Soccer Kid (formerly known as Football Kid because he plays football) has to be one of the leading contenders for the ‘most raved about Amiga game ever’ trophy. Hall of Light lists 14 reviews and 13 previews for the ECS original, 7 reviews and 1 preview for the AGA upgrade, and 12 reviews and 1 preview for the tweaked CD32 title. 48 articles in all, and that’s just the Amiga iteration.
Either the critics were so blown away by the revolutionary concept of injecting innovation into a weary stale genre that they were brawling on the terraces to get their mitts on it, or Krisalis’ PR machine bombarded everyone with free copies. Krisalis of Arabian Nights and Manchester United fame that is.
Soccer Kid is even notorious today outside of Amiga circles owing to its portification to the DOS platform (make sure your 486 is up to it), SNES, 3DO, PlayStation, Atari Jaguar, Game Boy Advance… fridges, toilet roll holders and probably a few aeroplane headrests too.
Rather bizarrely the US SNES release was re-branded ‘The Adventures of Kid Kleets’, the Japanese rehash was tweaked slightly to ‘Great! Soccer Kid’, while the DOS interpretation was punnily subtitled ‘Feets of Fury!!’.
For the Japanese SNES market Kid was manga-fied, tarting him up with zany blue hair and an angry perma-scowl. Except only in the title screen and cut-scenes. In-game his sprite looks identical to the English release.
Soccer Kid maintains his original British style in the SNES game, yet for the PAL edition in-game advertising crept in when no-one was looking (the same can be said of the Jaguar and DOS ports). Dotted around the landscape you’ll see references to Nestle’s junk food breakfast cereal Golden Grahams (what have Americans got against pronouncing the ‘ha’?). You can still buy these today, unfortunately.
Minor modifications aside, all versions are interchangeable and were largely well-received.
“Thankfully, the finished version of this soccer-cum-platform hybrid is now upon us, and, to put it mildly, it’s stunning.”
CU Amiga (93%, September 1993)
“Soccer Kid is a fabulously fun platform game with lots of action.”
Video Games & Computer Entertainment (3DO, 90%, January 1995)
“This in a lot of ways sounds like oh, so many console-esque platform romps and I would need a good sharp kick up my split casey if I drew such a cruel comparison. The main reason for this is that the Kid is undoubtedly unique. In most titles of this genre it is a simple case of guiding your hero from A to B, jumping and bashing. In Soccer Kid, success depends on how you use the Kid’s ball skill. Killing baddies or reaching ledges can often be down to utilising one of the many tricks our miniature Maradonna is capable of. It is for this reason that the Kid is so special.”
Amiga Computing (94%, October 1993)
We tend to notice the enthusiasm trailing off where the later systems are concerned since adopters of these expected to be treated to games that pushed the boundaries of their more advanced kit. Some were sorely disappointed when instead they were tasked with reviewing an old school 2D platform game for their predominantly 3D system.
Whatever the host, the story remains identical, capitalising on the excitement surrounding the upcoming World Cup in the not-at-all-known-for-its-footballing-prowess US of A. Well, it was upcoming in 1993 when the inaugural ECS Amiga iteration kicked off, shortly followed by a marginally enhanced AGA offering. It would have seemed less relevant in 2000/2002/2003 when the Jaguar/Game Boy Advance/PlayStation remakes hit the back of the net.
“It’s 1994, the day of the World Cup Final in the United States of America (Brazil beat Italy 3-2 on penalties at the Rose Bowl in the real world in case you’re interested). The atmosphere is electric. A capacity crowd is waiting for the match to begin. So too, thousands of miles across the water, is Soccer Kid, sat in front of his television (Come on, he can’t have been christened Soccer Kid. He might have grown up to be a tennis pro. Then he’d feel a bit silly).
A million miles away in outer space, far above the planet Earth, the alien pirate Scab is scanning the area for a trophy of Great Importance to add to his enormous collection.
