Disorder Reviews: Food Brand Tie-In Games [MEGA REVIEW]

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Martintox

Mister Disorder
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Apr 3, 2020
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Martintox Presents: Disorder Reviews

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I have a new album and a new Disorder Reviews blog. I have recently recovered from a stroke, and I am now in serious debt.

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FOOD BRAND TIE-IN GAMES: AN OVERVIEW

It is as the old saying goes: you are what you eat, and you eat what you play. Being a copy of Bad Boys: Miami Takedown myself, I would certainly know that much. Since the rise of video games as a medium of artistic expression, developers and designers have theorized how to best bring together the merits of nutrition (the food of the body) and videoludic entertainment (also the food of the body, but it causes different chemical reactions). Mind you, I don't mean to refer to titles such as Cooking Mama; since the average gamer is fat enough to look at a computer and see food, games of the sort will only serve to repel them through their promotion of potentially LaVeyan Satanic practices, namely preparing your meals yourself with condiments that weren't sold in cans. Instead, I speak of the crossover between gaming and the food brands that have been the companion to many a player who moved out of their parents' home to become a full-time streamer, only to face the harrowing reality that such a vocation is less a career prospect and more an existential punishment.

Truth be told, food brand games have actually undergone a recession since the start of the millennium, with close to no works of note in the 2010s (the main exception is I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator, which doesn't actually count since it's a visual novel and therefore not art). My theory is that the medium has gotten sufficiently close to providing a cinematic experience that product placement is currently more efficient than building a full game around a food IP. This is largely due to the work of pioneers such as David Cage and Hideo Kojima, the latter of whom has included Mountain Dew and Doritos in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (to say nothing of CalorieMate in MGS3 and the iPod in MGS4) as a way to pay tribute to Geoff Keighley, the Dorito Pope. If we want to find true food brand video games, we must turn the clock back to a time when housing prices weren't quite as much of a concern for Americans and Australians alike.


While the popularity and number of brand-based titles had already largely diminished by then, the 2000s saw the release of a few (more or less hidden) gems with their fair share of adventurous mechanical ideas. Sneak King is one of the best-known brand titles of all time, with upwards of millions of copies sold soon after its release in 2006, as well as a splendid arcade-style stealth game where you take control of the Burger King mascot and give people burgers stealthily enough so that they don't notice you pull them out of your ass. Not only is the combo-centric approach a fresh and tasty take on MGS-style gameplay, the King is also a fascinating hybrid of King Harkinian from the Zelda CD-i games (his extravagant movement animations) and the King of Midland from Berserk (his incestuous tendencies, though this aspect has been somewhat lost in localization, much like some of the content in Drakengard). A less successful, though no less interesting game, is the action-adventure fantasy epic Darkened Skye from a few years earlier, with a magic system that allows players to allocate different combinations of colored Skittles so as to use particular spells. (You do not actually eat Skittles in-game, which is fortunate because they taste like absolute shit; Smarties are the superior multi-color candy by far.)

If you want to get serious about the genre, however, you have to go as far back as the 1990s: this was the Golden Age of Brand Games, where titles of the sort could equal, and sometimes even surpass the non-brand classics (some "scholars" will tell you that brand game domination started in the 1980s with works such as Chase the Chuck Wagon, but such people are also likely to defend Pepsi Invaders, a pro-Coke propaganda piece that violates at least seven articles of the Geneva Convention). Yo! Noid was the first of multiple major food-based platformers, going above and beyond the likes of Mario and Kirby with the addition of card-based Domino's pizza eating battles as boss levels. This game used to be the shit back in high school: we regularly had tournaments where multiple kids would race to finish the game as fast as possible, then eat a bunch of pizza until they were forced to go to the infirmary. We stopped once we had found out one of the younger classmates in 8th grade got type 2 diabetes out of the event, but it was fun while it lasted.


The subsequent years saw the release of many other amazing platformers: M.C. Kids was a nice send-off to the original Nintendo Entertainment System, opening the door for next-generation masterpieces such as the Chester Cheetah duology, McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure (by the same devs who released Gunstar Heroes the same year, therefore making it one of the best games of all time by mere osmosis), and the highly influential Cool Spot, which has long served as a benchmark for good game design and storytelling due to its realistic depiction of Florida and themes of Americanization (Spot genocides the seaside wildlife on his mission to convert all the beach-goers to the 7-UP faith). Also noteworthy is Chex Quest, a revolutionary first-person shooter that built upon the foundations of Super 3D Noah's Ark and added addictive fast-paced movement as well as vertical navigation; many games would take inspiration from it in turn, leading to the term "Chex-like". In short, this category of video games, however small it may be, is host to many works that stand out as genuinely innovative pieces of media in addition to very efficient product placement. However, for all the Cool Spots and Chex Quests in this world, there is a game that towers over them all, with more realistic graphics, more engaging gameplay, and more intense moral quandaries. This game is PEPSIMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN



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STAY TUNED FOR PART 2, COMING IN 30 SECONDS
 
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Martintox

Mister Disorder
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PEPSIMAN


Developer: KID
Publisher: KID
Director: Pepsi
Producer: Hisayoshi Ichikawa
Composer: The Pepsiman Band
Release Date: 4 March 1999
Systems: PlayStation 1
Genre: third-person action, philosophical epic

Soon after releasing Pepsiman, the staff of KID (full name: Kindle Imagine Develop) entered a deep depression and began pumping out visual novels until their bankruptcy in 2006, crushed by the fact that they could never make anything remotely as good ever again.

