Wed 6 June 2007

Kick Off

As a younger football fan, football was my life. If I wasnt over the park playing it (badly), I was watching it or reading about it.

At the same time, computers were also a big part of my life, and when the two subjects met, I was in heaven. [Football and computers - my, how I have changed...]

Having played football games all my life - from the days of owning a Commodore 64 to modern day handheld and console - there is still only one game that holds so many good memories for me - 'Kick Off'.

Released in 1989, the game was born from a programmer, Dino Dini, trying to emulate a ball bouncing off walls. Before you know it, a pitch was added, then goals, then...

To be honest, it was quite a crude and simple game in many ways, yet highly playable and a game I played to death. Any free time I had would be spent playing, often into the early hours of the morning.

Hours of 'research' on the team formations to establish which suited my playing 'style' the best resulted in me opting for the 5-3-2 system. Naturally I would be using it in an attacking sense, more of a 3-5-2.

A transparent radar at the top of the screen showed the position of the players using simple blue or red dots, which moved around like bugs on your computer monitor.
Mini-leagues were created - and won. Goals were piling in by the dozen, teams were being crushed. It was carnage out there.

Then just when there was a chance that Kick-Off was 'beaten', Dino Dini had a brainwave. A touch of genius.

Aftertouch of genius

'Kick-off 2' had several enhancements over the original. You could now 'tweak' a few more options within the game - such as change kits and colours, referee leniency, pitch types, wind speed.

The most important addition to the game was an option called 'Aftertouch', an option that gave 'Kick Off' an new lease of live.

As the name suggests 'Aftertouch' was the ability to change the direction of the ball slightly once it had left your players foot - swerving it to the left or right.

Now you could play curved passes, curl free-kicks and corners, and the best yet, curve a shot into the bottom corner of the goal. Such a simple feature, but it injected new life into the gameplay.

You could also save your best goals to disk. Scored a corker and want to gloat to your friends? Not a problem anymore!

A mini league and cup was set up with a few friends and a few computer teams which resulted in us crammed into the room taking turns in playing our fixtures. Playing the computer teams was ok, but nothing like playing against a friend - especially if you won.

'Kick Off' has since been released on the PC with emulation software but I have never felt the need to download it. Plundering the past only destroys good memories - I like my memories as they are.

Some devotees of the game are still playing it, and believe it or not, there is a Kick Off 2 World Cup taking place in Rome this November.

Compared to todays games such as Pro Evolution Soccer (which I also enjoy), 'Kick Off' may have been a very crude and primitive ancestor - but it was a hugely enjoyable and playable one.

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