‘Beep beep beep!’ goes the scanner as it locates the World Cup, the most prestigious reward on Earth, shining brightly in the American sun. (I thought there was only one, and we shared it?)
Suddenly, a blanket of darkness falls over the stadium and Scab’s spaceship materialises. The crowd is dumbstruck until the World Cup disappears from view. They gasp. They boo. They cry seconds later when the stadium is re-lit… and Scab’s ship is already orbiting the Earth.
BANG! The smug Scab collides with an asteroid. The World Cup shatters into five pieces which fall to Earth, each chunk landing on a different part of the globe.
Soccer Kid decides there and then to save the day by recovering the five pieces of World Cup.”
That challenge aside there are 11 football cards to collect on each level that grant access to a point-scoring bonus stage (Those Panini stickers are still being produced 50 years after their inception, you know). These entail busting blocks against the clock to clear a path to the collectable goodies, including a fragment of the precious World Cup.
Scooping up neither the cards or World Cup shards is mandatory to complete the game. Though as doing so is rewarded with the opportunity to tackle our nemesis and appreciate the proper ending, it’s worth putting in the extra effort.
I hope you’ve packed your toothbrush because we’ll be globetrotting between England, Italy, Japan, Russia, and finally the USA without stopping for any half time oranges. Brazil was also to be included in the disk-based title, though as there wasn’t the available capacity it was cut with the intention of resurrecting it for the CD32 iteration released a year later. This would have made it an exclusive bonus for owners of the newer technology, along with a cartoon style intro courtesy of Catalyst Pictures. Except it never happened; the CD32 upgrade is comprised of the same five levels/countries as the ECS/AGA floppy-based releases.
“And just wait until you see the CD32 version Krisalis are working on – it’s simply spectacular, with 256 colours, an extra level that got squeezed out of the floppy release, and CD quality sound!”
CU Amiga review (September 1993, page 59)
“It’s not known yet whether Krisalis will overhaul the graphics and give it a 256-colour lick of paint. There will definitely be a CD soundtrack and an extra country (Brazil) which was left out of the floppy release, to play around in. Another major feature for the CD32 is the five minutes of broadcast-quality animation at the beginning of the game.
A Japanese company has been working on the introduction animation and it will be unlike anything you’ve seen before.”
Amiga Computing CD32 preview (issue 66, November 1993)
“If you’re looking for an original platformer with bags of style and class that’ll give you hours of entertainment, then I guess this is the essential CD32 purchase for the month.”
Amiga Computing (88%, December 1994)
Each country is populated by stereotypical, tropey inhabitants, scenery, and architecture, making them instantly recognisable. Contemporary ‘snowflakes’ and political correctness watchdogs would probably accuse the developers of being racist today. Everyone needs a bandwagon to jump on I suppose.
At least the happy-snappy tourists don’t look especially Japanese as in Impossamole. That would be an obvious pitfall. And the red Indians seen in the old wild west make too much sense to be offensive surely.
In Russia the focus appears to be on warmongering; one level takes place on a battleship and tanks and military types dominate the landscape elsewhere.
Farmer Giles makes an appearance in the English countryside, which may offend really dimwitted country bumpkins …and Worzel Gummage. I’m not worried, they don’t have internet access so won’t be writing in to complain. Plus, country bumpkins don’t know they’re country bumpkins.
In Japan, we get to ride on top of one of their famous JR (Japanese Rail) bullet trains, representing one of the two novelty levels that deviate from the norm. The other being the Russian battleship.
Did you spot the Rocket ice lolly collectables we all remember from our childhood? These are still available in supermarkets etc. today, along with Twisters and Feasts. As if there weren’t enough trinkets to collect on the surface, many more can be found scattered within secret areas, accessed by bashing through walls or dropping into places where it doesn’t seem possible.
It’s also nice to see the inclusion of real-world cars; the Toyota Celica and Mini, plus the more generic blacks cabs in London and yellow ones in New York.
