Kick Off is a change of approach for Anco who have in the past concentrated on strip poker games. It’s played between two teams of 11 players on a vertically scrolling playing field. Your opponent can be wither human or computer controlled, and as usual the player under your control is the one nearest to the ball.
Before the kick off you can choose a skill level for the players in each team which range from Sunday league to international, the latter having very tough opponents in the one player game. You can also choose the formation that your players play in out of: 4-2-4, 4-3-3, 4-4-2 or 5-3-2. This has a considerable affect on the action. Match length is also available from 5 minutes to 45 minutes each way although not many people will play the full length match.
The number of things that you can do with your players is fairly limited: they kick, stand still with the ball, slide tackle, tackle and foul. Fouling is usually unintentional (unless your opponent is a certain R. Monteiro) and is a result of late tackles and the like. There are several referees and some are worse than others in their decisions as to whether or not something is a foul. Yellow cars and even red cards are awarded for repeated foulers (Monteiro got down to four men once – and still managed to win). Fouls in the penalty are will result in a penalty which are fairly easy to score from.
Throw-ins and corners are also included although corners are a bit weird. A box appears with nine symbols in it to indicate the path that the ball will take, you choose one and the kick is taken.
One defect in the game is time. Although the computer keeps track of time well and even allows for injury time it sometimes does things wrong. In one match a penalty was awarded just before the final whistle and the referee blew the whistle for the end of the match before the kick was taken.
Graphically Kick Off is very simple with small players and little colour, but it makes up for it in play by being both fast and addictive. Sound is a mixture of simple effects and digitised sounds of the crowd to add to the atmosphere.
Comparisons with other football games is inevitable and the two to consider are Microprose Soccer and Microdeal Soccer. Microprose Soccer is the most recent competitor and is viewed from overhead like Kick Off. It plays similarly with the major difference being banana kicks and overhead kicks. Banana kicks send the ball through a horizontal arc rather than just travelling in a straight line and they can be used effectively to confuse your opponent’s keeper. Overhead kicks are spectacular shots that result in the ball being shot in the opposite direction to the one that the player is facing.
Microdeal Soccer is a much older game and uses the side approach to the game,. The action is viewed from the touchline with the goals to the right and left. Like Microprose Soccer you can alter the weather conditions and match length is again variable. You can also choose whether to play at day or night, and alter wind direction and your players trip.
Of the three Kick Off is the most fun to play, but the other two games look better and have features to alter difficulty like weather. Kick Off is still the one buy though. Anco have finally produced a cracker.