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Kid Chamelon is an inventive and colourful side-scrolling platformer from 1992, in which you play as the eponymous Kid, a video-game player who finds himself sucked into a virtual world and who is able to change into various other characters, each with their own special skills, by collecting power-ups distributed throughout the game's many levels.
The game employs numerous standard platformer elements, requiring you to bounce on enemies heads to kill them and to hit overhead blocks with your head to collect power-ups and points, but the game still possesses a lot of originality and retains its own uniqe style, both visually and gameplay-wise. There are loads of characters to play as, including a samurai, a hockey-mask wearing axe-murderer, a bipedal rhino creature who can destroy enemies and blocks by charging at them, a hoverboarder, a knight, a fly and even a skull-firing tank.
Each character has different energy levels and offensive capabilities and also allows you to access different areas, eg by allowing you to jump higher or break down walls, meaning that the game has a cerebral puzzle aspect to it as well. The levels are varied and immersive, including forests, tunnel-filled mountains, cities, desert islands and Hades amongs others, and there are loads of zany enemies to fight throughout, as well as end of level bosses in the form of giant disembidied heads that appear at the end of each zone.
Its a very visually stimulating game with plenty of variety bot in the presentation and the levels, which vary greatly in design and format, including 'against the clock' levels in which you must run from a giant mincing machine on the left of the screen as it advances, chewing up everything in sight. Hidden sectrets allow you to warp between levels too, adding to the game's mysterious and immersive feel, whilst the midi music is also excellent, ranging from funky slab-bass numbers to more urgent and menacing scores.
A varied, inventive and crininally underrated platformer, Kid Chameleon is an early 90s classic thats still great fun to play.
With blisters on my thumbs, 2 controls on the other side of the room and a higher than usual blood pressure I think I can safely sum Kid Chameleon up as being a delightfully addictive yet thoroughly frustrating game. Having spent the last 6 hours playing the version on xbox 360's Sega Mega Drive collection (mainly because I loved it as a child but wasn't ever able to get very far) I can safely say this game is as near impossible as a genuinely fun game can be.
Released originally on the Mega Drive/Genesis way back in the early 1990's (1992) it had become one of those games I'd stumbled along not being sure what it was about but the cover looked rather cool and to a 7 year old that means more than anything. I realised later on I'd actually played it at my cousins a few years before the time I'd been given it as a gift (around 1995) and it was too complex to a 5 year old me, as I turned 10 and had completed most of the Sonic games I turned my attention to this. Over a decade later I've still not seen all of the game.
How can anyone review a game they've not seen everything from? Well due to the massively complex nature of Kid Chameleon and the ways it seems to try to re-write the gaming rulebook I doubt many that have genuinely completed it have seen everything. The games premise is simple, it's a platforming game, such as Mario, Sonic, Alex The Kidd, James Pond, Cool Spot, Ristar and Zool (and handfuls of others from back in the day). However it's the way it goes about making the game bigger, harder, and more expansive than any similar game that makes it so unique and why so many have a fond place in their heart for it.
Where as most games had a simple linear direction in game play where upon completion of 1 level the player would progress to the next in a Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 etc format Kid Chameleon (and to an extent James Pond) had a massive level map that spread out over 100 levels. Though technically only 3 levels in the game we're mandatory and the maximum was around 93, as the game spread out with multiple routes that depended on how you completed the previous level. So for example on the "fourth" level it was possible to visit the normal "fifth" level or an additional bonus level. This was done through out the game, in fact there was several shortcuts through the game skipping chunks of the game out (though not all of these we're actually a bright idea more about this later).
As well as a branching and expansive level map the game gameplay took a much more puzzle led system than any of the other similar games. The player controlled "The Kid" in a virtual game, in which they would collect masks which would give the player a completely different set of moves and attributes, some masks we're needed to complete levels, whilst others just made them much easier. These included a knight (that appears on the first level) which is the only form in which the player can climb walls and has 5 hit points by default, a samurai (which appears on the second level) which is able to jump higher than the others, a rhino like mask which allows the player to charge through certain walls (and is the first "required" to use mask). With the way certain masks are needed to be collected and used through the game it gives the player more to think about than the simple left to right platforming games of many of it's contemporaries.
So why does it still appeal to me 17 years after it's release?
Despite having "beaten" the final boss (see the cheats section at the end of this review) I'd never fully played it, I'd often gotten lost in it's myriad of levels and given up. The lack of a save feature in the original release (which has thankfully been added to the re-releases) made the game effectively impossible to complete properly. Infact I'd never even used one of the masks in the game (something that had annoyed me for years), this was a driving force behind trying to play through it properly.
Sadly I became hooked (again) and even after finally getting to control "Sky Cutter" (a character riding a hover board, as seen on the games cover and in game demo) I decided I'm going to complete the thing from start to end via the route of least resistance (again barring what is spoke about in the cheat sections) using a guide for help where needed.
I've now gotten about 4 times farther than I had ever gotten previously (infact for someone who had never beaten the first boss, I'm not doing badly now (I'm now on the 6th to last level in the linear path). The help of a save state to load up after messing up is by far the most pleasing feature to be added to this game anyone could imagine (other than a total debug mode, which could have been stupidly fun). To those who consider themselves "purists" and games need to be played properly, you're going to hate me for saying this, but my current game file has been active for about 8 hours, though only 2 of them are live gaming hours (so basically all together it's been 8 hours, though that includes re-loading times). Yes it's cheating...but I don't care.
