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CONSOLE: Game Gear DEVELOPER: Aspect PUBLISHER: Sega
RELEASE DATE (JP): August 5, 1994 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

More exciting than a cola-noscopy!

Wh-wh-what is THIS?! A licensed game that isn't terrible? A licensed game that is actually playable? Surely this cannot be!

Alas, that is precisely what Coca-Cola Kid is. It's a game based on a carbonated beverage that somehow manages to be awesome. Published only in Japan by Sega and sponsored by Coca-Cola (naturally), this one actually had a release alongside a unique red Game Gear system with the Coca-Cola logo imprinted on it. Forget in-game advertisements: we're talking outside-the-game advertisements now! Yes, you're playing Ecco the Dolphin, but all the while, you are subconsciously thinking about having a delicious, bubbly Coca-Cola with that smooth cola flavour. Umm... excuse me a moment.

*runs to the refrigerator*

Ah. Sorry about that. Anyway, the game stars the Coca-Cola Kid, the Japanese mascot for the drink from the 1990s. I'm not entirely sure about the storyline, though there is one, consisting of a regular man transforming into a frantic-haired/bearded punk; then a young boy (presumably the Coca-Cola Kid) says some other things while appearing determined. I imagine the bearded ruffian is trying to somehow sabotage or capture the world's supply of Coca-Cola (and, judging by the game's ending, your mother as well), so you must take it upon yourself to stop him. Of course, his gang of creepers will certainly try to give you a rough time. That's what soda enthusiasts do.

For inspiration, the developer pulled quite generously from the Sonic the Hedgehog series in a few too many ways. For one thing, each "world" is divided into three stages, the final consisting of a boss battle. Secondly, you have a timer for each stage that starts at zero and continues until you hit 9:59, and then you die... not unlike a certain hedgehog-based game! Third, your character can (somehow) transform into freaky Super Saiyan mode and dash really quickly, which is actually the only way to get across certain platforms or defeat specific bosses. Sonic could do the same thing, although not exactly at will like Coca-Cola Kid. As well, the levels are set up very similarly with multiple paths to get to the end (occasionally TOO many paths -- in one level, you can often be lead to a dead end where the only way out is suicide), breakable walls, and giant red crates to bust (okay, maybe there were no crates in Sonic the Hedgehog AND occasionally, they're disco lights). In short, it's like a modified Sonic the Hedgehog game. Maybe this was the only way to make Coke seem worthwhile as a video game: plagiarize the basic gameplay of something popular at the time. I guess it's no coincidence that the developer (Aspect) had previously worked on Sonic Chaos for Game Gear, which shares many similarities. Suspicious!


As the Coca-Cola Kid, only you can save the world on a carbonated stomach!

But there are a few features that help to make this one more than a mere Sonic clone. One of the key mechanics is Coca-Cola Kid's ability to climb walls. Well, okay, that's not quite right. Actually, he can just hop from one wall to a parallel one, slowly making his way upward. The controls for this take some getting used to; you have to jump THEN press the direction you're jumping. After a few fails, it should eventually become second nature. As well, after collecting coins and spending them between areas, your character can purchase the brief ability to toss a red disc at enemies. It's the only projectile weapon available, and it's a pleasant alternative to just kicking your way through the journey. Coca-Cola Kid can also occasionally ride a skateboard if he finds one, although keeping it for very long is a challenge in itself. It's not hard to crash-land that thing. And, unlike the other games, you collect cans and bottles of Coke for health! ...Damn right!

The game looks fairly decent for a Game Gear title. They were never particularly spectacular in the visual department, but Coca-Cola Kid does its job. The best graphics can be found in the Disco stage, even if they aren't especially elaborate. It's too bad the Game Gear (and the Genesis) couldn't handle transparency; it does make titles that fake it look poor by comparison. I do find it a bit annoying -- and this isn't an issue with just this title alone -- that you can only see a limited area on your screen, causing the occasional plunder into a pit when you jump down from a ledge, only to discover that there's nothing but oncoming death below. The music is fair as well, though no tunes come to mind. It's just there to keep the ears busy while you're running through each stage.

I'm still stunned, however, by the sheer fact that Coca-Cola Kid is actually fun. That's probably because, deep down, it's just a Sonic the Hedgehog game set in a city with a rad-looking boy in place of the blue blur. And everybody loves a classic Sonic game, right? I'm also thankful that the inclusion of Coca-Cola logo and other merchandise was kept to a general minimum, making this feel just a little less like a corporation shoving its product down our collective throats. Coca-Cola Kid, I salute you. Wait, you faded away with the times? Oh.


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