Midway's 1981 Kick

As a circus clown driven insane by unrelenting calliope music, you take to the streets and run down hoards of innocent bystanders with your heavily armored, rocket propelled unicycle. As blood and limbs splatter off the walls of nearby buildings, you...

Sorry. That's not really the game. You don't get to run over people.

But after listening to the unrelenting calliope music in this game, you might want to. Instead, in Kick, you're pedaling a unicycle back and forth, attempting to catch balloons on your head. If you miss one, you have a chance to kick it back up in the air, and try to catch it again. If you miss and a balloon hits the ground, you lose a turn, and you'll be pummeled about the head and shoulders by the balloons you were carrying. Well, maybe not pummeled. But certainly smacked around.

During bonus rounds, you catch even more balloons, tossed out of the windows of nearby buildings. You must also avoid bombs that are being thrown down at you (probably because they think you're responsible for that calliope music).

And then there's Pac-Man. As a cheap marketing ploy, Pac-Man and a few of his monster cohorts show up in this game next to the balloons. Admittedly, that was enough to get me to try this game back in the day. Such was the lure of Pac-Man.

Missing Ingredient

Kick was a pretty flimsy premise for a video game for 1981. The basic gameplay is reminiscent of Bally/Midway's Clowns, which came out several years earlier. Kick would have been right at home with low-resolution, black and white graphics, and a plastic colored overlay on the monitor.

Midway must have known this even before it was released, adding Pac-Man to the game in hopes of boosting its appeal. When that failed, the name of the game was changed to Kick Man, in a further attempt to tie it into the Pac-franchise.

This isn't to say Kick is a particularly bad game. It's actually pretty challenging once it gets going. But there just wasn't enough variety for arcade patrons of 1981 to give it a second look, once they got past the Pac-Man tie-in.

The bonus rounds with the bomb throwers are the most interesting parts of the game. Perhaps Midway should have focused on that element - continually changing what was being thrown at the player, varying the points for the difficulty involved in catching an object, and in balancing more objects on top of it. For instance - pianos. Or really big safes.

Or they could at least have gotten rid of that calliope music.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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