Throwback Friday: Kid Chameleon

Kid Chameleon Screen 1

How one rad-looking 90’s dude took platform gaming to a whole new level, all 103 of them!

It's Friday again and that means we're looking back at another classic from years gone by. This week it's Kid Chameleon!

Kid Chameleon (or Chameleon Kid if you’re in Japan) was a platforming game that came out in 1992 for the Sega Megadrive. The project was led and run by notable programmer Mark Cerny, who had worked on such games as Marble Madness & California Games. Add in chief artist and designer, Yasushi Yamaguchi, who already had some top-notch gaming credentials under his belt, most notably for creating Sonic The Hedgehog's asexual, annoying little brother of a sidekick – Miles ‘Tails’ Prower. He also  worked on such games as Cyborg Hunter, Phantasy Star 2, Last Battle and Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Kid Chameleon has been argued to hold many similarities in that of Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, but when you are talking about the DNA of any modern platform-based game it's hard to not compare it. I mean, you run and jump on enemies to kill them, smash prize blocks with your noggin and ultimately reach the end of level flag. It offers such fantastic variety that each playthrough was more than a linear set of levels and acts. Over 100 levels over 1850 screens (yeah, screens - I don’t know of any other game to ‘boast’ about how many screens it has) of pure platforming awesomeness: Kid Chameleon.

You play as Casey, a basic, cool 90s-looking lad wearing blue jeans, white t-shirt, badass shades and a perfectly cropped haircut that would make Zac Morris proud. Casey doesn’t have much by way of health, but what he lacks in constitution, he makes up for in attitude and style.

Like many teenage boys of the 90s he only hung out at his local coin-guzzling Arcade (I picture it being like the arcade in Terminator 2 myself). A mysterious new virtual reality videogame called ‘WildSide’ has arrived, and seems to be taking its players on a rather too real experience, led by a code maniac by the rather amusing name, 'Heady Metal'. Local nerds and cool kids have been disappearing at an alarming rate after playing the game too. The now self-aware WildSide is free to go on a child soul-sucking rampage, trapping its vulnerable punters in the seemingly endless virtual world. Casey knows what he has to do, he must first feed the videogame his pocket money and then possibly his own life in order to set his chums free!

Wildside Arcade

Your aim is to get from point A to point B, and while that would be a straightforward route, you'll get sidetracked into finding the odd teleporter. These teleporters drive 100mph in the wrong lane, Crazy Taxi style, to get you to point C, and if you don’t tip your cabbie you'll get dumped on the side of the road ‘Elsewhere’ at an unknown point D. Feel like ignoring the big shiny flag of safety at the end of your journey? Do it! Jump over that sucker and find yourself using a secret path to a teleporter.

You quickly get introduced to the other alter egos you can become as the levels progress. You will get to meet:

  • Iron Knight – The Iron Knight can take a lot of damage, this makes a good candidate if you want to just speed through a level. He can also climb vertical walls.
  • Red Stealth – A badass samurai that has speed and a super pointy sword on his side.
  • Berzerker – A gang member from Mad Max 2. He is a total post apocalyptic poster boy and charges at high speeds through walls or foes.
  • Maniaxe – Get it? Maniac…he uses an axe…he has an endless supply of them. Anyway, you'll see that he is modelled after Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th franchise.
  • Juggernaut – A wide tank being operated by a WW1 Nazi skeleton (this was the point in gaming where Nazis hadn't been flooded onto the market like now a days!) He can shoot skulls, possibly Nazi also.
  • MicroMax – A fly able to stick to walls and is half the size of the other characters. Able to fit in small places which can be a bonus for finding shortcuts, but walks slowly.
  • EyeClops – He can temporarily reveal hidden blocks, most times this is a help, but if you screw up and break those blocks they won’t return, so use wisely.
  • Cyclone – A superhero type who can spin like a tornado.
  • Skycutter – Although he's fast, and if used right can be an advantage, most of the time you'll be happily gliding along and end up colliding into enemies. He can reverse gravity with his hoverboard too.

Kid Chameleon Helmets

As you can tell, with any combination of the above characters you are going to get a unique, exciting experience playing through this game many times. The level design is fun, colourful, and full of hidden nooks and crannies. The enemies are pretty unique, and just as badass as the kid. The music for this game has a special place in my heart and on my iPod! It's been said that the only real downside to such a long game is the fact it has no save feature, no password, no level select (unless you do the famous level two cheat to the final boss!). If you're like many people who missed out on Kid Chameleon back in the day, I urge you to pick it up and have a go, it’s a fun game with a great challenge too, even for today’s hardened gamers.

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Sega Megadrive: 10 great games you have to play (part one)

Sega Megadrive: 10 great games you have to play (part two)

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