Game Review: Kikstart (Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic)

Kikstart, Commodore 16 and Plus/4, Mastertronic, 2C0056
  • 8.5/10
    Score - 8.5/10


Although a completely different game compared to the Commodore 64 version, Kikstart has a charm all its own, focussing more on arcade action. The playability and the sixteen courses offer a very good challenge.


User Review
7.63/10 (4 votes)

Kikstart had started life as an unofficial tie in to the popular BBC television series Kick Start, featuring motorbike trials.  Mr Chip themselves had released it on the Commodore 64 first, before it got a re-release by Mastertronic.  What will surprise you is that the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 version is the same name, but definitely not the same game.  Whilst still coded by the excellent Shaun Southern, he took inspiration from the arcade game Superbike from Century Electronics, where you burst balloons on a motorbike whilst proceeding down a course scrolling towards you.

As the screen scrolls to show you a preview of the levels, a version of Be My Boogie Woogie Baby by Mr Walkie Talkie plays (which was the Kick Start theme.)  You get to see the obstacles that are in your way, such as hills to jump up, hedges to jump over, gaps to jump (a la Moon Patrol), crosses to avoid (apart from the red ones) and the likes of springboards to give you air, buses to jump over, clouds with lightning bolts to dodge, and later you will also need to collect balloons for either more points or more valuable time.  The controls are straightforward, right to speed up, left to slow down, fire to jump, or you can use 3, 4 and T on the keyboard instead.  These controls are also responsive too, so really does add to the playability as you can change the bike speed in mid-air, very handy for those springboards.

Save Bikes or Save Time?

Each of the sixteen courses have a time limit, and if the time runs out – game over.  You also start with five bikes, and if you collide with any obstacles, or get hit by lightning bolts, you lose a bike.  Lose all your bikes and it is also game over, so the choice you have as you get into the game is whether you go fast to earn more time (and a hefty bonus at the end of each level), or take it steadier as needed to keep the bikes intact.  What is helpful is that you get an extra bike to a maximum of five at the end of each course.  This simple addition really does help the gameplay well, especially on later courses.  It is also worth noting that if you do lose a bike, the screen will scroll and the timer will tick down until a safe point to place you back in the game is found.  That can often be costly if this is a springboard with a long jump to make. At the end of each course, your bonus is for time remaining and number of bikes left multiplied by up to 5, depending on the course you are on.

Lightning Strikes

You are gradually introduced to the obstacles as you progress, so at first, gaps, hills, and buses all make an appearance, as do springboards.  However, it is when the clouds come across the screen, get darker and release a bolt of lightning that ups the ante – you have got to time things right and keeping an eye on those and the obstacles gives you a much sterner test.  There are also some springboards you must jump on to so you can then get the air you need to clear an obstacle, not always easy if you are dodging a bolt of lightning at the same time.  These can be a little finicky to jump on to at times and can often result in losing a bike if you have collided, so the trick is to learn when to jump on to them.  There are also occasions where you need to time your speed to jump on multiple springboards at a time – which is where the ability to change speed in mid-air really does help.  The hedges too need some precise jumping.

Progressive Difficulty

One of the later levels is also quite sneaky – there’s red balloons and red crosses to up your time remaining massively (5 seconds for each one collected) but that can distract from you keeping your eye on the course, and potentially losing bikes in the process.  There is later the course with a massively uneven brick wall and you have got to jump up and down to the right parts – slow and steady can be helpful, if only were it not for those pesky clouds with lightning bolts making an appearance too.  The last few courses do ramp up the difficulty, but you will have fun getting there and crucially it is a good curve, so it is not hard straight away.  However, the 20 second time limit on the first level maybe could have been longer, as lose more than a bike and its game over due to lack of time.

Graphics and Sound

Kikstart’s graphics are well drawn overall, with a side on view of the likes of the buses, hedges, gates, brick walls and trees – nothing spectacular but they do the job. The clouds with the lightning bolts are nicely done with the colour palette used well to make the cloud darker and the bike itself is nicely drawn but it is static.  Sound is just the title theme plus some sound effects for the bike noise and jumps along with the lightning and crash sounds, but does enough without being too obtrusive.  It is clear that the playability is the main factor at play here, with responsive controls and sensible difficulty curves.


Whilst a completely different game entirely from the Commodore 64 version, Kikstart on the Commodore 16 and Plus/4 benefits from being a straight time trial with multiple courses.  The simple to pick up and play controls along with some excellent course layouts really does draw you in, with that one more go factor to beat your previous best being quite high.  Giving you an extra life at the end of each level eases any frustration too, and adds that little incentive to try and survive to the end of the level on your last life. It is a highly enjoyable experience, and it was so popular that years later the sadly missed Jason Kelk (TMR) coded a version of this game for the Commodore 64.

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You know what we think but why not share your thoughts on this game! Let us know what you think of it in the comments below, or add your own score using the slider in the summary box at the top of the review!

1 Comment

  1. Very nice review. One of the best games on the C16. I prefer it to the C64 version which feels somewhat limited in lastabiliy, due to it just being a race against an opponent, and not an arcade hi-score game.

    This gets a big 8/10 from me.

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