The bitching that just wouldn't die.

Let’s nail this once and for all, shall we? After 14 years, I’m thoroughly tired of STILL being whined at, personally attacked and outright libelled by hysterical Kick Off fans and authors pathologically unable to accept that someone might not like the same game as them. But there's no point in arguing it on the basis of opinion. (“It’s shit!”; “No it isn’t, it’s good!”; “In fact, you’ll find it’s shit!”, and so on until everyone's dead.)

So instead, see if you lovely KO fans can put your venomous and cherished blind hate to one side just for a second and join everyone else in reading the true, documented, undisputed, historical FACTS of the matter.


December 1988 – A football game called Microprose Soccer is released on the C64, with an Amiga version following later. An overhead-view football game with a close zoomed-in viewpoint, it’s programmed by Sensible Software. It’s the first home football game to use the idea of a swerve shot, and the first to offer replays of goals. The 8-bit versions are well-reviewed (9/10 in Crash, 89% in Your Sinclair), the 16-bit versions less so. (The game is in considerable part inspired, incidentally, by the excellent coin-op Tehkan World Cup.)

July 1989Kick Off is released on the Amiga. An overhead-view football game set at the same camera height as Microprose Soccer and also featuring swerve shots, its chief differences are that it plays at a faster pace and has a different, more complex control system. The game is well-received by critics in an Amiga market short on football games (scoring 91% in Amiga Format and 88% in The One), and wins several accolades.

August 1990 - Kick Off 2 is released. Largely the same as its predecessor, it tweaks and adds some new features to the gameplay (eg replays, as seen in Microprose Soccer) and is sold at full price. It is followed by several “expansion disks”, requiring the purchaser to spend more money to add further features to the game. Reviews are good, ranging from 84% (Amiga Action) to 94% (Amiga Format), and the game tops the charts. On reading these reviews, I buy a copy of the game, and am appalled at (a) how poor it is, and (b) how all these professional reviewers have been too grossly incompetent to notice, and have essentially swindled me out of £25 I can ill afford to waste. (No "10 day return" policy on videogames in those days, viewers.) I vow on the spot to get a job reviewing videogames, in order that at least one person will then be doing it properly.

April 1991Amiga Power magazine is launched, and I get a job as its Staff Writer. The magazine’s first publication is “Issue Zero”, a mini-mag given away with Amiga Format magazine and taking the form of a booklet listing the top 100 Amiga games of all time. The chart is compiled from the views of AP and AF staff, and Kick Off 2 features in the list at No.7. Meanwhile, nine months after release, Kick Off 2 remains in the Amiga sales charts, though it has fallen to No.14.

July 1991 – I review Kick Off in its budget re-release guise, awarding a reasonable score of 71%. I still didn’t enjoy the game much, but it's less terrible than the sequel and as a conscientious professional I acknowledged some of its positive aspects (“It looks absolutely gorgeous”) and reviewed it fairly in the context of a low-price release, judging it the better of the two football games featured in the article.

October 1991 – Kick Off 2 has by this time fallen to No.81 in the Amiga charts. By February 1992, 18 months after release, it has disappeared from the top 100 altogether.

May 1992 – AP publishes its second All-Time Top 100. With the influence of Amiga Format’s staff removed from the judging panel, Kick Off 2 disappears from the chart, to be replaced by its predecessor – which the AP team including myself find more enjoyable – at No.43.

July 1992Sensible Soccer is released, a new football game from the authors of Microprose Soccer. It zooms the viewpoint of Kick Off out to show six times as much of the pitch onscreen at once, negating the need for a “radar scanner”, and uses a different control system not requiring the ball to be trapped before passing, allowing for easier and smoother play. It also features vastly customisable national and international competition structures, and pioneers the use of real teams (both club and national) and real named footballers with accurate personal information (eg skin colour and hair colour) rather than Kick Off’s generic players, with all features included in the game rather than in separate expansion disks. Receiving rave reviews everywhere (the lowest being Amiga Action with 90%, the highest Amiga Power and The One both with 93%), it leaps to the top of the charts immediately.

