Behold The Kickmen Review
Reviewed on PC
If you’ve always been profoundly disinterested in the endless minutiae of The Football, confused by other blokes and blokettes who codify their existence around it, but nevertheless don’t mind the odd game of FIFA or Pro Evo now and then, then Size Five have got something to turn the tables. Born from a conversation on Twitter fuelling an impromptu game jam, the world is now ready to receive Behold The Kickmen, a football game for people who don’t care about football.
Everything about it is designed to wind up those who lay their wreaths at Britain’s most manliest altar, the so-called ‘Wonderful Game’: the pitch is round, there are only nine players per team, the offside rule has a countdown klaxon, you score more goals depending on how far away the shot was taken from, after which the umpire gives you a little congratulatory kiss. Of course as we all know, while the big kicks are indeed lovely to perform and behold, they are but a means to an end: to rake in the cold hard cash! During each match, a highly calibrated football-ometer will carefully measure how excited the fans are by your displays of the passing and the shooting and the fiddly step-over bits, translating that febrile giddiness into an estimate of how much moolah you can expect to collect from sales of star-player bobbleheads, extortionate replica kits, and pasties. Seal the deal with a sweet goal and it will all be yours to spend on improving your mediocre team.
Unfortunately there are a few features that are somewhat absent, although it’s difficult to be too judging of a game that was done for a joke and is priced accordingly. As well as the story mode a basic tutorial and switch one-match quick play are provided. Most obviously there is no multiplayer of any kind, which would be a criminal failing in a ‘proper’ football game, but taking turns with a friend to play through the ridiculous story mode almost makes up for the lack of competitive play. A controller is heavily recommended, mostly as aiming tackles is difficult with the mouse.
The game recognises that it's perfectly possible to enjoy the mechanics of playing ‘The Wonderful Game’ without having the slightest inkling about the surrounding ephemera of the sport in the real world. Indeed, in a cheeky nod to the Bitmap Brothers classic Speedball, the powerful kicking action can be reskinned to be be a ‘dystopian future bloodsport’ (i.e. the soundtrack is grittier, the colours darker and the players are now all robots), in case the Football Association still proves troubling to you. The parodic nature of this tongue-in-cheek tribute is all encompassing, extending outward from the circular pitch to the amusing advertising signage, the gloriously wrong-headed catcalls and heckles over the crowd, and the sheer blue dullness of the Big Boring Football Spreadsheet. Every inch of the interface is dripping in sarcasm, and even the soundtrack evokes the achingly current yet somehow-five-years-ago pulsing generic dubstep that permeates a multitude of sporting games.
What emerges then is a funhouse mirror reflection of Super Arcade Football, another recent indie game fondly looking back on the halcyon days of Kick-Off and Sensible Soccer, but from a different perspective. With this frivolous joke of a project, Dan and the rest of Size Five have gifted us their little kickmen, that they might be a bulwark against UK society’s persistent insistence that Blokes Must Watch the Football. This may not have been fully intended, but it is appreciated and enjoyable nonetheless. Size Five, like Mitchell & Webb, Adam & Joe and The IT Crowd before you, we salute you.