Kid Chameleon is a side scrolling platformer developed by the Sega Technical Institute branch of Sega and was published by Sega in 1992. The main premise of the game is that the main character Casey, can transform into a wide variety of different characters all of which have their own powerups and unique aspects by obtaining their masks. Throughout the game, these powerups are required by the player to progress through the game and the powerups also offer more hit points compared to the standard hit points Casey starts out with.
The story of Kid Chameleon is that a brand new virtual reality game called “Wild Side” has arrived in the town’s arcade. The way that the game created the sense of virtual reality was to holograms to create a unique world completely separate from the world the town existed in. However, all of the children that played the game never returned and were kidnapped by the game’s boss Heady Evil. There is a player called Casey who was nicknamed in the town “Kid Chameleon” who must play the game, defeat Heady Evil and rescue all the children that had been kidnapped.
The story of this game has quite a lot of depth and the cutscene before the title screen explained the story really well. I do feel that the story really adds a sense of meaning for the player to actually care about the character that they are playing, as it is up to them to pretty much an entire town’s worth of children. Also, the game explains the story at the beginning of the game rather than relying on the player to read the manual, which is a huge positive because it means that the player wouldn’t need the manual to understand what the game is about.
Kid Chameleon is a platformer, but it is as typical as other platformers because there is quite a unique style and approach to the levels. For example, most levels aren’t immensely long once the player knows where to go. There are normally multiple routes through each level and sometimes these routes also have branches as well, which makes for hugely expansive levels that offer a lot in terms of exploration. The player can find powerups, lives and even continues by taking some of these routes, which the player most definitely will need later on.
The game has a special attack system where the helmet Casey is wearing and how many diamonds he has collected will dictate the power of the special attack. Some attacks require as few as 2 diamonds for short uses, all the way to the most powerful special attack for all helmets requiring 50 diamonds. However, the player can collect up to 99 diamonds and whenever Casey tries to pick a diamond up, he has to throw it away, meaning that the player can have enough for the most powerful attack and be 1 diamond short of using that attack again. Special attacks can be activated by pressing the A+Start button together and it will always activate the most powerful attack available. This button configuration might seem weird and unorthodox, but it is actually useful because it means that the player won’t accidentally press a button and activate it.
The graphics in the game are really detailed and the variety of different locations really show what the colour palette of the Sega Genesis had to offer. Everything from bright, vibrant forest locations in the early levels, to the dark, sparse underground levels the game offers a huge variety. The enemy sprites reflect the locations very well and every locale has a unique enemy set specifically for these stages. The block sprites that Casey can hit to find diamonds and powerups also change colour and design to represent the stages well even though, these block changes are not much apart from a simple palette swap.
Kid Chameleon is not like a typical platformer in terms of the player knowing what level will be up next, as there is no overworld map of sorts. Instead, the player can find portals in most level, which will mean that the route that the player will take through the game will change. Even within portal stages and screens, the player can find more portals, which will take them further off the main set of levels, however at the end of each of the 4 stage sets, the routes will all unify to lead to the boss levels. However, there is a secret portal in the second level of the game, which can take you to the final boss and is well hidden.
However, the player will not be able to play all the levels in one playthrough, as there are over 100 levels in the game and once a route has been taken, the player can not go back one level. This really adds a lot of replay value to the game as the player would have to play through the game multiple times to experience every level and the non secret levels have lots to explore. The smaller portal levels tend to not have too much in the way of enemies and more geared to help the player gain a new powerful and some diamonds. Some of these portal levels will have hidden lives and continues, which the player will need later on in the game.
The game has an interesting difficulty curve, where the first few levels are not too bad, however about 3/4 of the way to the first boss is where the difficulty curve becomes quite steep. There are a few city based levels where you need specific powerups to be able to traverse the jumps easily, otherwise the levels are somewhat difficult to judge. In some cases, there are death pits below the player and one mistimed or misjudged jump means that the player will have to start the level again.
