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
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.
– A football game called
Soccer is released on the C64, with an
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
Your Sinclair), the 16-bit versions less so. (The game is in considerable part inspired, incidentally, by the excellent coin-op Tehkan World Cup.)
– Kick 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.
- 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 1991 –
Amiga 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.
– 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.
– 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
– 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.
– Sensible 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– Goal! 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.
– Its release having been slightly delayed, Goal! enters the Amiga charts
at No.2, slipping to No.3 the next month.
– Goal! slips below Sensible Soccer again in the Amiga charts, one place
below it at No.8.
– 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.)
– 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
– 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.)
– 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.
– 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.
- 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.
– 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
TRUTH 1 - Kick Off did NOT, despite
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
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
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