Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

IFComp 2012: Kicker

Posted by Tracy Poff on November 6, 2012

Kicker by Pippin Barr is an entry in the 2012 ifcomp in which the player takes on the role of a kicker on an American football team.

(This post contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.)

This is another fairly on-rails game. The PC has a defined role to play in the game, so the player’s options are somewhat limited. You can choose to walk out on your team, but the game ends when you do. If you choose to play your role, you spend most of your time on the sidelines, occasionally interrupted when you’re needed on the field. Then, you run onto the field, give the signal, kick the ball, and once again run off the field. Your options there are pretty limited, too–you can’t actually do much other than what you’re supposed to. You can waste some time by failing to give a signal, or waiting around rather than kicking the ball, but eventually you have to either do what you’re supposed to or the game ends.

So, the only real options you have, as a player, are how you will spend your time while you’re on the sidelines. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to do. You can watch the crowd, or watch the game, or try (and fail) to talk to the various NPCs. You can practice kicking. You can drink a cup of sports drink. You can stretch or jump or sigh. You can smell things. Ultimately, all this means that you can’t do much of anything. It’s pretty much a game about not having anything to do.

Some of the responses the game gives are funny, and there are quite a few of them. If you choose to inspect the crowd, for example, it might say “Right at the back of the stands you seem to see the figure of death, with cowl, scythe and all. Was that fancy dress or your imagination or what?” or “You see a guy clad only in a g-string shaped like a football helmet. How did he even get in?”, for example. It’s a nice detail.

There are a number of puzzleless games that let you fill time however you can in a constraining situation. Aisle by Sam Barlow is a great example, and Galatea by Emily Short is another. I suppose that Kicker was aiming to be this sort of game, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. Kicker seems to be about trying, and failing, to avoid boredom in a boring situation. The game is very competently done, but it just didn’t manage to keep my interest. If I could do more, or interact with the NPCs more, it could have been quite fun, but I think that would miss the point of the game.

Kicker is probably better, as an IF game, than The Test is Now READY, but I got bored with it more quickly. Overall, I figure Kicker, too, merits about a 5/10. Not enough fun to make me want to play it again, but not too bad.

Play time: 25 minutes for seven playthroughs.

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