Behold The Kickmen is a football (or soccer, if you prefer) simulation for everyone who hates the sport, or, at the very least, remains totally clueless to its global appeal. Created by Dan Marshall of The Swindle fame – who readily admits he knows nothing about football and thought it would be fun to see what kind of game he could come up with – this rather silly rival to the likes of FIFA and PES casts aside the basic rules that have governed football for decades and replaces them with its own.
For example, the pitch is round, not rectangular, and the ball bounces happily off its sides, Speedball 2-style. Goals scored (or "done", to use the game's parlance) from distance are worth more points, and the offside rule has been changed so that, if you happen to be on the wrong side of the pitch when the timer runs out, you're sent off "for a crime against football". Scoring has the added benefit of earning you a big, sloppy kiss from the referee (or 'Umpire' as he's known here), while going into extra time literally involves picking up clock icons which appear on the pitch to extend the length of the match. It's utterly bonkers, and refreshingly original to boot.
Behold The Kickmen's unorthodox approach extends to the game's writing, which is downright hilarious. Hardcore fans of the sport might turn their noses up at the fact that it so mercilessly pokes fun at "The Beautiful Game", but we lost count of the number of times we laughed out loud during gameplay; the constant demands to "do more goals" than the "enemy" team never grows old, and the story sections – which chart your star player's rise to the top of the league, his rivalry with a bully from another team and his quest to discover exactly what happened to his deceased father – feature some of the funniest dialogue we've read in years. While humour is very much down to personal taste, we think you've got to be pretty mean-spirited not to at least raise a smile whilst playing Behold The Kickmen.
Skills such as dashing, passing, aftertouch and precision tackling are all unlocked as you play the story mode (an optional 'Ultimate' mode gives you these from the start, however) and the cash you earn from "doing goals" and "winning the sport" can be used to bolster the core stats of your team. It's a shame, then, that the game itself doesn't quite hold together as a cohesive and enjoyable experience once the laughter abates. There's no two-player option – which should tell you right away this isn't your typical football game – and the action is so random and chaotic that wins become losses in the blink of an eye.
Your players control sluggishly and struggle to hold onto the ball at the best of times, whereas rival players of middling skill are capable of running straight through your defenders without losing possession. Passing – which is denoted by a line which shows exactly which player you're going to target – is hit and miss, too. Your opponents rarely exhibit the skill required to score, however (even when faced with an open goal) so as long as you make use of the handy side-step ability and pass the ball regularly, you should come out on top; chaining together flashy moves means you earn more cash, so it's certainly encouraged. Shots on goal – which you can charge up for increased power, a process which also decreases their overall accuracy – have a tendency of going in much of the time, as long they're relatively close to the target.
The often frustrating controls and totally random gameplay elements do tarnish the experience somewhat, but we still had a whale of a time playing Behold The Kickmen. The cutting humour goes a long way to making it an enjoyable romp, and the story mode holds your interest via its funny narrative and the attraction of ploughing cash into improving your team. While it's never going to challenge legitimate soccer simulations on the market, we're glad it exists; as much as we love the sport, it does take itself far too seriously. For £2.99, you could do a lot worse.