December 1992 – Amiga Power publishes its first Readers’ All-Time Top 100. Many thousands of readers write in with their votes, at the end of which Sensible Soccer triumphs extremely narrowly over Geoff Cramond’s Formula One Grand Prix for the No.1 slot, despite only having been in the shops for approximately two months when the votes were being cast. Kick Off 2 appears in the list at No.8.

May 1993 – Amiga Power publishes its third All-Time Top 100. With the disappearance from the judging panel of original editor and KO fan Matt Bielby, neither Kick Off game is included, and Sensible Soccer debuts at No.1.

June 1993Goal! is released, the first Kick Off game to be fully reviewed in AP. (Though Virgin don’t own the rights to the Kick Off name, hence the new title. Trivia fact: sneakily, the blurb in the adverts for the game has certain letters highlighted in red, spelling out the words "kick off three".) Ironically, for the sequel author Dino Dini has gone all-out to copy Sensible Soccer – generic teams are replaced by real sides with real players, the pace is toned down, you can play with a Sensible-style zoomed-out viewpoint, and it’s vastly easier to score goals. Indeed, the goalkeepers are so atrocious it’s hard not to – a diagonal shot across the goal from about 10 yards out scores every time without fail.

At this point I’ve become the acting editor of the magazine, official editor Linda Barker being critically ill in hospital after suffering a massive brain haemorrhage, and have full control of all aspects of the mag for the next year. I decide, as part of my hate campaign against Dino and his games, that we'll give Goal! the front cover of the mag and the lead review. Tim Tucker receives Goal! warmly and awards it 82%, saying it’s “worth every penny”.I personally think he’s over-rated it a little, but elect NOT to exercise editorial privilege and change the score. In the following issue, we include Goal! in our “Amiga Power Recommends” section. Man, what a vicious bunch of vendetta-running bastards we are!

At this point, almost a year after its release, Sensible Soccer is still in the top 10, at No.7.

September 1993 – Its release having been slightly delayed, Goal! enters the Amiga charts at No.2, slipping to No.3 the next month.

November 1993 – Goal! slips below Sensible Soccer again in the Amiga charts, one place below it at No.8.

January 1994 – In AP’s end-of-year favourite-games round-up, four members of staff – me NOT being one of them - include Sensible Soccer’s 92-93 edition in their personal top 10s of 1993. (Since it’s essentially the exact same game as the edition released in 1992, I don’t feel it’s properly eligible, and pass up the chance for some more grovelling hype.)

February 1994 – After just five months in the chart, Goal! disappears completely from the Amiga Top 30 (Gallup don’t publicly publish positions lower than this.) Sensible Soccer, a year-and-a-half after its release, is still at No.12.

May 1994 – I leave Amiga Power to become Sensible Software’s Development Manager, with responsibilities for the forthcoming SWOS and Sensible Golf, but primarily the creation of whole of the sequel to the No.1 hit Cannon Fodder. (Cannon Fodder 2, incidentally, will go on to reach No.1 also, and sell successfully for the next five years.)

August 1994 – The release of the minor “International” upgrade puts Sensible Soccer back at No.1 in the Amiga charts. Despite now being out-of-date, the original version is also still in the chart, having been knocked down from 13 to 22 by its successor.

Around this time, Amiga owners simply can’t get enough football games. Manchester Utd Premier League Champions from Krisalis achieves the No.1 slot that eluded Goal!, while in November an incredible SEVEN of the top 10 Amiga games are football-related titles, with six more in the top 30. (Even Kick Off 3, a non-Dino-Dini sequel by Anco scoring mediocre review marks everywhere, makes the top 10, and even shameless Sensible Soccer ripoff Football Glory briefly attains the No.2 slot before legal pressure sees it temporarily disappear from store shelves, from which it never recovers.) The following month, 10 of the top 20 games are football-related. In all of this football bonanza, there’s no sign of Goal!, however.

November 1994 – Amiga Power publishes its second Readers’ All-Time Top 100. Sensible Soccer retains the No.1 position, narrowly ahead of another Sensible title, Cannon Fodder. Formula One Grand Prix also holds up well, dropping from No.2 to No.4. Kick Off 2, meanwhile, has plunged to 58th place, with Goal! doing slightly better at 47.

