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Video Game / Kid Chameleon

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Kid Chameleon was a product of the Console Wars, the 1992 Platform Game that the kids who got the Sega Genesis were blessed with. Despite being a Sega game, it was a shining example of Nintendo Hard.

The plot revolved around a breakthrough Virtual Reality video game system, which goes haywire and starts kidnapping kids who play the game. Turns out the Video Game's boss, a giant head named Heady Metal, has gained sentience and it's up to Casey, the eponymous Kid Chameleon, to defeat the evil computer and save the day, by proceeding from one teleporter in a given play area to another, moving from room to room in a nonlinear progression. His strongest weapon is his Chameleon ability. Scattered throughout the game are blocks containing diamonds, which can be used to purchase powerups, and hats/masks for several of various powerups, each with a different power theme, attacks, and even max hitpoints.

The game, while punishingly difficult, is generally well remembered. It does have a small but devoted Speed Run community, and the multiple exits from any room and multiple paths in level progression provide for plenty of replay value.

Not to be confused with the other Kid Chameleon, which is a British comic strip about a semi-feral boy with chameleonic camouflage, or alternatively Chameleon Twist, a 1997 platformer released for the Nintendo 64 and featuring chameleons.

This game provides examples of:

  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Three stages feature the aptly named 'Murder Wall'. The last two can be avoided by taking alternate routes. The first one can be avoided by finding a hidden bridge.
  • All There in the Manual: The final boss's name is Heady Metal, a fact that is never explained in the game, and you'd only know it if you read the manual.
  • Anti Poop-Socking: The Virtual Console release helped mitigate the original problem that plagued the Genesis version: that of having to play 100 levels with no ability to stop and resume the game.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The lions; they have hard-to-avoid projectiles, erratic movements, and the most hit points of all non-boss enemies (6 for orange and grey lions, 8 for black). The fact that they're the only enemies in their respective levels further give them a boss-like image.
  • But Thou Must!: Levels that require a helmet to complete. You get a "No Prize" Bonus for completing levels without collecting items, but certain levels do not allow for that bonus to happen.
  • Captain Ersatz: Several of the powerup modes are Expies of pop culture icons, such as Cyclops and Jason Voorhees.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: While its massive world is certainly impressive for a relatively early Genesis title, the fact that you're expected to play through this labyrinthine Nintendo Hard game in one sitting made it one of the most frustrating games on the system in the days before save states.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A short-lived series based on the game was included in several issues of Sonic the Comic.
  • Continuing is Painful: Comes in two different obstacles:
    • If you have used your Diamond Power to gain extra hit points, say goodbye to them if you die.
    • Some levels will not give power-ups until later on in the level, so dying in that specific level leaves you with two hits and start over. Ice God's Vengeance is a perfect example of this, especially with small gaps to land, slippery obstacles and vertical projectiles. Forced Entry will either have you go through as the kid on the bottom path or Juggernaut for the upper path, both paths requiring major dexterity.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: A few of the levels take place inside volcanoes, but you don't get hurt unless you touch the lava. Then again, it's not real lava, is it?
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Crab Cove has a teleporter that is impossible to access. However, by hacks, the teleporter transports you to the beginning of the level.
    • Using cheats or glitches, the Juggernaut helmet can destroy the first three boss levels effortlessly due to the having less projectile limits and recovery time as Maniaxem, as well as the projectile bug with Juggernaut. When you shoot the launched skulls within the boss (yes you take a hit), it counts as 11 hits due to the frame animations, thus a boss dies in 3-4 shots. However, it is normally impossible to reach the bosses with Juggernaut because the level(s) before that require specific helmets to complete or requires passing through a 2-tile-horizontal path, which is impossible for Juggernaut's 3-tile-horizontal pass. To add salt to the wound, three of the four Stages have this helmet two levels away from the boss.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The Skycutter effect is the most difficult powerup to control, as it is always moving, but is also the fastest. It can also reverse gravity on a whim, which can be abused to simulate the effects of Cyclone, only much faster. It can even bash blocks upside down, allowing it to uncover a slew of extra lives and continues, and cut through blocks from above like Red Stealth or Iron Knight.
  • Easy Level Trick: Common in obtaining helmets in previous levels:
    • Obtaining the Cyclone helmet or the Skycutter can have you bypass many levels effortlessly, up to the point where certain helmets are required to progress.
    • The Whispering Woods II separates the starting position and the flag with steel blocks. Getting the Berserker helmet from the last Elsewhere (Elsewhere 5) will allow the player to push the blocks aside and reach the flag in less than a second.
  • Extra Eyes: Heady Metal's final form has twelve.