The games early learning curve is quite bearable, the first 8 or so levels are quite easy (again all "levels" are the normal progression levels, not using in game shortcuts, cheats or secret levels). Then the game steps up significantly with the first (of 3) "drill wall levels", depending how you completed the previous levels to this, it can be simple or ridiculously difficult. These levels see a wall chasing you from left to right with enemies and obstacles trying to prevent your escape in what could be seen as as a race for you're life.
The game, unlike most other platform games, featured several types of blocks which had their own uses or in some cases needed to be avoided, of course the typical "reward" box (p block) is the most useful but there was some that acted as platforms, some that were rubbed and had to be used like springs from the sonic games. Others acted as walls and either had to be destroyed (only the Samurai, Knight and Rhino-type thing, could destroy the "rock" blocks unless the player is under them, where all forms could smash them). Some acted as momentary platforms (vanishing swiftly), some shot arrows and some had drills on them, adding more to the puzzle elements of some of the levels).
The typical collectable was another added feature that Sonic games later used in a way (Super Sonic used up his rings to activate the form). Whilst all good platform games have a collectable, be it Rings. Coins, Stars or in the case coloured diamonds few use them outside of simple points and life additions. Kid Chameleon used them to buy the access to a masks special powers, which ranged from character to character, with one of them adding an extra life for 50 diamonds, whilst another added a hit point to all forms following before death. Though most of the specials we're simple "diamonds will destroy enemies" some (as the two previously explained) we're more useful, whilst some we're very form specific (a tank like form fired a multiple direction shot).
Overall the games graphics stood up well to the likes of Sonic, Mario and Co. The levels we're often more expansive and much more difficult especially later on where 2 or more forms need to be used to progress onto the next level. Though the puzzle aspect and the multi-route system may not be to every ones cup of tea and the level design at times can be too complex the game is huge and will have something for every gaming fan out there. As is always the case with both the graphics and the music when compared to today's standards they are significantly looking old and jaded, but yet I'm willing to ignore how blocky limited it looks to remember it's such an addictive and challenging game.
The game play is solid and the lifespan massive, the routes through the game won't always having you come back for more though (as explained below in "Mother *&?!£$" section of this review) just to complete it with save states and reloading could well last a week...how anyone managed the game originally I'll never know.
This is aside from the main body of the review (like the following part) so as to keep the review spoiler free, so if you want to avoid this bit then feel free to click the x in the top right corner.
The game has very few actual cheats, just 1 major one that allows the player to jump from the second level to the final boss. By crawling off the final block (above the flag) on the second level whilst holding a certain button the player is warped to the boss.
The game also has a short cut where if the player has collected a certain amount of points by a certain place in the game they are boosted a vast section through the game. Although not really a cheat as such, it is only really for advanced players as the game suddenly shoots up in the difficulty stakes.
There are other numerous short cuts through the game and other tricks, the biggest tip I can give though, is early one when you get the pink helmet form, keep it for as long as you can, it makes a lot of levels very easy.
"Mother *&?!£$" Section
Several of the games in built shortcuts lead to a level called "Bloody Swamp" (in fact it's directly entered by 2 levels, and indirectly by a further 2). The level is technically a none compulsory level (thankfully) though it's one of the most famous levels in the game due to it's immensely difficult and frustrating manner that sees the drill wall chasing the player and 99% of the time...killing them. The level had no easy way of being completed and often found players turning controls into useless messes of plastic as they smashed against the wall. Until recently I'd never played the level and thankfully in the future I'm never going to play the level again as I'll happily do 14 levels more and avoid it than take a short cut to enter it. The level is not one to attempt whilst baby sitting, unless you want to teach a whole new series of swear words to the babies. So be warned. Avoid like the plague.
Kid Chameleon is a 1992 Sega platform game. The player assumes the role of a shapeshifting teenager who must rely on powerups and his own adaptability to progress the levels.
The player is given a number of lives, which can be increased by collecting points and powerups. The levels are also timed. There are a number of different types of enemy which can be dispatched in many different ways, depending on the character you are playing. Such characters include a knight, a samurai, a hoverborder, a fly, and tank.
These characters, ten in total, have an enormous range of abilities, some can climb walls, others can smash through walls, some can hack enemies to bits with the a sword, throw axes, jump enormously high etc. The character powerups in the game, however, are presented in a linear way, the specific skills necessary to progress the respective areas.
The game flows really well and has a really polished and stylish feel to it, particularly in terms of originality when it comes to level and enemy design. Point accumulation works by picking up diamonds from smashing overhead tiles, sort of a cross between the system in Sonic and Mario. This is familiar but also feels quite smooth. There's a number of interesting bosses and secret levels which never cease to entertain. Many of these are accessed through teleporters which look stylish as hell, the whole screen turning bright white as the environment changes entirely to one of the games many brilliant and memorable, strange sound effects.
This game is brilliantly designed and, whilst it brings together many aspects of other platformers, plays like no other. For its time, the 2D graphics are really quite impressive and due to their incredible punk style, have barely dated at all and still retain a great deal of charm and nostalgic value.
Its a very difficult game overall, particularly toward the end, and, with no saving system or level passwords, it can be incredibly tricky and if I'm honest, somewhat tedious to complete in one sitting. Like most games of its time however, both kids and adults would find it equally difficult, and would be capable of enjoying it on the same levels. It has a lot of longevity.
Kid Chameleon is available for Sega Megadrive, Amiga, Xbox 360 and PS3, the latter two only available by buying Sega game compilations.