Kick Off

Title           Kick Off
Game Type       Sport
Players         1-2
Company         Anco Software
Compatibility   Disable CPU Cache for KS3
Submission      Jason Page (Celebrity Reviewer)

To be honest, I didn't really "play" too many Amiga games. It was a time
when I was pretty busy working at Graftgold, writing audio and code, where
I saw a lot of products and either took them for granted or just analysed
them to try and work out how they plotted so many sprites and so on. There
were a few exceptions to this rule. The first being Turrican. This was
close to being my favourite game of all time on the Amiga, so I think it
still deserves a mention for a number of reasons. The music was amazing.
Totally fitting the style of the game and setting a new standard at the
time. It made me realise that perhaps I wasn't pusing the audio side of
the Amiga as much as I thought I was when writing the music for things
like Paradroid '90 or Realms. Admittedly, I think that Chris Huelsbeck got
a little more RAM than I was ever allowed (not that I was ever bitter
about such things at the time, you understand!). The graphics were smooth
and fast and the game was very playable in a Sega or Nintendo type of way.
It was after seeing this game that Andrew Braybrook really started to push
the Amiga too. With a little help from Factor 5 and a lot of his own
talent, Graftgold soon had a nice, full frame rate scroller - And Fire And
Ice was born. Basically, Turrican was a real arcade classic. But, at the
end of the day, it was always KickOff which I came back to time and time
again. So for me, thats my top Amiga game:

I think Kick Off was released in around 1989? Hmmm..Not too sure about
that to be honest. But if it was, I would have been 16 and  just have got
into the games industry - Working at Graftgold, programming on the C64.
Even though I was writing music for the Amiga and C64 before I joined
Graftgold, it wasn't until 1990 when I sort of took over from Steve Turner
(the boss!) as the company audio person, writing the music for Paradroid
90 and Simulcra (another great game - which somehow missed most people's
"hall of fame"). I don't really know how it happened either! But in those
days, it was quite normal for programmers to also cover both graphics and
audio too. So many people at Graftgold could cover more than one job.
Anyway..Where was I ?! Ahh yes...

Kick Off didn't really push too many boundries (if any?) when it came down
to graphics and audio. But the gameplay was amazing. For a start, the ball
was not glued to your players feet. I think this may have been the first
football game to do this (if not, it was still the first that I ever saw).
It allowed the player to really have to learn ball control, rather than
just the usual "run with the ball until someone slides into you" type
thing.  Another aspect was that everything could be controlled with one
button. Lobs, shooting, curls and headers all felt totally natural. Why
do football games now have to use different buttons for each type of shot
and why is the ball always stuck to the player's feet? Why take the skill
out of playing a game? Didn't ANYONE play KickOff?! Learning how to
control and kick the ball was what the whole game was about, in the same
way as, say, controlling Mario is not just about the timing of a jump, but
more to do with learning how to control him with regards to inertia and so
on. Basically, a person who had played this game for a long time would be
able to pull off some amazing moves and this was all about skill. Perfect.
Its the sort of game play elements which the people at Graftgold always
tried to put into their games. We never started off with amazing graphics
or sound, but just the raw gameplay elements which everything else was
based around.

Another reason for this game being so "right" was the camera angle. The
overhead camera allowed you to see so much of the playing area, so it
wasn't just a matter of kicking the ball as hard as possible and hoping
there was someone at the other end to receive it. It felt like the author,
Dino Dini, had actually thought about why this camera angle should be used
(or perhaps it was just so he could use 16&16 sprites for the players?!).
Whatever - it still worked very well.

The use of the radar was once again vital to playing expert competitors,
but not so essential that you spent the whole game staring at it. It just
did what it was meant to do.

The AI worked well, and I never found the elusive "Do this move every time
to score" (did anyone else?). It may have seemed a bit easy after a few
months of playing. But even then I would come back to it time and time
again, just to see how many goals I could score in 5 minutes. Each game
felt like a new game, if you know what I mean. Like chess, where one
different move or tactic by the other player would change the whole

Another good point was it was so easy to just pick up and play. None of
that "getting to the top of a league" or "choosing your team and player
hair colour" rubbish which never adds anything to a game as far as I am
concerned. Just pure gameplay. Red versus blue on a green pitch where it
never rained.

Sound was adequate, with the usual ball kick, crowd drone and goal scored
cheer. But its only now that I really realise how you needed the ball
kick sound as part of the gameplay. Without it, it was so much harder to
time swerves and kicks (once again, back to the fact that the ball wasn't
stuck to your feet).

Most people expect me to have a favourite Amiga game which would also have
great audio (having a  C64/Amiga audio background), which is true for
every other game apart from this one! KickOff didn't really influence me
in any way with my own programming or music styles - which maybe why I can
appreciate it for what it was - rather than just "that game with the great
music". But I must take this opportunity to say thanks to the people who
did make a difference: Jereon Tel and Charles Deenan (Maniacs Of Noise)
were the best musicians at that time. I think the C64 game StormLord was
released around the KickOff time - and the music was amazing (can't
remember the game - See!! Told you that would happen.!). As for Amiga
musicians - Chris Huelsbeck (Turrican) and Richard Joseph
(Gods/ChaosEngine). No competition as far as I was concerned. Yes, there
were other very talented people writing music at that time, but these guys
were just so far ahead of the rest.

Anyway, hope you may have got a little insight into my world in 1989..It
was fun. It was fast. And it was damn playable. Then along came Sensible
Soccer. But for me, it just wasn't KickOff......

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