28 Jun, 2004 reviewed by Kdsh7

Roby Baggio's Magical Kicks
by Uncredited

(visit the game site)

Roberto Baggio Magical Kicks

17th July, Summer of 1994. An eerie sense of quiet had gradually enshrouded the crescendo of yells and cheers booming within the Rose Bowl Stadium in
Los Angeles USA. Yells and cheers that had temporarily been recoiled, ready, threatening to detonate at a split secondís notice should events passing below them, on the small area of well worn turf, pass in their favour. With over a billion eyes upon him, Roberto Baggio, darling and hero of the Italian people and whose goals had brought his team, his country, to this moment in World Cup history, stepped up to the 12 yard spot. His demeanour was calm, belying the weight of expectation burdening his shoulders. He placed the ball with care and without so much as a glance around him, stepped back several paces. He ran. He struck. A thud resonated through the air and seemed to just hang there. For a split moment in time, the ball was the only thing in the world moving. The world gasped.

Poor old Roberto Baggio. If you were a football fan back then, then chances are you were witness to seeing the ball fly through the air, sail completely over the goal, and hit some unfortunate bloke somewhere in Row F. Chances are you either laughed or cried, depending on your allegiances, but regardless, you too can now experience the humility of missing the goal by miles (and believe me, you will) courtesy of the man himself, and his official flash game Magical Kicks.

This is the second iteration of a game thatís been around a while now, and it has garnered quite a following over the past couple of years. New to this version are the addition of different set piece scenarios, the ability to adjust the power of your shot, a cameo appearance by top UEFA referee Pierluigi Collina, and a more than significant smattering of corporate sponsorship.

Become a Latin, laterally inverted, Buddha worshipping, mullet haired version of David Beckham. So nothing like him then.

 Click Click Click

At its most basic, Roby Baggioís Magical Kicks - to give the game its full title - is a free kick simulator. The whole game is spent looking at the same right sided portion of pitch, neatly nestled within a neat, no-fuss interface. By clicking the mouse 3 times in succession you can adjust the height, direction and swerve of the ball respectively, and on the third click Roby will strike the ball goalward. As is typical of teams defending free kicks, the opposing team will line up a wall the required 10 paces away, and itís up to you to strike the ball in such a way so as to clear the wall and swerve away from the arms of the diving goalkeeper. Sound like fun? It is!

With a lot of practice, you too could see this screen

 Bend it like Baggio?

 While Magical Kicks does look half decent, the thing that really strikes you upon playing is the fluidity of the ball. The ball flies through the air convincingly, ricocheting off the goalposts, the goalkeeper, and even the defenders in a very realistic fashion. This allows for some simply amazing goals, which thankfully, can be replayed using the very nifty replay function. Hopefully the developers will let us save these replays in a future version.

Re-enact the 1994 world cup!

The game also keeps things fresh by adding in new factors once you clear the first level. Sometimes a team mate will lay the ball off (kick the ball towards you so you hit it while moving) before you strike it, or sometimes youíll have a team mate running into the box so you have the option of either crossing the ball to him, or using him as a decoy and going for goal instead. Itís this variety, the realism of the physics and the simplicity of the controls that give the game its charm and make the game so addictive. Like all good games Magical Kicks provides a challenge through the actual gameplay and not the controls.

Peep! Peep! When this man says it's a penalty, then it's a penalty

Except the word Ďchallengeí doesnít quite capture just how evil the difficulty level in Magical Kicks is. New players will find themselves struggling for tens of minutes (a very long time in flash gaming terms) before netting their first goal. Clearing the wall of defenders is hard enough, but the AI of the goalkeeper is something else. Crafty, agile, and with lightning quick reflexes, the goalies in Magical Kicks are enough to give any striker nightmares and youíll curse them over and over again. But all this serves to add to the elation of scoring which makes those previous minutes of frustration all worthwhile.

Sold Out

For all itís brilliant gameplay, Magical Kicks suffers from some quite frankly, appalling lapses in its presentation. First up, the sound. There isnít any. Quite how the developers thought they could just omit having any sound from the game is baffling. Even the odd thump of the ball, or a little cheer here and there would add so much to the atmosphere. As it is, it does feel odd to be playing a game in this day and age in full colour with fluid animation yet complete silence.

Elementary spelling mistakes are also present throughout which only serve to cheapen the overall look and feel of the game. After every shot, Roberto himself offers you advice in both Italian and English, but often both sets of text actually run into each other on the same line.

Perhaps worst of all, are the continual popups from corporate sponsors Diadora. There are signs that the developers attempted to engraft the Diadora advertisements into the game in a novel and interesting way: when it rains for example, the game recommends that you change to a different boot so youíll have better grip when running up to take the shot. All fine and good, until you realise the game wonít let you actually take the shot unless youíre wearing the boot they recommend. Youíll often be lining up a shot having set up your height, direction and swerve settings only to find youíre wearing the wrong boot and have to start again! To add insult to injury, every so often a window will open showing off some new football boot, and unlike every other window in the game, these actually have to be clicked on before theyíll disappear. Iím all for sponsorship of games, but when theyíre as obtrusive as this and hinder the gameplay, the developer has to make the right decisions in favour of the playability.

Cup Final

Itís particularly telling that of the faults in presentation Iíve mentioned, none of them were present in the previous version. Magical Kicks reeks of lax presentation and quality control and were the gameplay any less brilliant it would severely impact the score. Itís a pity because it was built on such a solid base. The love that went into the original game is clearly evident from the solidity of the game engine and the little incidental graphic touches that pervade throughout.

But the fact remains that Magical Kicks offers a challenging yet fun experience, and one that is unique to flash gaming. Itís a game that wouldnít work on any other format and while the subject matter ensures it wonít be to everybodyís tastes, Iím sure it will have the majority hooked. Highly recommended.



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