(Review archived from February 12, 2023)
Every so often I feel like firing up a game. Shocking I know. But faced with lists and spreadsheets of backlogs for various systems, series in progress, and so forth it can be a bit daunting deciding just what exactly I’d like to play. I suspect I’m not alone in this conundrum. I have a few strategies for this situation, but one tried and true method is my patented random game selection method. Basically it involves feeding the aforementioned backlog lists and spreadsheets through a series of RNG choices, until I land on a single game. The caveat here is that if I resort to the randomizer method in the first place, I have to play whatever the result turns out to be. Otherwise the process means nothing. NOTHING, I SAY! So that’s a lot of preface just to explain how I wound up playing Cool Spot of all things. But … for the most part, the randomizer didn’t steer me too terribly wrong!
So what we have here is a shameless product tie-in game. And the product in question this time around is 7-Up, the original American lemon-lime Uncola. I don’t drink a whole lot of soda these days, but were I forced to choose, I’d consider myself more of a Sprite man. But this brings up an interesting point. Of all the sodas out on the market in the 90’s, what crazy twist of marketing chicanery led corporate suits to decide that 7-Up was the perfect vehicle to sell video games and conversely that Cool Spot would in turn move more 7-Up off the shelves? That will have to remain a rhetorical question, but to my knowledge this is the only purely soft drink related video game tie-in that I’m aware of (aside from other games featuring prominent product placement I mean).
So let’s get the obvious out of the way first, by way of an anecdotal observation. TV and movie tie-in games tend to be infamously uneven in quality (to put it charitably). For every classic Batman or TMNT tie-in, you have a slew of half-baked Bill and Ted or Back to the Future tie-ins (as well as lesser Batman & TMNT titles). But physical product tie-in games? By my reckoning, and against all odds, they tend to fare a bit … better? I’m certain this theory doesn’t hold water in every single case, but just off the top of my head, Chex Quest, Yo! Noid, and M.C. Kids … are all pretty decent games actually. Maybe they squeak by due to being slightly more of a rarity compared to media tie-ins or something. So! How does Cool Spot hold up against this ‘legendary’ pantheon of product tie-in games? Does it wreck my theory? Well … not entirely!
The protagonist of the game is literally the red spot from the 7-Up logo (I had to check to see if the 7-Up logo still features the spot and at least at the time of this writing it does). His mission is to rescue other spots that have been imprisoned by … someone(?), for … reasons(?). The game isn’t long on plot, and there are no boss fights, so if there is some kind of primary antagonist, they remain off camera for the entirety of the game. Personally I blame those infernal Sprite people. So the setup is pretty straightforward; you must work your way through platforming levels collecting inanimate spots (i.e. ‘cool points’), until you’ve collected enough that the game directs you to the location of the imprisoned anthropomorphic Spot at the end of the level. The number of cool points required to reach this threshold varies according to the difficulty level. There are 100 cool points to be found in each level and if you continue to collect them beyond the ‘rescue Spot’ threshold you can unlock bonus levels where the goal is to collect letters that eventually spell out UNCOLA. Does that all sound like a lot of collecting? It is. It eventually starts feeling a bit tedious actually.
But how does the game actually play? Not too bad! Jumping, bouncing and multi-directional shooting all feel pretty decent. But … this is one of those SNES titles where the cost of having a large well animated sprite is that the platforming feels imprecise and a bit sloppy. It’s not terrible mind, but if you’re looking for pin-point precision platforming, this ain’t it chief. So that’s a decidedly mediocre aspect. But otherwise, the presentation of the game is pretty great actually! The graphics here are very nice and presented in realist fashion. Spot is a tiny little fella, so most of the levels are of the ‘tiny character traversing everyday objects which are huge to them’ variety. Spot will work his way across the beach, the docks, cellars, and a couple variations on what seems to be toy stores(?), and each of them features some nice graphical flourishes and decent layout. Every level layout includes plenty of horizontal and vertical space to explore. As far as the music goes … hey it’s Tommy Tallarico! So I mean it’s pretty decent actually. It’s appropriately bouncy and … effervescent (har har). I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Tallarico soundtrack that outright sucked, and this is no different. Weirdly to these ears, it has a bit of an Amiga vibe to it – something about the particular tone and sound chips utilized I suppose (and maybe the fact that Virgin Interactive had a lot of development experience on the Amiga?).
In conclusion, I’d like to mention one more ‘fun fact’ about this game (I only just discovered this). There was actually a bit of a contest tie-in for this game (Are you a
bad enough dude to rescue the President? cool enough spot to collect all the stuff?) If you played the game on Hard mode and you collected all the letters to spell out UNCOLA, you could snap a picture of your accomplishment and send it off to the 7-Up marketing folks. In return they would send you a small plastic Cool Spot bendy figure. As you can see I was not a Cool enough Spot. Sprite 4 Lyfe. 6/10.