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SEGA Technical Institute




SEGA Genesis



Released for the Sega Genesis back in 1992, Kid Chameleon was arguably one of the best and most interesting games on that console and yet it took a bit of time for it to become something of a cult hit. Since the 2000's, it has enjoyed several re-releases including as part of the Sega Genesis Classics collection for the PS4 and the Switch.

Here was a 2D platformer in the same vein as the Mario games where your character, the Kid, hits blocks with his head and runs around fields and caves, jumping on short sprites, picking up items giving you unique abilities. Except here it's masks and helmets you're picking up, and the structure and look of the game are completely different. You're fighting the likes of giant lizards, Venom-style blobs, skulls with legs and UFO's, so basically a pretty out there, horror/sci-fi themed bunch.

The Kid feels nowhere near as fluid to move around as Mario but he's still pretty easy to control, though the climbing action will become essential to master later on in the game when he has to climb mountains and such. Some jumps become very difficult to achieve since you need to often land on a single square and a fall can be fatal depending where you end up. Enemies do respawn and some blocks have a tendency to disappear when you stand on them. Another big challenge is managing your pick-ups as some will refill your health and give you more time to complete the stage (yes, there is a time limit), which is great but you never know what's in any block until you hit it and some of the best ones are often hidden away in the most time-consuming path to reach.

The masks & helmets go from being everywhere to being very scarce, especially during boss fights. And, even though early on pretty much any mask will do, soon you'll find that you need to be a lot more selective about which ones you pick up as the wrong choice could make completing a specific stage or beating a specific boss nearly impossible. Like, say the portal you're trying to reach is only accessible through a small path but, instead of picking up the fly powers that allow you to shrink and stick to anything, you mistakenly grab any other mask. This can lead to some frustrating attempts at backtracking or self kills.

Speaking of frustrating, you'll eventually find that this game does not want you to finish it, ever. The portals you pass through at the end of stages are not linear so, without knowing, it's very easy to end up somewhere random, making the game even longer than it already is. Admittedly, there's a specific path you can take that makes this game quick enough to finish but it's not something you could figure out playing the game, at least not the first time, so, for a short game, it's pretty darn long.

I would almost suggest looking up the proper path beforehand, from a speedrunner for example.

The masks/helmets and their powers are very cool: you can turn into Jason Voorhees and throw axes, become a samurai with a sword, surf upside down, headbutt and break walls, spin into a tornado, turn into a tank... you name it and you can probably do it. This carries you through the game's toughest parts as there's always something exciting about hitting a block randomly and picking up a new mask you never knew existed, discovering a brand new power. 

The bosses are all big, giant bald heads with big green eyes but sometimes they're skewered together to form the Shishkaboss or squashed into each other somehow. They can be tough to beat in that they tend to follow you around and they target their attacks accurately so do make sure you pick up the right mask for the occasion. I find that a long-range weapon works best against them since only a few hits will kill you and it's their eyes you want to pop. Jumping on their heads also works but that requires you to land exactly in the right spot then get away as quickly as possibly so it's somewhat riskier.

Overall, this is one challenging, often frustrating game but it's one you'll find yourself going back to over and over again as it also happens to be a heck of a lot of fun and super addictive, in the sadistic kind of way that the best retro games can be. This is a very creative take on a familiar kind of platformer with colorful graphics, smooth controls, madcap level design and a solid soundtrack. 

Go on, take a walk on the Wild Side.

film & game reviews, the retro way.

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