How Can I Play It?: Food mascot games

You're out of luck if you want to experience the games covered in this week's episode on modern hardware... well, almost.

Our "How Can I Play It?" series lays out the best options for legitimately and legally playing the classic games we cover here at Retronauts, ideally on current platforms. 

The "How Can I Play It?" column revolves around the topics featured on our weekly podcast, and so far it's been pretty straightforward. This time around, however, we've hit a bit of a stumbling block. You see, it's nearly impossible to play any of the games in episode 115 on modern game systems.

The entire common thread binding this week's games is that they all feature licensed characters, many of whom appeared in short-lived advertising campaigns and have long since become defunct. While a few of these mascotcharacters still lurk within the pop culture ether, even those have evolved (or rather, have been rebranded) from the versions featured in games from 25 years ago. Chester Cheetah, for example, made a comeback a few years back as a strangely posh British mascot leading children into mischief — a far cry from the hip ’90s cat-dude who was above such nonsense. Even Ronald McDonald is pretty much forgotten these days!

For the most part, this means that if you want to play a classic food mascot game, you'll either need to scare up the original hardware or just go ahead and emulate it. Chase the Chuckwagon will never see the light of day again, I'm afraid. Even the few games that didn't begin life as a marketing tie-in and only acquired a license in localization (such as Yo! Noid, which began as an original work called Masked Ninja Hanamaru) don't seem to merit reissue.

There is, however, one exception. 

Chex Quest

Released in 1996 as a free pack-in giveaway with specially marked boxes of Chex cereal, you can think of this total conversion mod of the original DOOM as the video game equivalent of AOL demo discs. It was everywhere, and it has a surprisingly loyal following thanks to the fact that it was free with a relatively health-conscious breakfast cereal. That allowed Chex Quest to sneak its way past stingy parents who wouldn't buy their kids games, and the relatively non-violent design of the game made it friendly even in households that would have freaked at the sight of a standard DOOM-clone first-person shooter.

Given Chex Quest's cachet, perhaps it should come as little surprise that its original designer, Charles Jacobi, has been working on an HD conversion of his cult hit for the past couple of years. The game has been something of a personal cottage industry for Jacobi; he's already created two unofficial sequels. Like those follow-ups, this remake won't be officially sanctioned by Ralston-Purina (or rather, Nestlé, which bought Chex's parent company)… but since he's creating it as a free release, it's hard to imagine the corporation taking offense. It's an immersive advertisement for their product, for crying out loud.

Anyway, we don't know when Chex Quest HD will arrive, but it'll happen eventually. In the meantime, since the original game did run on the standard DOOM engine, you could probably get the 1996 edition running on modern systems and even browsers without too much trouble…