The 1980s to 1990s was undoubtedly the era of the platformer. Bearing witness, as it did, to the spiritual birth of the console era proper, the period can boast many of the best examples of the genre. In those heady days of discovery, the games industry had something of a wild west feel to it; a feeling of a new frontier with fantastic new discoveries being unveiled seemingly every week.
From this brave new world came some of the true luminaries of the industry. The stomping ground of titans like Sonic and Mario, the final decades of the 20th century set the tone for what could be argued to be platforming perfection, refining the genre to the point of virtual perfection.
Naturally, in the fine tradition of media industries, this success led to a wave of titles which, at best can be described as drawing inspiration from these stalwarts and, at worst, lazily copied from them.
Seemed every developer wanted to grab a slice of Sonic and Mario’s massive pie around that time. From inspired but flawed ‘homages’ such as Bugsy the cat, through merchandised emulations like Zool, to amateurish rip-offs like the original Giana Sisters; there was a swathe of titles inspired by the genre-de-jour, with mixed results, quality wise.
Today’s subject was one of those titles, a by-product of the platformer gold rush. At its heart a solid, though uninspiring platformer, Cool Spot still retains a place in the heart of many of those who played it way back when it hit the scene in 1993. But the puzzling thing is trying to put your finger on just why that is.
Really, we should hate Cool Spot. He’s a corporate mascot, the very definition of a sell-out you’re ever likely to see. For those who have not run across our erstwhile leading-man; Cool Spot was/is the mascot for 7-up, the lemon & lime fizzy tooth-killing beverage beloved by many. He originally started life as a part of the 7-up logo; the red spot connecting the two parts of the name. A humbler beginning you’re unlikely to find, I think we can all agree. However, over time, the once inauspicious red circle developed, eventually becoming anthropomorphically personified as the embodiment of the 7-up brand, sporting arms, legs and a bitching pair of shades daddio!
He became fairly omnipresent, featuring in advertising and merchandising globally as the poster boy of carbonated citrus goodness everywhere. I mean, it was only natural that eventually the guy was given his own game eventually.
As the more observant among you will have surmised, the game, Cool Spot, arrived on Sega Megadrive and SNES in 1993. As alluded to before, the game itself is, gameplay wise, nothing special. The player is tasked with traversing the game world by jumping and running, collecting items (in this case red spots in place of coins or rings) while avoiding a menagerie of enemies. Pretty standard stuff all told. Really, when it comes to the actual mechanics, there was nothing to differentiate it from any of the other also-rans in the genre.
So what really makes the game stand out?
Short and simple; its Cool Spot himself. The character himself, despite being voiceless and, when you get down to it, faceless, somehow manages to have far more character than the vast majority of his peers. To play the game is to fall in love with the claret-coloured little bugger. From the aforementioned bitching shades, to the funky trainers to the swaggering walk, Cool Spot exuded just that: cool. More than any 2-d character model I’ve come across from that era, Cool Spot moves in an incredibly dynamic way. He’s always moving, his body flexing and contorting athletically in a cocksure manner.
That the thing, really. Cool Spot worked so well because he was pretty much the embodiment of his time. I defy anyone to find a more 90s character than Cool Spot; it’s not possible! Everything about the character is unequivocally, as the saying of the time goes, ‘Awesome!’ (said while throwing the horns of course!). Hell, the game starts with our protagonist surfing in on a bottle of 7-Up to a pumping soundtrack, much like the later Sonic games. In an era when extreme sports were king, Cool Spot was the Crown Prince of cool.
Cool Spot defied everything he should have been to become more than just a marketing gambit. In any other scenario he’d have been loathed; seen as just another cynical corporate play: consigned to the bargain bin of obscurity. Not just a sell-out, but worse: something that was never even in a position to sell out from.
Really, the forgotten franchise here is not Cool Spot the game, not really. The title itself deserves no real acknowledgement. No, the real noteworthy thing of merit here is Cool Spot the character himself. A living, breathing example of what good character design and care can achieve, Cool Spot managed to rise above expectations an actually be kickass. And for that, he deserves to be remembered.
The year was 1999. The survival horror genre would never be the same again. The scary but silly antics of the Resident Evil series were well at the forefront of the horror genre when Konami threw their shadowy, profoundly confusing hat into the ring with the game-changing Silent Hill. However, in 1999 I was five years old and still happily ploughing through Crash Bandicoot 2. It was years later that I first came into contact with the terrifying series for me, and it led to a hideous, malformed romance to last a lifetime. With this article, I’d like to take things back to the source, with a look at the game that started it all.
All I wanted in my early teens was a Sega Saturn. I was desperate for one, however my mum would never buy me one. She was more interested in making sure that I went outside, socialised and got some exercise. Because of this, I can’t really remember how I ended up with this game. It’s also why I hate the outside world and actively avoid conversation with other people. Nevertheless, what I do know is that Delta Force 2 was my first proper first person shooter and formed my expectations of the genre all the way up until Call of Duty Finest Hour.
If you’re a PC gamer, chances are you play at least two or three games which either can be modded, are or themselves mods of other games. However, you might not even realise it.
Paul takes a look back at one of the more infamous titles of this console generation as he tackles Silicon Knights’ Action RPG Too Human.
Is it as bad as its reputation suggests? Tune in and find out!
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