December 1994 - Two and a half years from release, Sensible Soccer, in its very slightly modified International incarnation, is still at No.5 when the true sequel, Sensible World Of Soccer, is released to universal ecstatic acclaim (average magazine review score 94%) and crashes straight into the charts at No.1.

April 1996 – AP stops running the Amiga charts. In the last one published, SWOS is still at No.2, roughly a year and a half after its release.


So what’s the point of all this? What have we proved about Kick Off, Sensible Soccer, originality, popularity, and the one-man vendetta allegedly carried out by me against Dino Dini and his games?

TRUTH 1 - Kick Off did NOT, despite Dino Dini’s claims to the contrary, pioneer the use of overhead view in football games or the idea of imparting swerve to the ball. In fact, such things were first implemented in a home game by Sensible Software in Microprose Soccer, and then copied by Kick Off.

TRUTH 2 - Sensible Soccer received a higher average review score from ALL magazines on its release than either Kick Off game, not just Amiga Power or one reviewer.

TRUTH 3 - Sensible Soccer’s chart performance far outstripped that of any Kick Off game, remaining in the charts in one form or another from its release all the way to the Amiga’s death as a significant hardware platform five years later. Kick Off 2 clung on in the top 100 for just 18 months, most of which were spent in the lower reaches.

TRUTH 4 - In addition to buying more copies of it, Amiga owners consistently placed Sensible Soccer higher than any Kick Off game in independently-adjudicated reader-voted charts. Clearly, the constant championing of the Sensible games by magazines was both justified by and reflected in general public opinion.

TRUTH 5 - My own views on Kick Off have been described by Dino Dini as a “hate campaign”, “unprofessional” and “vile”, and he also alleges - disgracefully and without the remotest justification - that they were corruptly motivated, and claims that he has “never been treated so badly by anyone in the press in my near 25 years of game development“. We’ll pass over the fact that these personal attacks are both unwarranted and libellous, since Dino's farcical and demonstrably groundless paranoia doesn't deserve the dignity of a court case. The TRUTH, however, is that as an Amiga Power writer, I gave Kick Off a less-than-savage review score of 71%, never actually reviewed Kick Off 2, and while as Amiga Power editor I gave the third “Kick Off” game (Goal!) a front cover and lead review, and featured the game in the following month’s “Recommended” section. Sadly, at a time when Amiga owners would buy pretty much anything with a football in it, even these endorsements weren’t enough to help the game to No.1 or keep it in the charts for a significant period of time. After I left Amiga Power and had no further influence on it, Kick Off/Goal! did NOT suddenly return to the magazine’s annual listings of the 100 greatest games of all time. Clearly, it wasn’t just me.



The harsh fact is, Kick Off was popular at a time when there were no other halfway-competent football games around. When Sensible Soccer was released, it was accepted as clearly superior by the vast majority of gamers, and Kick Off’s popularity simply melted away. Even when a third game was released, combining the traditional Kick Off control style and gameplay with many features copied from Sensible Soccer (such as the high viewpoint and real player data) in an attempt to wrest back the No.1 mantle, it failed to compete with Sensible Soccer in the charts or the public’s affection. Kick Off’s time ran out in 1991.

The many attempts to revive its corpse since then by various people (Goal!; Super Kick Off; Kick Off 3; Kick Off 3 European Challenge; Dino Dini’s Soccer; Kick Off 96; Kick Off 97 (alt review); Kick Off 98; Kick Off World - a Playstation game so unpopular that there doesn't seem to be a review of it on the entire internet; Kick Off 2002) have all been flops  - ranging from minor flops to great big gigantically colossal flops - despite the fact that for most of them Amiga Power was no longer around to unfairly influence the public with its “hate campaign”. Rarely can one reviewer's opinion have been so comprehensively and resoundingly vindicated by history.

Kick Off fans – it’s time to let go. Dino Dini, who’s been writing the same game over and over for 25 years to ever-diminishing returns and acclaim in a desperate and slightly tragic attempt to recapture long-lost glories – it’s time to try something else, man.


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