Everything from its setting, to its philosophical musings are extremely compelling and very cool. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself, which is super important for something that touts itself as a fighting game, is a little underwhelming. As a rhythm game, it’s rudimentary at best. I had fun with it, but you might be better off just grabbing the soundtrack.