So Sonic can't be done on the Amiga, eh? Since Some appeared on the Mega Drive it's been the bone of contention for Amiga kids, jeered at in school playgrounds by smug Mega Drive-owning peers. And seemingly every time an Amiga is mentioned in a Mega Drive magazine it's described as an 'older person's' machine, with a great line in RPGs and flight sims, but no great shakes in the platform stakes.
Kid Chaos, from Lotus creators Magnetic Fields, wields a pretty hefty club in the direction of these doubters. Technically superior to any other platform game (Sonic included) Kid combines fast, smooth scrolling, an incredible number of parallax layers, and colours and sounds so vibrant it makes you wonder what the hell the other platform creators have been doing for the last few years.
Like all good arcade games there is a plot, or at least some cobbled-together guff which passes for one. It seems that a young, carefree, happy go-lucky caveman was out hunting dinosaurs when POW! A pair of crazy scientists (from the future, naturally) whip him, and his club, to a modern-day garden suburb. Quite why they unknown and, quite frankly, as immaterial as the whole story, but it's made even more confusing by the additional wardrobe of trousers, jacket and trainers that accompanied the quantum leap through time.
Kid, still armed with his dinosaur-braining club, sets out to find the time machine which could return him to his prehistoric home and, along the way, collect enough energy to actually power the thing. Sadly, the 'energy' in this case is stored in various disguises: flowers, stone monuments and lamp shades, to name but three, which must be destroyed in order to gather their electrical content. There's a certain amount which must be collected in each level before moving on to the next, so it's not just a case of racing through to the finishing post - you have to work to make that exit door open.
Okay, so the storyline stinks.
That established, we can now concentrate on the game which is, thankfully, much better. Five worlds lie between Kid and his goal: Secret Garden. Toxic Wasteland. Toy Factory. Techno Fortress and Ruined City. In terms of running, jumping, bashing and collecting they're very similar, but each world is both different and remarkable in its graphical style. The Secret Garden, for example, is packed with colourful flowers, beautiful greenery and wildlife, but no concession has been made to the fast pace and smoothness of the game. Not since Thalion's Lionheart have we been treated to so many layers of parallax, but that game was pedestrian in comparison - when the Kid gets going he really moves.
From the beginning it's clear that Kid Chaos has been written with the player in mind. The controls can be changed, a throwback from the old Commodore 64 and Spectrum games which is all too often lost on the Amiga. Now you can either push the button or move the joystick up to jump, both of which suit different people and if you're controlling it with a joypad (CD32, for example) 'up to jump' strikes dread into the heart of players who, like me, put playability above everything else. But Magnetic Fields are veterans now, having produced some of the better games in recent times: KickStart on the C64. Super Sprint on the ST and, more recently, the Lotus Turbo trilogy for Gremlin. So perhaps they should know best.
When you complete a level you're given a complete run-down of your achievements. The amount of energy collected and baddies clubbed are highlighted. Chaos Engine-style, as small horizontal tubes which form a kind of bar graph charting your progress. So, if you've missed a few nasties, or you think you could have done better in the energy department, then you can always go back and try again. It's this kind of attention-to-detail which makes Kid Chaos a game you'll keep coming back to.
And, of course, a platform game wouldn't be complete without its pickups. Apples, sweets, rocks, whatever, each one collected adds to your hit points (the number of times you can be hit by a baddie without losing a life). Each successive level has baddies with greater hit points, so while on World One Level One you might lose, say. 30 hit points, by the time you get to World Three Level Three you'll probably lose 50. And since you start the game with 50. make it a priority to acquire those pickups as soon as you can.
Thankfully, as you've probably gathered by now, the stunning technicalities don't overshadow the gameplay. It makes no claim to be original, indeed, it copies (parodies?) many other platform games like ZooI and Sonic. The Toy Factory, say, could be taken directly from Zool (or any one of a number of other platform games), while the underground roller-coaster tubes and 45" springs which cannon you into the air are classic Sonic features.
There is something wrong with Kid Chaos, though, believe it or not. This one real flaw is in the weight of the main sprite - he carries far too much momentum, which makes it very difficult to stop on some of the smaller platforms. And inertia plays havoc with the Kid when you're trying to move him up a hill: he really drags and grates his way up, which means it's a good second or so before you can make it to top speed.
Because the worlds in Chaos are particularly hilly and packed with tiny little platforms, it seems ludicrous that the designers expect you to judge pinpoint distances with a control system that feels like lumpy porridge Like I said, when he gets going, though, he really moves -and its this exhilarating speed that really makes up for the lack of control in the tighter areas.
It stands, then, as a slightly-flawed gemstone. A pick-up-and-play game which doesn't get too difficult too quickly, which looks and sounds brilliant, which poses a decent challenge to those who have already killed off Zool and the others, but which is slightly frustrating because of the massive momentum of the main sprite. Compared with the scale of the game this is perhaps being picky, but I really feel that Kid Chaos could have been one of the greatest platformers ever if the Kid himself was just a wee bit more manoeuvrable.
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