Tough As Nails: Kid Chameleon

Posted: January 3, 2011 in Tough as Nails
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Every system seems to have a canon list of tough nuts to crack. The NES had Battletoads (among others), the Amiga had Turrican, and for Genesis/Mega Drive owners, few games require the grit and determination of Kid Chameleon.

This one is inevitably linked to the holiday season for me, as it was one of the games my parents bought me with my Genesis for Christmas in the early ’90s. The mechanics are pretty simple – very much a platformer in the Mario mold, but with the addition of helmets you can pick up that give you different abilities such as a weapon, wall-climbing, or extra hit points. The variety of gameplay styles is one of the things that makes the game unique and fun.

But what makes the game so hard? The sheer size of the game – the game box claims over 100 levels. In eighteen years of owning the game, I can’t rightly confirm that – I’m sure I haven’t seen all of them – but there are tons of them. And on top of that, there’s no password system. If you sit down and start Kid Chameleon, be prepared to finish it!

Or not. With three lives and three continues, you may not last that long. Some of the levels are pretty unforgiving, with later ones requiring some serious precision and finesse.

Even harder? Some of the levels, depending on which exit you take, will offer branching paths. This is another factor in the difficulty – it can be a long and treacherous slog if you take the wrong path, and a few of the levels feature the ever-unforgiving advancing wall of doom, here charmingly referred to as a Murder Wall. The most infamous of these is the Bloody Swamp.

Oh dear God, the Bloody Swamp.

The Bloody Swamp is tooth-grindingly, nail-bitingly difficult. As far as I’m concerned, the people that have made it through this hell-gauntlet are myths, and video evidence of successful runs are forgeries. While it’s an optional level, it’s pretty likely that most players have stumbled into it accidentally. When this happens, it’s pretty much best to just hit reset. This level is so foul and cruel that Tim the Enchanter should appear beforehand to warn you that death awaits you. That precision jumping I talked about? Yeah, you have to do that while outrunning a one-hit instant-death-wall. If you want to try the Bloody Swamp, have fun, but I can tell you even after finishing the game several times – I avoid it!

This is an immensely difficult game, but at the end of it, you get to say, “Pff. Sure you’ve beaten Halo on Legendary. Easy as pie. I beat Kid Chameleon.”

  1. Bigger Brother says:

    Great article, I really wish Sega would bring this title back. It’s a shame that that guy who was working on the KId Chameleon level editor never seemed to have finished it. Still maybe one day!

    • Chad M. says:

      Thanks! I miss this one too. The only thing I’ve found that’s close to it these days in terms of platforming challenge are some of the more devious Little Big Planet levels people have designed. Of course you still can’t play that with the Red Samurai, so it’s not the same.

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