I wondered why snakes feature in Britain as they’re not especially associated with this country. Then I noticed that they’re a recurring threat throughout. Well, if you can find them on planes these days.
Now Beef-eaters, red double-decker public buses, Big Ben, the houses of parliament, former prime minister, John Major, and British bulldogs. They spell Blighty. Although it has to be said that the bulldogs are recycled later for the Russian levels.
I couldn’t fathom why all the time-giver thingies would be set to 4 o’clock. Is that relevant or was the design just copy/pasted?
ECS Soccer Kid took a year and a half to produce, finally emerging in August 1993; an eternity by Amiga game standards. I expect this is why the price was set at an above-average £30. You’d imagine a large chunk of that development time was invested in perfecting the authentic ball physics since it really is on the b… it’s spot on. It ricochets off obstacles and adversaries in a believable fashion, bounces, punctures and goes astray just as convincingly.
This is Soccer Kid’s much-vaunted USP. While most other platformer stars wield a traditional shooty-bang-bang device or trounce enemies by leaping onto their noggins, Kid deploys his boundless supply of footballs. If they burst or are lost it’s possible to regenerate balls infinitely. Our only penalty is that we accrue fewer points the more balls we conjure up.
Kid can kick balls directly into foes, skimming them across the ground, back-heel them when facing in the wrong direction, perform overhead ‘bicycle’ kicks, headers, flying headers, as well as breaking out of a keepy-uppy session to launch his trusty balls through the ether. Nevertheless, we never actually kill adversaries. Instead, they jump off-screen when hit the required number of times, making it perfectly kiddy friendly. Proving the point the 3DO box bears an ‘E for everyone’ sticker.
Mostly just for the spectacle, our eponymous Kid (who has no proper name and suffers from Macrocephaly apparently) can practice his ball-juggling skills during any downtime. These include balancing on it, using it as a springboard or a means of remotely collecting objects, playing vertical head ping-pong, executing power-shots, and as already mentioned, the leg-oriented keepy-uppies too.
These manoeuvres look like they might be complicated to pull off, yet aren’t at all thanks to the responsive, reliable, brilliantly refined controls courtesy of Pete Harrap and Shaun Hollingworth. You can suss them out easily enough by trial and error in five minutes. Such techniques do actually come in handy when dispatching baddies and breaking through barriers aside from it being fun to show off, so it’s worth honing them.
Off the ball we can also slide to slip through small gaps and duck to pan the screen downwards. All Kid’s various skills are documented in the comprehensive manual and there’s also a tutorial in-game for anyone who is completely incompetent.
“The Kid is blessed with some engaging football skills: back-heels, overhead kicks, headers and sliding tackles included. It’s unusual for such a pretty platform game to play with equal aplomb but Soccer Kid is as playable an example of the genre as you will find. Included in this version are an array of cartoon scenes dropped in for good measure but the game stands capably on its own.”
Amiga Format (93%, November 1994)
Bosses are as appropriate to the themed levels as the rest of the decoration and population. In England, we face Gareth the rugby player. Based on Bath and England rugby union player Gareth Chilcott? Wrong colour, hmm.
Pavarelli (a not-remotely-disguised parody of Pavarotti) presides over the Italian stages.
In Japan, we encounter an overgrown baby sumo wrestler who discards his kimono and proceeds to butt-stomp us into the ground. To confirm he weighs as much as an elephant, the screen shakes dramatically when he touches down. Not that this is unique to the sumo wrestler.
There’s a super-supple, svelte Russian gymnast who appears tiny compared to the other bosses, breaking the cardinal Amiga game boss rule. You know, that they’ve all got to be colossal.
An American football player (No. 8, black? Any significance?) is the sporty tyrant standing in our way for the final level…
…shortly preceding the main event; the peg-legged, laser-beam-shooting alien orchestrator of chaos and cup-thievery… comprised of 18-carat gold with bands of malachite fact fans.
