What is it with clowns? Why are they so scary? I don't know what it is, but clowns really creep me out, and this game is no exception; it, in fact, raises more questions about clowns than it answers.
For instance, why is the clown on a unicycle? Why are there a bunch of balloons over him? Why do these balloons, which are probably full of helium, which is lighter than air last time I checked, why do these balloons fall down? Evil Clown Magic, that's why... and why does the clown fall down when a balloon hits the ground?
Are ballons and clowns natural enemies? Because if they are, I'm moving into a giant balloon so I will be safe from clowns... clowns with painted faces and sharp teeth filed to tear flesh! But, far more likely, this is just more clown propaganda to make us think they could be hurt by balloons, while really they are quite indestructible and will murder us all in our sleep one day.
eBay auction by "atrabilious" - Used with permission.
Kick was a clown themed arcade game released by Midway in 1981. The game was actually first developed back in 1978 as a black and white game entitled Catch 40. Midway never actually got around to releasing Catch 40, so they reworked it in color and released it as "Kick". Then they turned around a few months later and and rereleased the game as Kick Man. "Kick" and "Kick Man" are essentially the exact same game. The only difference is in the title screen and the marquee.
Clown based arcade gaming, Real or Malarkey?
In Kick you control a clown on a unicycle. You move your clown back and forth at the bottom of the screen, attempting to pop or catch all the balloons that fall from the top of the screen. On the first board all the balloons simply pop on your hat, while on subsequent boards they stack as many as 8 high before they start popping. Catching a Pac-Man will clear your balloon stack because the Pac-Man will eat all of your balloons. On later boards some of the balloons are Pac-Man ghosts instead, these are worth more points, but are otherwise the same as the rest of the balloons.
If you miss a balloon you can try and kick it back up temporarily using your kick button. If you kick Pac-Man he goes back up to the balloon formation and comes back again later, all other kicked items fall back down immediately. You lose a life if anything manages to actually touch the ground.
Every few levels there will be a bonus round where little guys toss out balloons and bombs out of the two buildings that are adjacent to the playfield. Catch the balloons, but dodge the bombs. Missing a balloon ends the bonus round, but does not cost you a life.
Clown based arcade hardware available in 1981
Kick (and Kick Man) were available in three different dedicated cabinets, an upright, a cocktail, and a cabaret (or mini). The only physical difference between Kick and Kick Man machines is the name on the marquee, otherwise they are identical.
The upright machine had yellow and orange painted sideart of a guy on a unicycle kicking balloons up onto his spiked helmet. The guy on the sideart looks more like an athlete than a clown, and doesn't resemble the game character at all. The marquee has an orange logo superimposed over a city skyline. Moving downward the game has an attractive monitor bezel that extends the background graphics that are already in the game. The control panel features a large black trackball, and a pair of huge "Kick" buttons that light up when the machine is turned on.
The cabaret (or Mini-Myte as the promotional material calls it) was in a smaller brown cabinet with no sideart or marquee. It had slighly smaller yellow buttons, and the game's name was advertised directly below the control panel. There were no other decorations on the machine.
The cocktail version of this game came in the ever popular Midway cocktail table, which was the same one used for Pac-Man, Galaga, and many others. The only decoration was the title of the game which was silk screened under the glass. You will probably never see one of the cocktail versions anyway. In the last few years it seems that almost all Midway cocktails seem to have been converted to Ms. Pac-Man or Galaga (probably because that is a very profitable conversion to make).
Do you dare face the clowns?
You can play Kick using the MAME emulator on any modern computer. Or you can try and locate a real Kick machine, good luck on that one, I can't recall ever seeing one of these babies anywhere out in public.
Kick seems to be one of the cheaper classic games. Pricing rarely seems to go over a few hundred dollars. The one in the aution quoted above sold for only $158.05. So you might be able to pick one of these up very cheaply. It is a good value, especially since this game gets pretty hard around level 4 or so. You probably won't be mastering this one anytime soon.