Some of the levels based upon how long the level is will have mid level checkpoints, however the game doesn’t explicitly say where these checkpoints. It almost feels like where these checkpoints are arbitrary and sometimes random, as some longer levels don’t have checkpoints and some levels that are quite short do have checkpoints. This random nature to the checkpoints can make whether to play the level safe or going a bit more risky difficult to judge because of the unpredictability factor. If the game had some signposts like Sonic or something that the player could interact with, so there would have been a clear sign that a stage would have had a checkpoint then it would have been helpful.
The bosses in this game are one of the weakest points of the game because each of the 4 bosses are exactly the game. However, the bosses are all quite difficult because the fights are well drawn out as the player has to hit and defeat 4 somewhat creepy looking Tiki heads called the Shishkaboss. These heads shoot projectiles at the player and the player has to bounce of the top of the heads to defeat them. The pattern of the boss means that quite often the boss will be positioned in such a way that the player cannot jump on the head, meaning that it becomes a rinse and repeat boss, which later on feels lacklustre and repetitive. The bosses do actually become more difficult, but it feels like the bosses were very much an afterthought and more care and attention was aimed at make sure that there was enough variety in the levels. Also, the fact that the game is quite a good length game and there is only 4 bosses is quite disappointing because more bosses and more variety would have made the game somewhat more memorable.
Music and Sound Effects
The music in Kid Chameleon is okay, but there are quite a few things about it that I personally do not like. For each level type, there is a theme that plays, however if the player plays 5 or 6 levels of the same level type, then the music doesn’t really have variety. Also, the themes are all quite short and repetitive, with no themes lasting any longer than 45 to 60 seconds. What this means is that sonically the music there is no surprises, key changes or any real musical structure. Now whilst the themes themselves are not so brash that players will be reaching for the TV remote to turn it down, the music is barely noticeable and doesn’t really add much to the levels apart from ambience.
I have the same issues with the sound effects because there are some sound effects that are recycled from previous worlds from enemies and reused in other locations. I just think that alongside the lack of boss enemy variety, the music also suffers the same fate of being repetitive and somewhat rushed. The sound effects are also very quietly mixed in comparison to the music and cannot be adjusted in game, which is a problem because sometimes it can be tough to decipher where an enemy is coming from. The major plus about the audio as a whole is that it is mixed in stereo, so the music has nice stereo spread and the sound effects when the player can hear them do pan from left to right speakers.
So to summarise Kid Chameleon, it is quite a mixed bag as there are a lot of things about the game that are impressive and there are some aspects that are extremely forgettable. The major positives about the game is the huge amount of levels that are in the game and also the fact that the player would have to play through the game many times to experience and find all the levels. This means that the game offers a lot of replay value and offers a thorough and expansive package.
The graphics in the game are well done and have some great detailing to them. The different worlds depicted in the game all offer a distinct and memorable look to them with the enemies, the sprites and even the powerups reflecting the area that the player is in. The variety of different locations as well mean that the background and different environments do not get stale and there are always small details that the player wouldn’t spot in a first time playthrough.
The major issues with the game is first the lack of an interesting soundtrack or sound design. The problem with the music is that it is only passable and the themes both do not last very long before looping and do not have any development or structure. The music feels like it was a very last minute thought before shipping the game. The sound design is okay but sound effects are definitely reused throughout the game.
The final major issue is the lack of interesting boss fights and the lack of boss fights in total. The game has over 100 levels and the game has only 4 boss fights, meaning that even though the player won’t play all these levels in one playthrough, it is technically a return of 25 levels to 1 boss fight. The problem with the boss fights as well is that it is the same boss over and over with a few minor adjustments to make it not a complete copy and paste.
Overall, Kid Chameleon is a decent game, but the issues with the game are quite glaring, however the positives about the game make it worth playing if the player is willing to forgive and overlook these issues. The variety of powerups as well make the game have quite a few uniques aspects and the amount of routes and levels the player can play and take also make it worth a try.
Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use