Kid Chameleon - A Forgotten Classic
There is a new arcade game in town called Wild Side. It’s a complete Virtual Reality experience; you step in, the doors close and you get transported to a world not our own. Sounds cool? Well, it is, or at least it was, before the final boss Heady Metal (yup) decided to break free from his scripted confines and took over the game. Now every kid who fails at the game disappears, which so far have been all of them. Enter Casey, the quintessential 90’s Cool Guy: Wears sunglasses, a leather jacket and he skateboards too. Confident in his gaming skills, he enters Wild Side to rescue the other kids and beat Heady Metal at his own game.
So much for the story of Kid Chameleon, a classic platformer released for the Sega Genesis in 1992. What makes this one stand out is basically a combination of two factors: Size and variety. The game has more than a 100 levels, some of which are hidden and can only be accessed through special teleporters scattered around the stages. The leveldesign is creative and rich in environments; On your way to the final boss you will traverse plains, forests, caves, cities, icy mountains and more. This alone would make the game varied enough to keep you entertained, but there is also another important factor, from which the game takes it’s name. Scattered throughout the levels, you can find helmets, which transform you into other characters, each with a unique look and special abilites. For example, Red Stealth can jump higher and use his sword to slash enemies, Berzerker bullcharges walls to smash them to pieces, Micromax is the size of a fly and can stick to walls and Cyclone can fly by rotating like a tornado. There are 9 helmets in all and you are going to need each and every one of them if you want to explore the huge areas the game has to offer. You can find the helmets stashed away inside blocks which you have to bump into Mario-style. Inside them you will also find diamonds, which you can use to activate some of your special abilities, clocks, which add some seconds to your time limit, as well as 1ups and continues to aid you on your lengthy quest.
The graphics are nothing too spectacular, but they get the job done. The levels are colorful and diverse, the characters are creative and drawn well with nice little touches here and there. The music is also decent. It’s generally pretty low, and the melodies aren’t as catchy as in other platformers, but it’s not so bad as to distract you from the game. While I don’t think it hurts the game too much, some more effort could have been put into the music. But I guess they used all the available cartridge space for the levels. And this is the one thing that may put a lot of gamers off.
The game isn’t too hard gameplay-wise. The controls are solid and precise, the level design is fair and the enemies don’t put up too much of a challenge. But what makes this game harder than it should be is it’s length. Like I said, there are over 100 levels, which gives you a lot to do for your money. But there is a small hitch: There is neither a password system nor a save function in place. Yes, that’s right: You have to beat the entire game in one go. You better cancel all appointments and disconnect the phone before booting up this game.
The game isn’t too hard to find either, so if you run across a copy, I’d suggest buying it. It is also out on Virtual Console, and included in the Sega Genesis Collection (PS2) and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (PS3/Xbox360).
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