As an English man, I feel that I’m supposed to have some sort of inherently patriotic enjoyment of football. Except… I don’t. I legitimately couldn’t care less about which team has the best overpaid man-babies or who’s where in what league or championship.
At a push, I will watch the occasional World Cup/Euro game. But that’s more of a social thing, and to feel like England might actually be good at something for once. My point is, I don’t really care for football, bar the odd game of Pro Evolution Soccer 5 back in the day.
So when Behold the Kickmen was offered to us at Finger Guns HQ, it was down to either Toby or I to investigate (as Ross, Paul and Sean are too biased). Turns out, behind all the over the top airs and graces, there’s actually a solid little sportsball game in there too.
The question is, can the novelty carry me through an entire season, or does the self-referential, “Yes, I get it” joke wear through too quickly? Let’s kick balls and find out…
Ball, Ball, Ball. Footie, Footie, Footie!
The novelty in question is that Behold the Kickmen is so self-aware and tongue in cheek that it’s in danger of poking through the side. That disclaimer alone should tell you enough (and even I didn’t notice the deliberate mistake in “mistak”), that this is not a game to be taken seriously.
For one, the plot is absolutely ludicrous. You play as an upcoming footballer in some bottom league team who, like every Dream Team and Renford Reject, aspire to be at the top. But there’s a tragic story behind our played, who I named Reggie Baalkiq, captain of Spods United. His father was some kind of superstar player who died in mysterious circumstances, that Reggie wants to uncover… whilst winning the World Cup, obviously.
Now, if that sounds absolutely daft it’s because… it is. The dialogue is deliberately bad, but not in a poorly translated way. Rather an intentionally parodied take on all the unnecessary drama that surrounds football. It’s to highlight that no one really cares, that you could add any old nonsense plot in and nobody would follow it. This is a game about kickball, after all.
The problem for me was that as it was deliberately nonsensical, I lost what was going on after about the fifth game. The coach owes gambling money, Reggie is bullied by the captain of Brazil United (every team name is [Something] United, which is nice) and I think at one point, space was involved.
And that, then, is the crux: can something be too funny that the appeal wears off quickly? Well, kind of. The dialogue is very entertaining, and there are some response choices you can make that don’t change much other than the witticisms that come back. But on the plus side, it is funny, and should you be able to keep up with it, it does make for an entertaining lark between matches.
But we’re not here for some wacked out story though, are we? We’re here for the beautiful game, the manliest man sport ever… or something like that. My football jargon is limited.
Back Of The Rectangular Thingie!
Thankfully, Behold the Kickmen has the core concept of a football game down to a tee. Which, admittedly, you wouldn’t expect from a game that’s taking more piss than a kleptomaniac urologist.
At first glance, it looks very much like Sensible Software’s Sensible Soccer. You play from a top-down perspective, with both teams looking like dumpy little Duplo blocks as they canter about the pitch. As with most football games, the camera focuses on the player you’re in control of.
Controlling your squad is simple: you’ve got your sprint, pass and shoot mapped easily enough. Shooting brings up a power/accuracy gauge, and the fundamental rule stills applies: pass it about, don’t let the other team touch your ball, and stick one in the back of the net.
Tackling is an adventure in itself, as holding down Y will see you build up a time-slowing directional charge. Bean the right player with the ball and a crosshair overlays the tackle. Time it right with another press of Y and the ball is yours, but getting it wrong can see your player getting briefly stunned.
In the absence of any flash tricks that you’d see fully animated in your FIFA’s and whatnot, you can put a little sidestepping dash in when you’re feeling fancy. This one’s mapped to the R & L buttons and acts accordingly, giving you which direction you want avoid being tackled in. Alright, it’s not the greatest innovation in football gaming, but what do you expect from a game called “Behold the Kickmen”?
Going for Gold, Or Glory, Or Revenge? I Can’t Remember…
The heart of Kickmen lies in its story mode. Besides the aforementioned wacky plot, it also carries the team progression side of things too. This is accrued by your on-pitch skill, you see.
It’s not enough to just leg it and score a goal to earn skill money. No, the real benefit and challenge is in passing it about, tackling the opponent for a steal, before smashing one in the goal. As you can see on the picture above, that little numerical value is how well you’re doing before you score. Fancy moves will net you more money, which you can then transfer into attributes for your team.
Passing skill and speed, shot accuracy, easier tackling windows, squad stamina, it’s all there. It’s not the most in-depth, but then it doesn’t need to be. It’s a case of, “I have cash, I need to put it back into the team. What do they need more of with this amount…?”. This, in turn, helps you play better and make each game more impressive looking… and thus increase how much money you make.
What I did like when starting the story was the game giving me two options: start with all the skills unlocked, or earn them as I know. That means no passing or sprinting, instead having to unlock a new one after a match. There’s only a handful to learn, so you only need about five matches, or you can go in with all of them if you wish.
It didn’t add much of a challenge, per se, it just gave me something to look forward. Initially it’s a bit jarring when you can’t pass between teammates right next to you, but it gives you something to look forward to. You can also mess about with your team formation, but this goes out of the window when the game starts (or at least that’s what it feels like).
That’s pretty much it for Behold the Kickmen. I mean… what more did you expect? It’s a parody of a football game, so it’s not going to have that Ultimate Team or Career Mode kind of depth to it, really.
What it does have, though, is some frenetic football that really gets going when you’re upgrading your team into a right unit of 50 yard belting, shin destroying ball-kickers. It takes a while to get going, what with the nonsensical plot and early end poor ability, but it does open up if you give a go.
If you want to jump straight into the action, you can always choose a Quick Play match from the main menu. This allows you to adjust various criteria and play however you want. Weather, ball heaviness, more than eleven men a side, it’s there for you to play about with.
For a few pounds, it’s a fun throwback to Sensible Soccer, but with more carnage. Think more Red Card from the PS2 in terms of over the top fun, and you’re on the right page.
The novelty of the absurdness wears off pretty quickly. But it makes up for it by being a fun little football game.
Behold the Kickmen is available now on Nintendo Switch (reviewed on Switch Lite) and PC.
Developer: Size Five Games
Publisher: Size Five Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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