Roberto Baggio Magical Kicks
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.
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?
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!|
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|
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.