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Pepsiman (PlayStation) artwork

Pepsiman (PlayStation) review


"The problem is though, how do you turn a popular series of TV advertisements into a half way decent video game? OK, so there's no easy answer. From a purely corporate perspective, you'd probably want to fill such a title with any number of product placements, perhaps even looping the campaign's catchy jingle as well. Right then, check, check and double check, but what of the game itself?"



Unbeknownst to the Western world, the Cola Wars were fought and won on the streets of Tokyo during the latter half of the 1990s. For it was here that a hero emerged, a saviour of the thirsty masses and a champion quite like no other. Dressed in a body hugging silver and electric blue skin suit, Pepsiman was charged with delivering thirst quenching beverages to those most in need. Be it high-a-top a mountainous peak or a far off tropical island, our hero was there, spreading the full flavored goodness of America's favorite soft-drink, one taste bud at a time...

Same great taste

Somewhere out there a child is crying, and what it needs now more than anything else is an ice cold blast of sweet, sweet Pepsi. Unfortunately enough for its mother however, the fridge is empty and she's fast run out of patience. Cue the music, start the chant, here comes Pepsiman and he's going to save the day. A mighty kick tears the front door from its hinges, a loud bubbling sound then fills the air and a Pepsi materializes in front of the screaming child. Our hero strikes a pose, informs the world that it's safe from thirst, then attempts to jump through the window, smacking his head on the frame in the process. Christ, that must have hurt! *insert company slogan here*

The problem is though, how do you turn a popular series of TV advertisements into a half way decent video game? OK, so there's no easy answer. From a purely corporate perspective, you'd probably want to fill such a title with any number of product placements, perhaps even looping the campaign's catchy jingle as well. Right then, check, check and double check, but what of the game itself? Where should you take it and how should it play? Surprisingly enough, developers Kid Genius have worked out an angle that's sure to satisfy all comers, combining the Pepsiman concept with a parody of the aging classic, Paperboy. And though we're now delivering our wares across the third dimension, the urban obstacle courses that you're about to encounter have more than enough nostalgia to spare. In a good way of course!

With everything on the up and up, it may come as a surprise to learn that Pepsiman opens in the most unusual of fashions. There are no overblown pyrotechnics, no heroic feats of super human endurance, and let's be honest now, not even a drop of cool. No, rather than anything desirable, players are presented with a fat, middle aged American as he helps himself to not one, but five cans of cola at a time. "Let's get the game started" he states. "Is he really the face of Pepsi?" you wonder. It's WTF to the nth degree, his habitual snorting and stained Maui shirt only serve to further your shock. Is Kid Genius having a go at us? Quite possibly it would seem.

That being said however, it's having put the unsightly stereotype behind them that players are free to concentrate on the job at hand. A vending machine across town has just run out of Pepsi, and as luck would have it, it's fallen to you to set things straight. So on your marks Pepsiman, get set... GO! You're off like a bat out of hell, running into the screen on a single track path that invariably leads straight into danger. Sidestep the exposed manhole, leap over a speeding car and slide under that badly parked truck. Run Pepsiman, RUN! Sprint through someone's living room, jump out of their window and over their fence. Watch it good man! Road works ahead! A crane almost knocks you off your feet as a workman bounces back and forth on his jackhammer. Don't tire yet, you're almost there! Grab a can of Pepsi, power yourself up, and run even faster. Come on, you can do it! Never mind the clock...

Still, as frantic as the action may seem, Pepsiman invariably disappoints. We could label its brief, four stage challenge a rip-off... but this is a budget title, and what else did you expect? I think I'd prefer to believe the action is still enjoyable, and the only real disappointment is the way Kid Genius have failed to implement the near limitless humor of the license itself. Oh Pepsiman tries to be funny, oh my, how it tries. But where the TV campaigns saw our luckless hero breaking his legs, slammed through brick walls, and carried off on stretchers, all we get are open manhole covers and the occasional, skull shattering concussion. How fair's that?

... and yes, I'm continuing to ignore the overweight stereotype.

Annoyances, nitpicking and missed opportunities aside, everything else looks about as good as a late-gen PS1 title can get. Retro enthusiasts should know what to expect, colorful scenery running at a mostly smooth, 30 fps with the occasional touch of clipping for full effect. The various background elements look great from a distance, filling the screen with an abundant variety and any number of energy sapping dangers. Get too close to such obstacles however and the PS1's limitations begin to show, detail eventually making way for pixelated blobs of human, truck, and dog shaped color. Meanwhile, the previously mentioned theme song runs through its infinite loop, providing a high energy tempo that's repetitive and simple, yet exciting and fun. Sentiments that could also be applied to the game itself...

But where his TV based persona would trip and fall on the most obvious of obstacles, so has Pepsiman's debut PS1 outing. Had Kid Genius really cut loose, there's no doubt in my mind this could have been something of a gem: a commercially designed game that rose above its questionable origins and achieved greatness where others have failed. It was nice to see the Paperboy premise dragged back into relevance, how about giving us more of it? Rather than lamenting on what could have been though, let's look at what is, and what is is actually quite good. The action is surprisingly fresh all things considered, the graphics are sweet, and our friend the American... well, even he starts to grow on you after a while. As a budget priced title Pepsiman is unbeatable. As a licensed title it's definitely come close. And as a lost opportunity, well, it's immense. Not bad but not great. Check it out if you can...


Pros
----

* Classic retro arcade action meets 3D slapstick
* Pepsiman is as charismatic as ever
* Fast, fluid action with a flair for the absurd
* The various tips of the hat to past Pepsi campaigns are fun
* Even with only 4 stages, there's still a challenge to be had
* At only 2,000yen, Pepsiman is budget gaming goodness
* Stereotypes have never been so life changing

Cons
----

* Pepsiman weighs in at a woeful 4 stages
* The controls can be difficult to get used to
* The TV commercial's laugh out loud humor hasn't been fully implemented

Rating: 7/10

midwinter's avatar
Staff review by Michael Scott (May 23, 2005)

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