Thursday, 10 October 2013

Kid Chameleon

The Megadrive (or Genesis to those that feel inclined to rename shit pointlessly after Bible books or Musical Groups) was touted at one point in its lifetime as being the MEGA answer to something SUPER, we all saw what they did there and one particular advert rung out with "With only 6 reasons for something SUPER and over 100 reasons for something MEGA..." which basically called out Nintendo's new console as being new but not many games on it... Come to think of it that's a very flawed argument. Megaman vs. Superman is a very piss poor argument for having something MEGA. I don't hear of characters have Mega powers, but rather Super powers, so even going by comic book standards, video games based on those comics, or other such media representations, I'll take the Super option thanks.

The same applies to gaming. Yes it's 100 reasons for MEGA but if those reasons are MEGAshit reasons...

Thankfully Kid Chameleon isn't exactly one of those games, it has many redeeming qualities although seems to be known in smaller, more specialist, circles on the internet and even fewer offline (not Real Life, it's offline... All time spent is REAL LIFE...)

Kid Chameleon doesn't really offer us much that's new in the way of platform gaming or even plot. It's a simple run-of-the-mill affair where a new arcade comes to town, it has a game that has virtual reality and you can walk around and play it. Think along the lines of Star Trek's Holodeck and you're home happy. Something goes wrong and people start to not come back out of the contraption, much akin to the Joy Can in the Venture Brothers show though this one isn't powered by a forsaken child. The final boss goes programming rogue monkey nuts mental and is abducting kids and players, though it's not explained for what. So up steps Kid Chameleon looking like a big headed throw back to the Fonz, to step into the game and beat it.

Quite an assumption, beat the game to make the final boss give back the hostages. Even then, there's nothing about demands, so either the Final Boss is hosting one hell of an elaborate tea-party or there's plenty of head going around for all (the bosses are large floating heads before anyone gets the wrong punch line there. Although....)

As Kid Chameleon(KC), you get to run, jump, bash blocks with your head and generally rip off Mario in the control department for quite a run of the game, including have 2 hit points before "DIE"ing (yes the game says that as you cop the big fat one from mortality's big smiting hammer). Running, ducking, jumping, air moving and such while you're navigating the game. 100 gems gives you a life, or finding a life, or you can find continues and then, thankfully and for the want of something that doesn't scream "another Mario game", there's the masks.

The main component feature of KC, is the ability to don masks that you find within blocks. Each mask will change KC (Here's the chameleon part, they used a word and made a game play mechanic upon it. Are they not clever?) into something else with various abilities. Fly helmet (HA! Helmet, it's a dick joke and sadly there's more) makes KC smaller and stick to walls, Knight helmet (yeah, bored of that joke now) tanks his health to 5 hit points, climbs walls slowly and smashes through blocks he lands upon. Hockey Mask turns him into a rip of Jason Voorhees and throws cleavers. Rhino Helmet (...¬.¬) allows KC to charge through enemies and blocks. Purple Helmet (OH COME ON!) lets him spin rapidly and fly. Green Helmet (nasty infection...) lets him scan for invisible blocks to become solid for a moment. Crash Helmet gives him a gravity switching jet-hover-board to ride, Samurai Helmet gives him higher jumps and a sword and Tank Helmet turns him into a tank that shoots bouncing skulls.

This all sounds very wide and expansive but bear in mind that each helmet is usually (not always) found JUST where you need it most. Often with few enemies around so you can make the most of the level and learn the helmet but in later levels, if you lose the helmet and get transformed back to normal KC, you're likely to die right there and then or will need to kill yourself to get the helmet back in that level.

Levels themselves often follow various themes, from desert looking levels, to cityscapes, grass hills, hell, flying islands, beaches etc but these are just tile sets and the end to every level makes this more abundantly clear when the level is stripped down to show the grey building blocks of a supposedly virtual reality game but for the player, it's like being shown "Here's what you really played around, it's not as nice as you think it looks". Every accomplishment in beating said levels made cheaper by being shown it's not that grand as you think. What a lovely "Reward"

Every now and then you'll come up against the infamous-spiky-drill-wall-of-instant-death that turns a normal level into a manic race from A to B before dying and you'll find the usual "fuck you" situations of bouncing blocks that propel you in various directions, dead-ends, enemies that will slow you down and like Helmets that won't offer speed and certainly won't save you once the wall greets you with the Black And Decker approach to walling. (Prefer Bosch myself for drills)

However what should be said of the levels is that there are a LOT of them. In many cases, there's more than one way through a level and more than one exit beyond the flag at the end of the level. Teleports (some hidden like the one in the first level that takes you to the final boss) will be found in increasing numbers the further into the game you go, some take you to secret levels, some take you to places in the same level and some warp you ahead a few levels and some jump you back and forth between levels in different locations like some virtual architectural game of hot potato. The game gets sadistic at times with such acts, while the layout and structure of some levels require one to almost make a map at times of the labyrinthine levels, a failing I find in any game where it feels like you're a rat trapped in a maze. Yes, every level could be considered a maze but if you're able to see a maze, the illusion of the level is broken.

Of course, once you start thinking in these ways, you become a cynical prick. Have you considered writing games reviews? I did.

The sound is a rather mixed bag, some of the music that plays through levels is of a high quality and comes across clear as a bell, a few adrenaline inducing tracks for the faster paced levels go well together with the design of the game though some tracks will leave players largely unimpressed by the bland and faint tunes of other levels. Digitised speech is a little hit and miss with this game, it's not the clarity one might found of hearing "Round 1, FIGHT" from Mortal Kombat, but a few samples like "DIE" whenever you're killed or the bosses attack, are very distinguishable while other cackles and smaller sounds can be lost in the distortion.

With over 100 levels (and not all routes mapped and known, I've found a warp that I've never seen replicated on any cheat site, I might divulge it someday), various routes and shortcuts taking you from level to level, skipping whole sections and even bosses, there's a great (though not apparently obvious, look here combination of ways to travel the game and miss out some real gems of levels and find ways to avoid the annoyances of others. You won't get a map showing you the layout of the levels in an "over world" type of view so it's very much a "From within the box" perspective that you'll have to grin and bear it.

Replay value with the game is mixed, if you play through, beat it and manage this quickly, you'll likely not play it again. If you play through and have to restart a few times and then get to realise there's a LOT of different routes, bonuses, maps and levels, you could have a lot longer playing the game trying to speed run it, finding hidden blocks to help you speed run it etc. For a platform game with little branding associated with it, it's a very solid game and later, very tough game. Later levels become particularly unforgiving and even the time limit can be an issue when you're running around not aware of the correct route to take.

Bosses become an exercise in endurance with very high levels of health and usually an unforgiving collision detection when it comes to jumping on them and their projectiles, unless KC has some incredible soles to his shoes, he can bounce on exploding plasma but can let it hit his toes. I guess the Doc Martin's were left at home this time. Which makes for a more frustrating battle experience, made all the more difficult by the time limit which can easily overrun if you're spending a long time navigating the level just to find the sonofabitch to bounce of his bald bonce.

But now, I've an axe to wield, a mask to wear and some things on fire to chop up. Then later play this some more.