  • Eye Scream: The various forms of Heady Metal lose their eyes when you defeat them.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The Final Marathon. There are reports that state the level will randomly freeze or glitch for unknown reasons on some older versions of the game. What makes this even worse is that The Final Marathon is the second-to-last level in the game, so combined with Nintendo Hard levels, this happening is bound to give a player a reason to throw their controllers or consoles.
  • Goomba Stomp: The attack mode of Kid Chameleon's default form, and usable by most of the others.
  • Guide Dang It!: Surprisingly averted for a game of this type. Knowing where to go isn't all that difficult (save for a few stages), it's getting there that's the challenge.
    • The one exception is that every form has special diamond powers (generally two of them, which cost different amounts of diamonds) which are explained nowhere in the game.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: The only "true" bosses in the game - the various incarnations of Heady Metal - can be challenging in their own right, but don't hold a candle in difficulty to other levels (like the ones mentioned in That One Level).
  • Hat of Power: The hat/mask powerups.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: "Red Stealth" form.
  • Hockey Mask and Chainsaw: Maniaxe.
  • Holodeck Malfunction: Complete with the orange grid in the background.
  • Hover Board: "Sky Cutter" form.
  • Invisible Block: Some of the P-blocks are invisible until you jump into them.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Forced Entry, being a Murder Wall level, has a cryptic message at the end that says TOO BAD. If you were Berzerker at the time and actually charged the metal blocks, your reward? Nothing, but Have a Nice Death.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: "Iron Knight" form.
  • Magical Mystery Doors: Millions of them, most leading to one of the dozens of levels named simply "Elsewhere".
  • Mascot with Attitude: The titular jacket and sunglasses-wearing Kid Chameleon.
  • Nintendo Hard: A long game with no passwords or saves, plenty of difficult stages along the way, secrets both obvious and obscure that can aid you but also screw you over just as well to the point that they can even send you back levels, and devilish design intended to curb particular exploits and cheesy methods. And death is punished with losing the power-ups that you sometimes need to survive. It's not a stretch to call Kid Chameleon one of the hardest Sega games ever.
  • Platform Hell:
    • If not in terms of the actual gameplay (and that's arguable), the game is definitely this in terms of navigation toward the end of the game. Why does this Elsewhere look like the one you saw 45 minutes ago? Because it's the same one.
    • Also, Bloody Swamp is a complete nightmare, to the point where many people who beat the game have only done so because they avoided that particular level altogether.
  • Ramming Always Works: The Berserker's ability.
  • Shape Dies, Shifter Survives: Kid Chameleon reverts to his normal, powerless self if he runs out of HP while wearing a helmet.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness: What makes this game so difficult is that there are many branching pathways, yet the player is never allowed to backtrack; if they're stuck on a tough level, they either have to complete it or lose all their continues trying.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: Lots of easy extra lives in Frosty Doom... You know... That level RIGHT BEFORE BLOODY SWAMP!
  • Stone Wall:
    • The Iron Knight has the most health of all the masks, lacks the offensive abilities of the others, and has strictly defensive diamond powers.
    • Some enemies are defensively-oriented as well. The crab can only be attacked from the front and is immune to diamond powers, while the ninja blocks and dodges almost all attacks.
  • Tank Goodness: The Juggernaut. It shoots skulls.
  • Timed Mission: There's a three minute timer at the start of each stage, which may be extended by collecting a clock from the powerup blocks. Extra time serves as a time bonus for scoring points.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay:
    • Hills of the Warrior 1. This Murder Wall level could count as Fake Difficulty as well. If you chose the bottom path below, you can't progress due to steel blocks and can't backtrack due to the murder wall, thus causing you to lose a stock. The level hints at this path being wrong, but not explicitly.
    • Forced Entry, which contains the infamous Murder Wall. If you managed to still have the Berserker helmet from the previous level and ram the metal blocks in hopes of another warp teleporter, you'll reach a dead end with a sign that says "TOO BAD."
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Backtracking on levels and losing your helmet required to pass that level. This is quite common for those who have enough time to collect any missing items, but can cost you a helmet.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Hills of the Warrior I. After eight relatively easy levels, the player gets a dose of Nightmare Fuel as they are chased by the Murder Wall for the first time. Lots of difficult-to-avoid traps are scattered about, and it's easy for the player to get stuck behind a wall and caught. For as difficult as it is on its own merits, it's only a sign of things to come.
  • Wall Crawl: Iron Knight's ability.
  • Warp Zone: The teleporters play with this. Many of them lead to short "Elsewhere" levels which then have teleporters leading to actual levels. Some Elsewhere levels lead to hidden levels. Others are "dead ends" and lead only to the stage the player came from. There are also two hidden teleporters that let the player skip a large number of stages.
    • Getting 100,000 points before the end of the fifth (non-Elsewhere) level sends the player straight to the game's half-way point. The biggest warp is the cheat-code-like one near the start that takes you to the final boss of the game.
  • A Winner Is You: It's a really long game with a really short ending.