You know what’s really amusing? More often than not, if you take a television show or a movie and transform it into a video game, you’ll wind up with crap. But if you take a mascot of a snack food or soft drink conglomerate and center a platform game around said character, chances are you get a pretty good game. I don’t understand the science behind this paradox, but after playing Yo Noid and MCKids for the NES, and Chester Cheeteahs’ Wild Wild Quest for the SNES, I’m sad that a video game featuring Sugar Bear punching baddies was never made.
Back when 7up was called the “Uncola” (whatever that was supposed to mean. I think it translated into “undrinkable swill”), it’s mascot was the Spot, an anthropomorphic red dot bedecked with sunglasses and Mickey Mouse-like appendages. From what I can remember, the hapless little guy endured a fair amount of hardships in his commercials in efforts to promote his soft drink. There must be some kind of clinic these mascots must attend to cope with the punishment they suffer at the hands of not only their corporate slave drivers, but potential customers as well.
So suffice to say, if you want to make your mascot pay for his loyalty, what better way to dish out some extra curricular punishment by sticking him/her in a platform game where every creation under the sun wants him dead?! Perhaps a feature-length film adaptation, but I digress. Published by Virgin Interactive and designed and developed by David Perry, the mastermind behind Earthworm Jim and the Genesis version of Disney’s Aladdin, Cool Spot contains the trademark solid controls, fantastic music, and excellent visuals that he brings to all of his games.
GRAPHICS & SOUND 8.5 & 10/10: The visuals look great, while not as stellar as Earthworm Jim, which capitalized on its cartoonish atmosphere, Cool Spot’s universe is scaled down to his perspective as he traverses across books, toys and, lawn chairs while larger objects populate the background. The animation is very fluid and full of life, there is never a moment where anything is just sitting still. Spot snaps his fingers to the excellent soundtrack and will play with a yo-yo if the controller is untouched for a matter of seconds. The downside to the detailed visuals is you will often get hit by enemy fire that blends in with the background, especially in the second stage Pier Pressure. Clams will fire at you, and at first it’s hard to make out the projectiles and their pattern. As for the music, what can I say? This is one of the best soundtracks on the Sega Genesis library, and that’s pretty stiff competition already. It’s far superior to the SNES version because of that edgy grittiness that you can only find on the Genesis, what with its rebellious, dirty guitar-sounding chords that will have you grooving along with it as you play. Cool Spot’s audible noises that I think is supposed to be speech translates better on the console as well.
GAMEPLAY 7.5/10: Not to take too much away from the game, but the controls are not this game’s strongest point. It’s not due to poor programming or delays in response time, but rather overall speed for you character. While Spot can fire rapidly and otherwise avoid danger from foes, he walks very, very slowly. Unlike Mario or Sonic, who can gain momentum rather quickly, Spot walks like he’s trudging through 3 feet of mud. There’s no speed button, which stumps me, since the A button sits there, completely useless, and no double tap for a dash. He eventually gathers speed, but there will always be an obstacle or an enemy to stop your progress in quick succession, so until you clear you path for space, you probably won’t be moving too quickly. The other minor peeve I have is when jumping from a climbing position. Spot jumps high, so when trying to make a jump to a ledge, I often whack my head on an obstruction above me. It’s not a major issue, it was just annoying until I adjusted to it, but constantly falling and repeating the jump over and over can wear on the old nerves. Also, you know in some games when there’s a platform above you that you kind of miss by not going high enough to reach your mark? In Cool Spot, sometimes you will snap onto that transparent platform, even when halfway through it. Threw me the hell off, because I’m so used to landing on my previous space to try again, but I wind up falling anyway, I wasn’t expecting to stick the landing.
This takes some adjusting to when bouncing on bubbles, namely in the bonus stage, which is how you earn continues (collecting letters that spell UNCOLA, giving you six total). Not awful mechanics by any stretch, they can be tricky but are conquerable.
DIFFICULTY 7.5/10: Cool Spot is a respectable challenge for platform game enthusiasts. Your objective is to gather the red spots that are scattered about the stage and you need a minimum of 60 to pass. Gaining 85 earns you a shot at the bonus stages and 100% completion gets you an extra life. The bonus levels escalate in difficulty, so its imperative to get as much practice at navigating around each one. I suggest finding clock icons to give yourself thirty extra seconds to find the next letter. Go for the chips once you get some experience under your belt.
The true challenge does not come from the enemies, in my opinion, but rather the jumping puzzles this game. Most of these jumps are stretched as far as possible and it played on my mind as I became filled with uncertainty as whether or not I could make it. inconveniently placed spots challenge your mettle (or your greed) and it takes a bit of practice to stick your landing and get the spot without dying. Combine the far jumps with tiny platforms scattered about, and you have some stages that put your skills to the task. I welcome a good challenge, but I get increasingly frustrated with having to make my way back to the top after falling for an eternity. The enemies in the game are visually amusing, and while being a nuisance, can be dispatched easily, though the flying things piss me off. With the jerky camera and their erratic flight patterns, they are the most annoying foes in the game.
IN CLOSING: When I’m tracking down games I want to review, I keep certain ones in the back of my mind, and this was one I really wanted to do. I had fun playing it back then and still a one heck of a challenge today. It’s slick visual style and a fantastic soundtrack embodies the glory days when platform games were synonymous with fantastic. While the spot gathering can get a little bit tedious, it’s interesting to hunt down as many foreground objects to find how many are hidden from view. Cool Spot may get lost in the shuffle during conversations about great 2-D sidescrollers, but beneath a cheap marketing ploy to push a beverage lies a clever, gorgeous video game with a rocking soundtrack. OVERALL SCORE 8/10.
PROS: Great graphics, Top notch music, A solid platformer
CONS: Flying enemies are pesky, Jumps are severely tricky, Spot moves sloooooooow