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Believe it or not, there was once a time when PC gaming was not the objectively correct way to experience video games. Before the number of console and home computer brands had sufficiently whittled down so as to allow for the centralization of developers, the prospect of uniting their collective output under one roof was a pipe dream at best; this issue was a testament to gaming's immaturity as an art form at the time (Microsoft have just recently realized that console exclusives only serve to hold back the industry, hence why all their XB1 exclusives are also on PC; if the rumors of a Bloodborne PC port are true, then I can only hope that Sony is learning this same lesson). The console wars today are but a shadow of what they once were: if differences in religion didn't start a fight in my old Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo school back in the day, it was the Nintendo vs. Sega vs. Intellivision debate, and it was arguably even more difficult to get some sort of consensus. The SNES had Super 3D Noah's Ark, the Megadrive had Columns, and the Intellivision had B-17 Bomber. The PlayStation made quite a ruckus once it had come into the fray, but the bickering and fighting came to a sudden halt upon the release of Pepsiman.

Third-rate historians generally believe that King's Field, being FromSoftware's first franchise, is the leading precursor to the highly acclaimed Souls trilogy (Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne Souls). This is a complete and utter farce from the talking heads at the Coca-Cola Company, whom I like to call "Cokeheads". The truth is that Pepsiman has laid just about all of the groundwork for the Souls series. To give a short description (almost as short as the game itself, because it doesn't need to last 300 hours to get your undivided attention like a JRPG does), you play as the eponymous Pepsiman (also known as "der Übermensch von Pepsi" in the German-American novelization), who must run through a gauntlet of 12 levels so as to quench the thirst of the many denizens of Pepsi City. You cannot walk or stand still: Pepsiman has no time to rest. You can, however, sprint, slide, and jump to avoid the many obstacles before you. This sounds like a small amount of abilities, but rest assured that you will need to master the absolute shit out of every single one of them if you want to finish this game.

We can already see how the Souls titles took inspiration from KID's masterpiece, since they also offer a small range of options that are easy to learn and difficult to master. In fact, their brilliant use of ambiguous, often environmental storytelling also originates from Pepsiman. Due to its short length, the game takes very little time to give any superfluous exposition on the main character, his environment, or his enemies, leaving many subtle elements up to interpretation. For one, there is the matter of the setting: it's generally believed that Pepsi City and its surroundings could be a dystopian-utopic depiction of America, but Pepsi fans (or "PepScholars") have had many different takes on this over the years. In addition, what about the dozens upon dozens of bikers in Stage 3, Scene 1? What about the malfunctioning Pepsi supercomputer in the Pepsi laboratory surrounded by large Pepsi cans in Stage 4, Scene 2? The first and last "escape" levels (S1S3 and S4S3), in which the protagonist has to escape a giant can of Pepsi, make up the biggest mystery in the entire lore, and have been the subject of endless theories: is the game meant to represent a cycle of life and death in which Pepsi is a core philosophy? (Dark Souls, much?) Is Pepsiman actually undergoing penance for his PepSins (Blasphemous, much?), or is he looking to restore his honor in a sort of Pepsiclan? (Shakira: Hips Don't Lie Twice, much?) In case those aren't enough similarities for you, I should note that some scrubs genuinely want an easy mode for Pepsiman, using flimsy buzzwords such as "accessibility" to try and overlook the fact that it's 100% supposed to make you feel the pain of childbirth if you're not good enough.

Really, to merely describe this game as a precursor to the Souls series is to undermine the sheer impact it's had on the entire medium. Even the biggest names of the era stole from it: not only does Sonic's design clearly ape the main character's color scheme, Sonic Adventure 2 rips off two parts of Pepsiman in the first level, more precisely S1S2 (where you ride a surfboard-like object down a sloped street) and S2S3 (where you run away from a truck and towards the camera). Furthermore, the Super Smash Bros. series outright stole this game's glide cancelling ability, since you can cancel a sprint into a slide. It's tempting to say Nintendo should make reparations, but in truth, all video games since the release of Pepsiman have wrongfully taken from it. See, this is the game that invented running: before its release, humanity could only run in two dimensions, and we should be most thankful that KID were able to make it 3D. Pepsiman is not only the best food game, it's the best PS1 game (the only other title that comes even remotely close is Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories) and the greatest game of all time. As long as humanity exists, it will be impossible to top it until Pepsiman 2, the sign of the end times and the second coming of Christ himself. Pepsi for Gaming Forum.

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PERSONAL RATING: *****
RECOMMENDATION RATING: *****
LETTERED RATING: A+


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THE UNDERTALE REMINDER

Remember Burgerpants? Good, now you remember that he was the only remotely tolerable part of the absolute shitstain that is Hotland. If the guy could sell you some Pepsi, perhaps he could single-handedly salvage that shitshow of an area.
 
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Neuromancer

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Read it while enjoying a cold can of Pepsi twist that came along with the advertisement money. Now I want another.
 

Fat Hippo

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Read it while enjoying a cold can of Pepsi twist that came along with the advertisement money. Now I want another.
You can buy one can of Pepsi with the money you get from Martin writing one review? Damn, he's gonna be doing this awhile.
 

Neuromancer

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You can buy one can of Pepsi with the money you get from Martin writing one review? Damn, he's gonna be doing this awhile.
No, Pepsi sent a couple six-packs along with the money for the advertisement of their products.

Martin is only entitled to writer's credit anyway.