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Kid Chameleon

Year released: 1992
Company: Sega
Genre: Platformer

In the waning moments of one of my childhood friendships, this game was the last in the long line of titles that both of us drooled over. Mega Man 2 was the first game we both really strived to beat, SMB3 came soon after, followed a couple years later by this one. By now, I was already on the road to my current fixation on metamorphosis (though I hadn't reached that point yet), and so it came as little surprise that I thought this game was the bee's knees when it first came out. Sadly, as it usually does, time has had its way with this title, and once this game was taken out of its frame of reference, all the ugly imperfections became plainly visible.

The game revolves around another video game. Entitled "Wild Side", it was a virtual reality room thing that kids could go into and play as their own character. (You have to remember - VR was the big thing back in the early '90s.) The head boss of this game, however, somehow escaped, and started capturing the children it defeated. That's where you step in, as the Kid Chameleon, supposedly the best video gamer in town, out to restore things to normal.

It's an interesting idea - video games about video games are fairly hard to come by. While there's little explanation as to how the head boss escaped or what "capturing" these kids meant (Actually, you'd think by the time the second player vanished, they'd shut the thing down), it doesn't cripple the concept. I am kinda confused, though, as to the origin of Kid Chameleon's powers - was this someone who could change into a different alter-ego outside of the video game environment, or was that ability bequeathed to everyone who had a go at the game? I'm more likely to go with the former theory, but I would've liked a little more exposition. I probably speak for many of us when I say that knowing someone who shapeshifted every time he put on a baseball cap would be a bit freaky.

The presentation has its hits and misses. The graphics are actually quite nice in this game. The backgrounds are vividly colored and the animation is also admirable. When you finish a level, the scenery deconstructs itself, leaving you with a matrix-like background of what the virtual reality room looks like when the holograms are turned off. It's a really nice touch. The music isn't quite as ripe for praise, though. While I could understand the recycling of tracks given the number of levels in the game (something I'll get into later), they really aren't anything to scream about. What's particularly annoying is the music's tendency to slow down and speed up as other sound effects are played. I do like the use of voice when you lose a life, though - nothing hits the finality home like the game shouting "DIE!" at you.

I've never really liked Genesis controllers - too big and too mushy - so I really don't have much of a vantage point when talking about play control. The hit detection is pretty solid and the response is decent enough. The problem lies in the fact that your protagonist has about a dozen other identities, some of them with very different interfaces. One of your alter-egos is a fly that climbs walls. Another uses a hoverboard to skim across the ceiling. Each of them has a special move that can take a long time to figure out. You can adjust the button assignments before you start, but it doesn't do a whole lot to alleviate this problem.

Where the game really loses my favor, though, is in the challenge category. This game has 100 levels. Now, at face value, you'd think that's fantastic. After all, 100 levels has to equal one of the most fluid learning curves ever developed, right? Well, not really. From about the 10th level on, you're given very little margin for error. But perhaps it simply means you have 100 stages to choose from, with forks in the road to choose one area over another, and shortcuts along the way as well, right? Nope, sorry. Those 100 levels are in sequential order, with only a couple warps that skip over huge chunks of the game. OK, so the game's pretty hard and you have to play every stage in order, but at least it's got a way to save your game, right? Wrong. You must play the entire game in one sitting. No password, no battery save, no nuttin'. When I play a game, I expect my skill, reflexes, and quickness to be tested. Endurance shouldn't enter into the equation.

As a result, the playability of this game is pretty much flushed down the toilet. I've never heard of anyone playing this game to the end. Even my friend only got about halfway before finally giving up on the thing. The transformation element of the game makes for a couple thrills, but beyond that I usually don't see a campaign beyond the first boss of the game. I used a Game Genie to play the head boss and watch the ending, and it's hardly worth the gargantuan amount of time and effort necessary to complete it.

Kid Chameleon is yet another one of a long list of games that had the idea right there, but simply couldn't pounce on the opportunity. It looks like they got extremely overambitious, and ended up missing their goal by a mile.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 12
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 9
Overall Score: 50%