Kid Kool is a train wreck.
You can criticize that statement for its hackneyed use of dramatic metaphor, its unsophisticated zero-sum addition to the art of game critiquing writ large, or even for how utterly cliché the phrase is in general.
But it is so deeply, insurmountable true, on a myriad of levels. Surely, the nobility of truth outweighs the overusage on display here. Because when you consider a product as putrid as Kid Kool, when you really examine it under a tight lens, you realize just how apt of a descriptor it is to summon forth the imagery of thousands of pounds of utilitarian metal absolutely wasted in a violent display of fiery explosions, twisted steel, grinding sparks, and mass horror.
When developer/publisher Vic Tokai unleashed Kid Kool upon the North American market in 1990, little did we know what we were in for. Surely, Vic Tokai was capable of better, and certainly showed so on other occasions for cartridge games made for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System.
However, from its nonsensical “plot” to the poorly rendered slide-down-the-screen animations for water deaths, Kid Kool is a thoroughly disappointing endeavor from beginning to end. This video game is a master class in poor decision-making throughout all phases of its execution, from concept to mechanics to artwork and everything else.
Some of the questions behind Kid Kool's ineptitude may never be answered, left behind as some of the great indecipherable mysteries of human history. For example: Was the “KOLL” typo in the introductory cutscene unnoticed, or noticed but by a team that ended up just deciding “ah, whatever, we do not care”? Why are all the graphical elements portrayed in a cartoon-like manner, with black-line outlines, yet Kool himself, the player-character protagonist, rendered as so bland and washed-out by comparison?
Even the usual 3-color limit for NES sprites does not excuse that particular jarring disconnect between expectation and reality, ingredient and end product, elements among its environment. Then again, Kid Kool seems at times as though it is trying, intentionally, to serve as an exercise in cognitive dissonance. In fact, if anyone is ever unsure of what the phrase “cognitize dissonance” means, all they need to do is look at the box art for Kid Kool – then play the actual game. The tone, production value, and overall impression are so startlingly opposed as to cause one to go insane.
To be clear: It is not just the nitpicky, nitty-gritty, eensy-weensy items that make Kid Kool so terrible. No, it is the big, obvious stuff too. Want to control an on-screen character? Good luck, given the vehicle-like movement physics at work, where acceleration is slow yet has a top speed far too high. Want to experience simple vertical scrolling? Impossible, as crossing the top of the screen causes a pause in the action, an animated scroll, and then likely another pause-and-animation soon thereafter when the Kid comes back down. Want to find an item? Well, hey, they are hidden in invisible spots,ste seemingly randomly distributed, often in pesky places that are definitely inconvenient. Dislike the occasional old-school tendency to include a “bad ending” if the game is not completed quickly enough? Brace yourself for some added fuel onto that particular fire.
That paragraph was far too long. Fittingly, so is Kid Kool.
And if we are to be wholly honest: Even the title, “Kid Kool,” alone, is very stupid. The game does not seem to have a sense of 2.25D; in other words, there are many geographical features that cannot be walked by, they must be jumped over and climbed upon, as though the programmers had no idea you could code a feature with the option to walk on by in the foreground. Then again, considering the cheap deaths that result from head-scratchingly odd enemy placement choices and unfairly weighted consequences for minor mistakes, incompetency is hardly a surprise throughout this writhing mound of gameplay injustice.
Not even the presentational marks can save Kid Kool, as both the audio and visual angles leave much to be desired. Like a dry wine paired with a sugar-free breakfast cereal, the lackluster background music combines with bippity-boppity-boo silly sound effects for an unappetizing feast for the player's ears. Meanwhile, the pixel graphics might be the best thing about the game; which, seeing as how average-at-best they are, is really saying something.
Kid Kool really does feel like an unfinished game, or a rushed game, or a game where the development team did not care and created this in the midst of a labor dispute or something. Although it is technically playable from beginning to end, which is better than some of history's worst video games, Kool is still awful enough to be downright criminal, cast out as a pariah from the court of gamer judgment. If Kid Kool were, indeed, a commuter train, all aboard would have died in a tragic accident. Strike it from your memory and move on.
Overall Rating: 1/5 Stars.