Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kick Man

Ah, Kick Man, what a strange game, both fun to play and frustrating to play well for various reasons.  I first encountered Kick Man at the local skating rink and later at the local A&W restaurant.  I never was able to score very high on the game as a kid, but did considerably better when I encountered it decades later at video game expos like California Extreme.

In Kick Man, you control a clown riding a unicycle.  The trackball allows you to move the clown left and right and controls the speed at which he does so.  At the top of the screen in each level are a collection of balloons and assorted Pac-Man characters (Pac-Man and ghosts in later rounds).  Items fall from the top of the screen at various speeds and you're supposed to catch them on your head.  If the item gets too low, you can kick the item back up towards the top of the screen (hence the name of the game).  When the stack of items gets too high, the clown will pop all of the items.  Alternatively, if you can catch a Pac-Man, the Pac-Man will eat all of the items before landing on your head (which is worth more points).

Naturally, as the game progresses, it gets faster and more difficult.  You often find yourself kicking and juggling more than one item at a time.  And, dealing with a high stack of items on the clown's head while objects are falling fast makes the game quite difficult.  Periodic bonus stages also introduce the concept of bombs being tossed down (which you're supposed to avoid).

Having said all of the above, the game is a strange amalgamation, combining elements of the games Breakout and Clowns with a sprinkling of Pac-man and a touch of the Atari VCS game Kaboom! (for the bombs).  A seemingly strange combination, but in the end it actually works well.  Depending on how well maintained the machine you play is, it can also be quite a workout as you frantically spin the trackball back and forth trying to juggle balloons, Pac-Man and ghosts.

What games have you played that have borrowed from other previously existing games or which are strange combinations of existing games?

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