Behold The Kickmen
After many weeks of nail-biting entertainment, the World Cup is finally over. While it was a great match between Paris and Argentina, I couldn't help but be amused at the one sport that seems to unite the world. Hence the title, World Cup, yet I recall minutes after Argentina winning that many fans yelled and cheered through Midtown Manhattan. I was happy that Messi got his Cup, happy for the team, and for the love of the sport. There's just one thing; I'm not much of a fan of football nor do I know enough about the game to decide whether or not I am a fan. For people like me, Behold The Kickmen is perfect for us.
On the weekend of the World Cup final, this game was given away for free via promotion and I managed to snag a copy with every intention of covering it. It's a bit cheeky, having a game that gives the bare minimum of Football be the free game of the Finals weekend. I call it a successful marketing campaign as it gets people talking for the price of "free.99." Like a good noodle, I played the tutorial first and the gameplay was what I expected from someone who doesn't know about the sport.
From a basic level, Behold The Kickmen is football. Not on a technical level like FIFA but more fleshed out than the sport-RPG hybrid Soccer Story. However, many of its rules are either omitted, simplified, or exaggerated. For example, the goalie has no sense of personal space. You can go as far as the goal boundaries are and score a goal with a mere tap. Aiming for the player while tackling is fair game and encouraged; Obtaining ball possession is just a bonus. Offsides are identified by a flashing red light like it was a Final Fantasy 14 AOE attack. It's beautiful.
Don't think of Behold The Kickmen as simple chaos, however. The chaos has some order with rules in place including not tackling anyone without the ball, not tackling the goalie, uh, offsides? That's it really, don't tackle anyone who doesn't have the ball. Experienced football readers are reading the rules as well as my explanation while shaking their heads, but it's true to its word.
This is a game made by someone who isn't a fan but thought it'd be cool to make a game out of it. There's even a "EULA" style screen begging the player not to send him hate mail about it. Fair enough, soccer fans can be fickle. Football fans are also the source of your income as performing tricks including ball handling and tackling will increase the fan revenue. What's most impressive is that this revenue is in real-time, so as you pull off stylish combos, fans are buying your kits.
Scoring a goal banks the amount of money earned, as identified by the number of money banked from each goal. The money earned, identified in Euros, of course, is used to increase the stats of your team including passing proficiency and running speed. Story mode centers around an up-and-coming striker (Who I've called Mr. Blue Lock of course) with dreams of winning the World Cup. Even though only one team has the name of the country they're playing for (Brazil) with everyone else named after whatever they could come up with. It's very tongue-in-cheek, including dialogue mimicking visual novels and dialogue choices.
In the beginning, the only thing the player knows how to do is kick and dribble, making it incredibly awkward as you have to shoot to travel far distances. After each game, you'll learn a skill that is a basic skill all football players learn. Obviously, I'd recommend the passing ability first, but unlocking these alone is enough to see how very much so "arcade"-y the game is. The AI can be unfair, having an iron defense when they are in possession of the ball, yet also allowing the players to score free goals.
Behold the Kickmen was an enjoyable experience that exceeded my expectations of a "funny game about someone who doesn't know the sport." As this was released in 2017 originally, I can understand if the buzz from the World Cup allows more people to know about Behold the Kickmen. While the experience can be as long or as short as you'd wish, the core gameplay is enough to have an afternoon of fun while laughing at football hubris.
Behold the Kickmen is available on PC and the Nintendo Switch.