Wednesday, December 13

Kick a Great But Nearly Forgotten Arcade Classic

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In 1980, the company Midway had a huge arcade hit game on its hands when it distributed the Namco game Pac-Man in the United States. Everybody knows Pac-Man. It’s more than just a video game. It’s an icon.

But the folks at Midway obviously wanted to keep going with their success. To that end, they came up with more arcade games.

One of those was Kick, also known as Kick Man or Kick-Man or Kickman. Um, which title should be use for this arcade game? Who knows? Different versions of the game have different names on the screen and the marquee at the top of the machine. Personally, I prefer Kick-Man because that was the first incarnation of the game I ever saw in an arcade back in the day, though apparently the original name was the simple “Kick.”

Kick-Man was never a very popular game, despite the fact it featured the famous Pac-Man.

With Pac-Man involved, you’d think this would be a maze game, right? Wrong.

In Kick-Man, the player controls a clown on a unicycle who goes back and forth at the bottom of the screen. At the top of the screen are rows upon rows of red, yellow and blue balloons, and every so often a Pac-Man will be floating among the balloons. The balloons will fall, pretty fast after the first couple of screens, and the clown can’t let the balloons hit the ground or the player loses one of three clowns. On the first screen, the clown has a pin atop his head which he can use to pop the balloons; on subsequent levels, the clown must catch the balloons on top of his hat.

To give the clown a little extra help, while on the unicycle he can kick, sending any near falling balloons back up into the air.

Past the first stage, when the balloons must be caught on the clown’s head, those balloons can pile up pretty quick. The stack of balloons on the clown’s head keeps growing and growing until it can almost touch the top of the screen, which makes it nearly impossible to catch any more of the balloons. That’s where Pac-Man comes in handy. When the clown catches a Pac-Man on top of his head, the Pac-Man will eat all the balloons stacked there. Also, every once in a while the clown will stop momentarily the pop the balloons on his head, but this doesn’t happen often enough, so players shouldn’t plan on this happening.

Due to the lack of popularity of this arcade game, it was never ported to any home gaming consoles or computers, which is a shame. This would have been a perfect game for the Atari 2600, with simple graphics and simple gameplay.

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