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At the beginning of each round, a set of balloons and (in later rounds) Pac-Man characters hover above the clown. As each object is dropped towards the clown, different colored balloons fall at different rates. The player must catch each falling object on the clown's hat. If the player does not catch a falling balloon or character, they have a chance to kick the object back into the air. This gives the player another chance to catch the object.
If the player fails to catch a balloon or Pac-Man character before it reaches the ground, the player loses a clown (or life). They resume the round with one of their remaining clowns. A player starts with 3 clowns. When the player loses all their clowns, the game is over.
In the first round, the balloons "pop" as soon as they hit the clown's hat (no Pac-Man characters appear in this round). In subsequent rounds, as a player catches objects, they stack up on top of the hat. Each new object must be caught on top of the stack. As the stack gets higher, there is less time to catch a dropping object. After a certain number of objects are caught, the game will pause and the clown will pop all the balloons currently stacked on the hat (or the top Pac-Man eats all the balloons and ghosts above him), making it easier to continue catching objects.
There are two types of Pac-Man characters in the game: ghosts and Pac-Men. Both are caught on the clown hat, just like balloons. When a Pac-Man is successfully caught, it will "eat" any ghosts and balloons at the top of the stack.
After some rounds, a special bonus round will be played, where balloons and bombs will be randomly dropped from the sides of the screen. The player must catch the balloons while avoiding the bombs. Missing a balloon or touching a bomb ends the bonus round, but does not lose a clown.
The game was controlled by a trackball and a kick button. There was a technique to slow the ball down so that the player could walk away and take a break. The balloon was wedged between a short stack of balloons and the side wall. When you rolled the clown on the unicycle away the balloon would have a flat tragectory and move very slowly. It would take several trips across the screen to work its way up to the top, then repeat back down. A good player could talk on the telephone, take a bathroom break, or catch a snack from the vending machine before the balloon would come back down to the clown. Nobody could tamper with the game while it was in this mode.
The end of the game brought a screen dump of sprites, looking more like a crash of the machine. There was no end screen.
Kick Man rename
The game has always included characters from the popular Pac-Man game. To further capitalize on the popularity of Pac-Man, later editions of the game changed the title to Kick Man.
The exact spelling of the new title is a little unclear. The marquee has "Kick", followed by a graphic of a foot, followed by "man". The fact that "man" is not capitalized implies that this was intended to be all one word, or at least a hyphenated word. However, the title screen displays "KICK" on one line and "MAN" on the next, with no hyphen. This makes it appear that the title is two words, "Kick Man".