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Mon, September 5th, 2005   #1
Tyrone Slothrop, Esq.
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Default Kid Chameleon

Kid Chameleon is a 2D platformer on the Genesis that at first glance smacks a lot of the old-school Super Mario Bros. games, and in many ways, that's an accurate assessment, but there are several major differences that set this apart from that mold, and make this game perhaps the best 2D platformer you've never played.

The story is pretty forgettable, really. There's a new game at the arcade, a virtual-reality deal called Wild Side that everyone's in love with. Suddenly one day, the kids who go in to play stop coming out. The Boss of the game starts capturing players who lose. Now, the only person who can save the day is Kid Chameleon, a squat Fonzie-type with shades and an attitude. Welcome back to 1992.

Graphics: 10.0

Kid Chameleon came out right about at the center of the Genesis' lifespan, but this game aesthetically rivals even the latest and greatest to appear on the console.

There's plenty to see besides the backgrounds though. Kid himself is pretty squat and plain, but as he collects his helmets, he takes on about a dozen different forms and shapes, each one unique in appearance. Enemies are quite varied, well-animated, and some of them are downright menacing. The objects in the game are small enough to allow for a lot of detail, and the levels themslves are simply gigantic. Each has a lot to see, and many have several paths.

There are over one hundred levels in this game, and each one is large and full of lush detail, which is the primary graphical strength of Kid Chameleon. You start in a grassy hill stage, and in the background you see forests and a glassy lake. One major detail about the backgrounds, which I love, is that each one makes the levels seem vast, not just in it's own size, but in dimensions. The backgrounds are all very nice, very detailed, and give the impression of endless distance. The levels all have themes, ranging from deserts to tribal islands to urban landscapes to fiery hellish volcanoes to stuff straight out of fantasy novels, with floating islands and dragon statues. Great care was obviously put into immersing the player with the environment, and that's a great deal of what makes it memorable. There are few games in the 16-bit era that display such an overall impressive display.

Sound: 8.5

As with the graphics, each stage has its own thematic music, and almost all of the tracks are eminently enjoyable. The city stages have a hip-hop beat, the tribal island stages have a jungle beat, the underground stages have a menacing metal sound, and so forth. Unfortunately, there's not as much variety in the soundtrack as there is with the visual styles, but it's not a major gripe, what is there is very good.

Sound effects are decent, nothing exemplary. There are your average bonks and bashes and bounces and grunts, and the various noises the enemies make. One that stands out is how Kid yells DIE when he dies. It's a little creepy really.

Control: 9.0

Kid controls quite well. The controls are very responsive, and your character has a very decent range of movement. In your different forms, you will control differently (for instance, the fly jumps higher and sticks to walls, but walks very slow), and it takes some getting used to. It is definitely recommended to enable the auto-run option before you start, for it makes control much more fluid and spares you from having to hold down a run button, freeing you to only having to concern yourself with moving, jumping, and using your attacks, if you can. And it's definitely a good thing the control is tight, because there are some stages that are fast-paced and absolutely merciless to those with slow reflexes.

Gameplay: 10.0

It is in this that sets Kid apart from the rest. The major gimmick to this game is that Kid uses different helmets, found in P blocks, that grant him many different powers, and in different ways. For instance, the Red Stealth helmet makes you a Samurai, giving you great speed, very high jumping, and a sword attack. The Maniaxe turns you into a likeness of a famous movie slasher with a hockey mask that throws axes and is all about offense. There is also a hoverboard helmet, a flying helmet, and many others. In addition to giving you a basic advantage, each helmet allows you to utilize Diamond powers. Diamonds are the Coins of Kid Chameleon, although in this game they serve a greater purpose. Each version of Kid has two types of Diamond Powers, a small and a large, and there are many, many different things these do, ranging from using the diamonds as a weapon in perhaps a dozen different forms, to giving you extra hit points or even extra lives.

Diamond powers are completely optional, but the special abilities the helmets give you are not. Many times you will need to find a particular helmet to pass an obstacle. And you will find more than one occasion where you have multiple paths, and in many cases, the helmet and powers you have can determine which path you can take. All in all, even though there are over a hundred levels, the replay value of the game is even more tremendous because there are dozens of paths through them, and there's no way to experience every level on a single playthrough.

When you finish a level, you are given bonuses towards your score. The basic bonus is time, as each stage is timed. You can however gain extra bonuses by taking the most direct route through a level, by not taking damage, and by not taking any helmets. The most direct benefit of running up your score is that you get extra lives and continues as your score goes higher, and as you get closer to the end, you'll likely need every bit of help you can get. It's worth noting that you only get to collect on these bonuses by ending a level by touching its goal flag. Using one of the many warps to reach another level will not do the same for you, although it still keeps track until you do finally touch a flag.

Every so often you will encounter The Boss, who takes different forms each time and must be defeated to pass. These are usually tests of endurance, as while the bosses are rather easy to hit, they take a lot of hits, and if you are limited to only being able to hurt him by jumping on him, you are in some trouble.

All in all, the game is a great challenge, and requires a lot of skill to be completed, but there is a very generous learning curve. The only major drawback to Kid Chameleon is that there is no save system or password system. If you intend to finish this game, make sure you have plenty of time, because if you shut the console off, you are starting over next time.


Kid Chameleon is one of the most difficult and enjoyable platformers on any console. Everyone's heard of Super Mario and Sonic, but in many ways KC surpasses both. It's not for the novice or the faint of heart, completing the game is definitely a reason to pat yourself on the back, but the fun of the experience is getting there and seeing everything there is to see. It's one of the most truly memorable gaming experiences Sega put forth in the 16-bit era.

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