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Blurring the line between marketing tool and vanity project, Kavinsky features the music and comic-like visage of the titular French house artist, who released an album earlier this year. Designed around the fictional backstory behind the record – about a teen who crashes his supernatural Ferrari in the '80s and returns two decades later as a beat-making zombie – the free game alternates between beat-em-up and driving segments without ever explaining the events or hinting at that narrative, but it sure does look and sound cool along the way. Too bad the game itself isn't terribly interesting.
Just as Kavinsky's music recalls the bombastic synth soundtracks of the 80s, the neon-soaked game feels like a lost relic from that era of arcade gaming, albeit with modern 3D visuals. During the fighting stages, you can alternate between an angled, cel-shaded view and an intentionally pixelated side-scrolling camera that parodies the graphical quality of the day; meanwhile, behind the wheel, you'll guide a faux-Ferrari away from the police on routes packed with lens flare and/or colorful accent lighting. And it's all punched up with his looping beats, not to mention odd power-ups like cigarettes, beer, and adult magazines (be prepared for some cartoonish nudity and suggestive moans at times).
But the gameplay never feels anywhere near as well-considered as the aesthetic. The on-foot combat is stilted and rudimentary, without a hint of depth to the action, while the sports car is difficult to steer during the checkpoint events. Kavinsky also includes a couple of optional bonus stages that use your device's back camera to create the in-game world for simple brawling stages, but it's incredibly awkward in execution, especially when the camera has to remain unobscured throughout. The game is briefly amusing, but much more for its premise and presentation than its interactivity. At the very least, it got this reviewer to check out and purchase the album. Marketing prevails after all.
The bottom line. Kavinsky isn't particularly fun to play, but this stylish freebie may still steal away a few minutes of your time.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.1 or later
Odd premise is intriguing. Stylish presentation recalls the 1980s. Killer tunes.
Fighting gameplay is dull and repetitive. Driving segments are similarly lacking interest. Bonus levels don't work very well.