Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival brings back the first big football/soccer franchise as it releases on PS4 – how does it fare among the likes of modern day offerings by Konami and EA?
Years before anyone had ever heard of the FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer series, two other franchises ruled the football/soccer market. In the early to mid-nineties it was Sensible Soccer, but in the late eighties it was Kick Off that took the gaming world by storm. Both games were very different from what we’re used to playing today, and for a number of reasons.
Both Sensible Soccer and Kick Off came out for ‘home computers’ like the Atari ST and Amiga first and weren’t designed with consoles in mind – and that means gamepads with multiple buttons weren’t considered, resulting in vastly different control schemes. Both games were controlled using a joystick with a single button, though it’s worth pointing out that Kick Off and Sensible Soccer were very different indeed.
Both games employed a top-down perspective (computers couldn’t really handle much in terms of 3D at the time), but while Sensible focused on dribbling and ball control, Kick Off emphasized speed – and did so in a time where a lot of sports games were very slow-moving. It revolutionized the genre and it was a lot of fun, even though it was nothing like the games we play today or even a real game of soccer.
Kick Off’s strength was also its weakness – ball control was hard, making dribbling almost impossible unless you stuck to a straight line. Turning meant walking ‘around the ball’ to be able to knock it forward in a different direction, before bursting into a sprint again. More control was available if you held down the fire button, because players would come to a stop, allowing you to carefully pass the ball around upon releasing said button. Once you got close to the goal, hitting the fire button would unleash your shot, with the option of adding a bit of swerve by moving in a different direction post-shooting – or pulling off a lob by pulling back on the joystick.
These were the basics for Kick Off as well as its sequels and addons – and they still ring true for Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival. My fear is that modern gamers won’t understand or appreciate the distinctly ‘retro’ flavor of the game though – the simple controls, the lack of ball control and a lack of gameplay modes and tutorials come to mind.
This makes Kick Off Revival far from an intuitive game, and most likely a game that newcomers will quickly disregard. Getting pretty good at Kick Off was always a matter or practice and skill though – and even though games could feel like a frantic session of pinball, it certainly was rewarding when things came together. Kick Off revival captures this spirit to a certain degree, but drops the ball somewhere along the way as well. There are quite a few gameplay bugs, but what’s most grating is that the game feels incomplete and rushed.
Seemingly “simple” features like an offside rule aren’t present, and I’ve yet to see a replay of one of my goals or receive a red or even yellow card for a horrible foul. Back in the day, features like this were added to Kick Off using expansion disks, but that was because their inclusion wasn’t yet the nom in videogames. Now, it just feels like the team ran out of time before the start of Euro 2016, sadly wasting a lot of the opportunity this game had of being a truly different soccer game that was fun to play despite being nothing like FIFA or PES. As it stands, there’s a spark of retro greatness here, but it’s waaaaay too faint to be enjoyed for very long. Let’s hope the bugs get ironed out and the missing features get added before the Vita version arrives – classic Kick Off on the go still sounds like fun despite this rushed effort.