Re(?)Considered: Cool Spot
As difficult as it may be for the industry to admit, a lot of games are, quite simply, commercials. Many contemporary AAA games feel as though they primarily exist as a platform to sell season passes, lootboxes or piecemeal downloadable content. Old games were honest about their advertising. McDonald's had a greasy clown hand in it – M.C Kids, Global Gladiators and Treasure's demented, glorious McDonald's Treasureland Adventure all wear their clogged hearts on their sleeves. Yo! Noid shilled Domino's Pizza. Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool pushed Cheetos on the nation's youth. The list goes on.
Cool Spot, on the surface, is less obvious in its cynicism. What could it possibly be a commercial for? Measles? Then you boot it, and the sight of the titular Cool Spot shredding the waves on a bottle of 7 Up assaults your eyeballs. Pretty uncola, Virgin Games. I mean uncool. Uncool.
In a groundbreaking first for Re(?)Considered, Cool Spot is a side-scrolling platform game. It was released on many platforms - Master System, Amiga and DOS - but I will be focusing on the SNES and Genesis versions here because they're the best ones. They're so similar it's not worth nitpicking the differences – SNES has more colour, Genesis has greater screen resolution, etc – so pick one and get stuck in.
It shouldn't work. It shouldn't be engaging. But it is. Spot must explore a diverse series of genuinely interesting locales; a sandy beach, a decrepit dock, an asbestos-lined attic and the shelves of a toy store neatly avoid the archetypes of ice level, fire level etc. Strewn throughout the stages are “Cool Points”, a physical manifestation of the social currency you will accrue in real life by succumbing to peer pressure. Try it at home, kids! Gathering these points has a purpose besides cheap ego-stroking; one of Spot's aesthetically identical friends is trapped in a cage in every area and cannot be freed without a certain percentage of Cool Points. Not quite sure how that shakes out in terms of realism. All I can assume is the captured Spot takes one look at the Cool Points-lacking would-be hero and dismisses him to save face. Only when Cool Spot is sufficiently finesse will the beleagured prisoner consent to his liberation.
The “good ending” (linked to a long-defunct contest to win something or other, presumably some 7 Up) is achieved by besting Cool Spot on the hardest mode, having completed all the bonus stages. Said bonuses are accessed by collecting enough Cool Points on each stage – 99% on the hardest mode – which allows you to play a vertical stage set in a 7 Up bottle. Clearing these tricky timed stages grants you a letter (ultimately spelling out “UNCOLA”). Finishing the game with all these letters intact (you lose one if you run out of lives) made you the winner! I have no idea who won this contest but I have no doubt they have lived a full and prosperous life.
Cool Spot is better than it has any right to be. It falls down on its sheer number of swarming enemies, which can be overwhelming at times. While it doesn't do a whole lot to stand out from the likes of Mario and Sonic, it's definitely one of the better advergames to see release. Now, if you'll excuse me, all this typing has made me thirsty. (Takes a sip of 7 Up) Urgh! God! Christ!! That is disgusting! That is absolutely fu(Snip! - Ed)