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KISS : Psycho Circus

A first person shooter based on a dodgy old heavy metal band... Is it as bad as it sounds?

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

When I first heard about KISS : Psycho Circus I was rather dubious. I'm not a KISS fan, and the idea of a game based around them was pretty unappealing. You only have to look at Ed Hunter (the Iron Maiden game) or Queen : The Eye to see just how bad this kind of tie in can be. In fact, even the game's designers were "skeptical at first" when they were approached with the idea.

But this game is based on the KISS : Psycho Circus comic books, produced by Todd McFarlane (of Spawn fame), powered by the Lithtech weapon (of Shogo fame), and designed by Third Law (of walking out of Ion Storm en masse fame). Never Been KISSed

You start the game as a "mere" mortal (as opposed to one of the make-up sodden old gits from KISS, who are obviously vastly superior to us lower lifeforms), but during the game you will turn into the various "elder beasts" (the characters that the four KISS members take on in the comic books) to defeat the Nightmare Child. You still with me?

Each of the four characters have their own special skills and attirbutes that will help you complete the game, as well as two unique weapons that only they can use. For example, the "Beast King" (not to be confused with the Lion King) has a whip which he can use Indiana Jones style as a grapple to help him get to higher areas.

There are also four different realms, one for each of the characters, plus the Circus itself, and the Nightmare Realm where you will find the Nightmare Child itself. The levels that make up these areas are suitably moody - decaying steel works, dark industrial cities, and circus tops.KISS Of Death

The characters who inhabit the world of KISS : Psycho Circus are just as weird as fans of the comic book would expect. Bizarre floating creatures inflate and waft around, before exhaling the gas at you. Blow one up and it deflates like a punctured balloon, flying around the room chaotically.

In the Circus there's a circus strong man who gets cannonballs fired at him - shoot at his chest and the shots will bounce off. There's even an ugly fat creature that rips its own entrails out to throw them at you. This is a very disturbing game...

Third Law are also creating some smaller monsters - larvae that crawl around firing their heads at you, spider-like creatures that scurry around chasing you... All of these are very low poly, which allows the designers to put dozens of them on screen at once. The idea is to create a game with the action intensity of Doom

This is helped by the level of detail code, that makes monsters less detailed as you move away from them or as the frame rate begins to drop, helping the game run well even when you're being swarmed by enemies. KISS It Goodbye

The good news for music lovers everywhere is that the game isn't going to use KISS music. Instead it's using Microsoft's DirectMusic to produce dynamic music that will change as you move from one location to another or get into a fight.

Certain characters in the game will have their own "theme", including riffs from KISS songs. The cutscenes will also use KISS music, so there is something there for fans of the band, without it being enough to annoy the rest of us.

All in all it's looking surprisingly good so far. The main technology is all in place now, and the company are mostly working on scripting, interactivity and gameplay at the moment. With luck the game will be out in March or April, and we'll bring you a full review as soon as we can...

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