The internet has a fantastic ability to kiss a joke and then beat it to death faster than you can mumble”my name is Jeff.” From Hobo with a shotgun and kung fury up to goat simulator and Snakes on a plane, what works like a 60-second gag is rarely tenacious.
It’s the biggest concern anyone should have in Dan Marshall’s indie
Soccer football match, Meet the Kickmen. It started as a joke that Marshall, creator of The scam, made on his Twitter feed, with him saying that he would create a football title despite knowing nothing about the sport.
A year and a bit later, and Marshall, encouraged by his followers, produced kick men as a standalone title. It’s a football simulator written by someone who claims to know nothing about the sport, if you’ve ever seen Mitchell and Webb’s glorious satire on underdog sports movies, you’re 90% there.
kick men is, as marketing does not painfully put it, the the most faithful and accurate football simulator ever. The circular arena accommodates nine players on each side, eight outfielders and a “gold keeper” while a arbitrator governs the action.
The aim of the game is to make a goal, in the enemy team net, by kicking or walking the ball towards him. The farther you do it, the more goals you score, so a short tap-in earns you one point, while a punt from the halfway line earns you three.
There are other features that, of course, people ttotally confident in their
Soccer football knowledge will be familiar with. Like Extra Time, where players can encounter a floating clock icon on the pitch to extend the duration of the match, and off-side, where part of the screen is deemed off-side.
Additionally, Kickmen comes with a “Future Dystopian Reskin” option which replaces the
Soccer football for more speed ball– esque atmosphere. Which is good, because the game’s main influences are both Sensible Soccer and speed ball, as explained Marshall in its early development.
The game advises you to start with the tutorial, then the story mode, then finally the quick play option, which allows you to tweak every element of the game, including the size of the team. And you should, because many of the more nuanced elements of Kickmen’s gameplay take some getting used to.
When you start story mode, your team will have almost none of their basic abilities, including passing and tackling. You will have to buy them by raising funds, which is done by winning matches and impressing the fans in the stadium.
A badly timed pass to my own goal resulted in a spectacular two-goal against my side. Misfortune.
Users can only control the player closest to the ball, with the system automatically switching between them. They then dribble the ball around the enemy at a frustrating pace and attempt to dodge tackles until you can afford to purchase the sprint and dash (“Dash”) abilities.
If you are used to more responsive and immersive soccer games, then Kickmen’s learning curve is steep. Not being able to select which player you are controlling and the AI’s tendency to swarm everyone around the ball makes tactical play much more difficult. At times like overtime, when you need a player to collect an icon, the auto-switch system can hinder your progress. But those flaws also make the game difficult to master, the way you dimly remember old console titles that made you job For your entertainment.
There are definitely times during gameplay where you wish Marshall’s fake indifference to the sport were less prominent. Because, deep down, the game is densely packed with the kind of ironic misuse of footballing terms that only someone familiar with the game could pull off.
Jon Turi United still have to work on the overall goal achievement.
In terms of ambiance, Marshall recruited friends and followers to record chants and cheers for the virtual stadiums. At various points, you’ll even hear exasperated fans asking you to “make a goal now,as well as another asking you to hurry up and win because they need to use the bathroom.
The soundtrack will likely divide users into those who love their heavy womp-womp EDM and those who don’t. It’s likely that you can, over time, gradually reduce the in-game music for your own tunes as you gradually tire of repetition.
The soundtrack will likely divide users into those who love their heavy womp-womp EDM and those who don’t.
The story mode itself begins like the career mode of many football sims, with your terrible team sitting at the bottom of the league. Only by playing beyond yourself and earning money can you improve your team and progress in the
Table league soccer spreadsheet.
Although the layout of the game gives the impression that it operates in a league format, users will instead play each team consecutively until you defeat them. Which can prove problematic when you encounter a group of superior players blocking your path to upgrades.
Here’s The Kickmen may have started as a joke, but they manage to avoid getting raspy or noteworthy in their execution. It comes as both a joke and a meta-joke, as a commentary on the cynicism of football, the business of football games and game development itself.
Then there’s the branching story mode, which sees your young striker rise through the ranks and uncover the secret behind his father’s death. Every line of dialogue could have been taken from a thoughtful parody of a high school movie, with the football bully taunting your progress.
There is a term, ludonarrative dissonance, describing where a title’s narrative and its gameplay conflict. Meet the Kickmen is (very) funny and fun to spend time with, but playing the game is his weakest element.
After all, the tutorials are intentionally surreal (and obtuse); the RPG-style branching story dialogue is comedic; and even the rolling news chyron is a machine gun for gags. But you’d rather spend time there, reading the increasingly ridiculous headlines, than in the stadium. Not that it was planned, but a lack of local multiplayer – which sports games typically thrive on – is also dampening enthusiasm.
That’s probably unfair, as the gameplay, while tedious and frustrating, is hugely satisfying when it starts to work. After a few frustrating games, my star player Billy Steele of Jon Turi United managed to score three goals after a lucky punt from the halfway line. You could hear my bellow of joy half a block away.
Meet the Kickmen is available on Steam for Windows and OS X, costing you $3.99 / £2.79, a figure so small you can’t not Buy it.
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