What’s odd is that after you kick him into touch in the SNES version all the bosses make a curtain call return to help you celebrate your victory. Weren’t they all trying to assassinate us prior to this? Talk about fair-weather friends! Maybe they were under alien duress and have since been liberated from Scab’s subordination thanks to our intervention?
On the contrary, in the Amiga game over sequence we just see a still picture of Kid trampling over the conquered E.T. as we reclaim the World Cup trophy.
Concluding the PlayStation reissue we get a repeat of the SNES end game sequence then Pavarelli makes a comeback to sing the credits. Floating letters fly from his mouth like musical notes to form the names and responsibilities of each member of the team. Much like his attack modus operandi in-game, only there he projects actual notes.
It’s an impressive title technically, visually, not so much sonically. Appropriately arcadey and upbeat, Matt Furniss’s music ticks the right boxes without being especially memorable. Speaking of the blue spikey one, did you spot the Sonicisms? Flying fish leaping from beneath bridges, swinging platforms, Kid’s physical proportions, and so on.
Soccer Kid isn’t quite so fast despite running at 50 fps because the novel attack mechanic forces us to stop before executing each move. It’s probably a good thing since Sonic is ridiculously overrated and trying to emulate his mindless blurry boots was pointless.
Meanwhile back in Rotherfield (Soccer Kid’s hometown), the enemy sprites are comprised of 64×64 pixels, inhabiting a duel playfield composed of 8 foreground colours and 8 background colours. It doesn’t sound that impressive on paper, though thanks to graphics artist, Neil Adamson, it equates to an aesthetically enticing vista featuring…
- Impeccably smooth, credible animation. Check out Kid’s platform-edge-teetering for instance. Pay attention to all the sprites, in fact, Krisalis certainly did. I can’t put a number on the frames of animation in each case, but would guess it’s up there with the most visually accomplished Amiga games.
- Environmentally adaptive shadows that cause Kid’s sprite to lose visual acuity whenever he moves into dimly lit arrears.
- Springy, deforming bridge trick (as seen in Sonic, Kid Chaos and so on). As he travels across bridges, the logs that comprise them sink, then snap back into alignment as Kid steps off them.
- Weather effects are the perfect accompaniment to gorgeous, parallax-scrolled, copper-tricked backdrops. There’s graceful falling snow in Russia, rain in London (of course), and wind determines the trajectory of drifting leaves.
- Dithering techniques are used to vary the opacity of certain assets, giving the impression that they aren’t solid objects. See the ghostly apparitions of Roman centurions, water and Pavarelli’s roaming spotlight for example.
“What is new for the A1200? It is now hard drive installable and noticeably more colourful, without most of the nasty stippling effects of the ordinary version. It is still thirty quid and that is still a lot of money, so it is a good job it is a smart game. Playability? It has got bags of it, and then some more that would not fit into any of the bags.”
Amiga Power (85%, March 1994)
There’s barely room for improvement, which explains why the CD32 version only sought to enhance the colour palette to 256, add an extra stage, save games (only at the end of each level), a multimedia intro, and CD-quality audio.
Playtesters who put the game through its paces prior to release estimated there to be five and a half hours worth of gameplay on offer. That’s if you can get through it at all… most die trying. Literally I expect. Ninja longplayer, NickyC, beat the game in just under an hour and fifty minutes so it’s a long slog even if you know what you’re doing.
“One of the best platformers ever! Fabulous graphics and gameplay which is incredibly difficult in places – it will take weeks of practice to complete.”
Amiga Format (93%, October 1993)
Given how arduous and repetitive it is, an option to pause and resume your game is a necessity. It was Amiga Power who proposed a password option at the 11th hour as the solution to this dilemma where the floppy version was concerned. Krisalis listened and that’s why we don’t have to complete all 30 levels plus bonus stages in one sitting. Then again, today we have save states so it’s a moot point.
Otherwise dying mid-level forces us to backtrack to the beginning of the world to try again. There are no respawn points available, making the repetition aspect that much more painful.
