Dino Dini's Kick Off Revival is the latest attempt to resurrect the classic football franchise that began way back in 1989 with the original Kick Off. Back then, games came on cassette tapes and were played using rudimentary joystick controllers that often had only one input button known as 'fire'. As a consequence, Kick Off made use of a one button control scheme: you'd use the 'fire' button to pass, shoot, head the ball, and tackle, and you'd move the joystick after shooting to control the trajectory of the ball in a system known as "aftertouch".

Kick Off Revival eschews the options provided by the DualShock 4 controller in favour of staying true to the spirit of the original one-button Kick Off, while adding network play and high definition graphics to bring the series kicking and screaming into the present day. What's incredible is that despite these modern additions, the core game manages to feel more dated than the 1989 version of Kick Off in many ways.

The first thing you'll likely notice when you turn on the game is the deliberately retro presentation. Kick Off Revival wants to take you back to a simpler time, long before EA and FIFA set out to make the beautiful game, well, beautiful. It's unabashedly old school, and for anyone who played the original Kick Off games over two decades ago, the nostalgia will likely raise a smile. Unfortunately, if you didn't play the original Kick Off or any of the subsequent entries in the series, you'll probably be confounded almost immediately upon starting a game.

As you control your team from a top down view, you'll notice that the ball doesn't stick to your feet like in modern football games, and so you must hold down the X button to retain possession before changing direction when trying to dribble. None of this is made apparent to you and so you'll probably head to the tutorial mode to figure out how to play the game, but when you do you'll discover that the practice mode on offer here teaches you how to play the game no more effectively than visiting the cockpit of an aeroplane teaches you how to become a pilot.

Playing in practice mode puts you on the pitch with no opposition team and allows you to try and complete challenges such as scoring from the centre circle or making twenty successful passes in thirty seconds, but how you're even supposed to start these challenges isn't obvious, and the game makes no effort whatsoever to tell you how to go about doing so. There's no tutorial in the traditional sense, and even if you make the effort to hunt for a control scheme among the options you'll find that there is no control scheme present because there are no options. It's unfathomable that a game released in 2016, especially one that controls as unintuitively as Kick Off Revival, features absolutely no form of help for the player. Even Bloodborne gives you the control scheme.

If you manage to work out how to play the game, or you have the muscle memory required to do so from playing older games in the series, you'll find that the game plays much like the original Kick Off did. The football is fast and chaotic; it's occasionally thrilling but more often frustrating. The archaic controls make the game difficult to master, and while that makes pulling off a complicated move feel like a herculean accomplishment that should be celebrated, these moments of joy are few and far between.

While Revival plays similarly to the original Kick Off, there are numerous differences since the 1989 game featured yellow cards, injuries, and action replays after goals, and Kick Off Revival for some inexplicable reason does not. The offside rule is bafflingly non-existent too, and goalkeepers have no qualms about picking up the ball after a back-pass from a defender despite it being illegal in football since 1992. Even if you give the developer the benefit of the doubt and assume that it removed all of these things from the game in the interest of making it more fun, it results in Kick Off Revival actually feeling like a backwards step from the original game that came out 27 years ago.

The game modes on offer are pretty scant, too. You can play a standard game against the computer but the AI you'll play against drifts between sheer incompetence and superhuman ability on a whim leading to a frequently frustrating experience. There's also an option to play a standard game against a friend. You can play a European Cup, which is a thinly veiled unofficial version of the current 2016 European Championship, again, against the computer or a friend. Network play allows you to take on other players around the world online, and is likely the most fun you'll be able to have playing Kick Off Revival since few who are playing it online appear to know how to play the game yet leading to some unintentional hilarity.

Conclusion

Dino Dini's Kick Off Revival doesn't attempt to compete with FIFA and that's fine. There's a place on the market for simpler, old school sports games that rely on arcade fun rather than authenticity. But this reboot of the franchise is actually a step backwards for the series in some ways, and the lack of a tutorial or help of any kind results in the learning curve being more of a learning brick wall. There's nothing wrong with being difficult to master, but the game is difficult to pick up and play too, and the rewards too few to justify the effort. Kick Off Revival can be okay in short bursts, but the sheer weight of issues with the game make it hard to recommend to anybody other than fans of the original Kick Off games. And even they will likely be disappointed.