“Fun, bouncy and all sorts of other nice words, but it is not the perfect platformer by a long way. Some good use of the CD though, with lovely intro animation and music.”
Amiga Power (CD32, 80%, November 1994)
Another common criticism levelled at Amiga era developers was the oversight concerning the recognition of multiple disk drives. Luckily Krisalis had that base covered; Soccer Kid supports up to three additional drives so the data from all four (ECS) or five (AGA) disks can be completely loaded into memory if you have sufficient Cumanas and RAM to spare. With the AGA upgrade there’s also the option to install it to a hard drive to make almost instant loading a reality.
“The AGA version has improved graphics and colours (which were not half bad in the first place) and it is now hard disk installable. If you have got the original, do not bother getting this version but if you like platform games, this rubs shoulders with Zool and Yo Joe! Fantastic.”
Amiga Format (93%, January 1994)
Attention to detail extends to allowing the player to customise the colour of Kid’s kit to match their favourite team. Our end of level score is calculated and presented on an LED scoreboard just like you’d see at a football match.
Then there are the neat little touches like the tiny animated ripples on the background water, and King Kong dangling from a skyscraper in New York.
Elsewhere you can ride on a gondola, or between Venice’s residential buildings in pants clipped to washing lines, and even pull down to enter them, transporting Kid to another bonus stage.
“Soccer Kid is an immense game and lots of fun to play. The action is relentless, there are plenty of pickups and bonuses to collect (essential in this type of game), and the graphics and animation are superb. Best of all, the ball bounces about the screen in a highly realistic manner. Surprisingly, this wasn’t much of a programming challenge, but it looks impressive nonetheless.
From Soccer Kid’s cheeky grin cuteness to his amazing ball-handling expertise, this game shouts class. It’s definitely a contender for one of this year’s top 10 games, if not the top spot.”
CU Amiga (93%, September 1993)
Looking beyond the superb presentation and technical marvels, the tough, flat difficulty curve and endurance test nature of the game does tend to harness our enjoyment.
Highly unforgiving, Krisalis don’t encourage us to keep returning to finish Soccer Kid. If you pass through a level without collecting all the cards it’s impossible to recover every piece of the World Cup, and there’s no way back to redress the situation. This means we never face the final-final-proper boss, or experience the true-for-realsies finale. I’m not sure if that’s bad game design or deliberate cruelty.
It’s not immediately obvious that Soccer Kid utilises the same engine as Arabian Nights. One revolves around puzzle-solving and sword-swishing, while the other is all-out-action ball-bashing. Both rely on up for jump which is a big drawback for many, especially if you grew up playing console games with a joypad. I didn’t so I don’t really care. Incidentally, the CD32 release didn’t remedy the predicament – it still only employs one button and up for jump. Bit of a wasted opportunity sadly.
“Beautiful graphics, a great central character, a few neat ideas and a feel unlike any other platform game I can think of.
Gorgeous though they are, the graphics are a little samey sometimes (although, let’s face it, most cities do look pretty much identical these days), and the music’s horribly cheesy throughout. And I’ll take two percent off for having to kill rats, too.
A deeply gorgeous platformer, even better than Arabian Nights, but not quite as good as Yo! Joe!”
Amiga Power (88%, September 1993)
Whatever its limitations Krisalis should be commended for being one of the earliest developers to implement real-world ball physics outside of a dedicated football game. Soccer Kid was a fresh, novel concept when first unveiled and any copycats that emerged later attempting to duplicate its success (*cough* Hurricanes *cough* Marko’s Magic Football) couldn’t hope to match Soccer Kid’s good-natured, endearing appeal.
If you’re suffering from football fatigue you might like to have a dabble with an alternative genre. Perhaps a platformer… erm, starring a footballing maestro wonder kid, ticking all the boxes for Lorenz’s kinderschema criteria. For anyone who hasn’t studied behavioural psychology/anthropology as applied to Amiga games (what have you been doing with your life?!?), he’s been hit with the cutesy stick.