Marketing, Run Amok

Gaming as the New Advertising Frontier

Welcome back to our look at the graphic design and evolution of games. Today we’ll be taking a look into the graphics and gameplay of marketing mascot video games.

Back in the late ’80s, early ’90s era of video games, several companies decided to stretch their commercial products into the video game market. The world was still in the early video game boom and the beginning of the console wars, and the ability to reach into that market was appealing to several companies. Their approach to this was at times misguided, as trying to apply early marketing strategies to a video game didn’t translate particularly well. On top of this, several of the games suffered from unfortunate programming and just general lack of vision. Still, many of these games hold a special nostalgic spot in gamers’ hearts.

How does one make a “good” marketing game? It should be fun, first and foremost, but creating a fun experience that directly involves a marketing campaign can be quite challenging, if not outright impossible. You want to promote the product or idea as much as you can, since that is the directive from whatever company has commissioned the game. They will want to see their products displayed prominently, and while there are several ways to do this, it’s quite easy for it to end up looking contrived or lazy. Audiences can already easily spot product placements in other forms of media, often making fun of it, so to create a game that is based on a product is sure to attract similar jeers, and thus the uphill battle is made even more difficult.

Most of these games are platformers, which strikes me as slightly strange. Not to say that platformers are bad, but it seems like there could have been other approaches to creating a marketing-based game. Why so many developers decided to create a platforming game is difficult to say. It could be that they were banking on the easy success of games like Super Mario Bros. This certainly seems the case with Mc Kids, which re-uses assets from Super Mario Bros. 3. It might be because of the seemingly simplistic setup for a platformer, requiring less asset tracking than, say, an adventure game ala The Legend of Zelda. It could be dictated directly from the parent companies themselves, though I could not find that information. With Chex Quest being our only outlier, and that game being a complete re-skin of another very popular first-person shooter, it does seem like these developers didn’t want to take a lot of risks with these games. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad, but it does change the impact of these games when it comes to the general progression of video games.

Yo Noid! (NES, 1990)

The Noid, one of the oddest marketing mascots to grace the TV screen. For those unfamiliar, the premise of the Noid was that he wanted to make your Domino’s Pizza late and/or wrong, essentially meaning that the Domino’s delivery people were constantly battling the Noid. How would this translate into a coherent game? Not well.

Yo Noid! is brought to us by Now Production and Capcom. The plot is simple: another Noid-like entity named Mr. Green is causing havoc in New York City with his slime creatures. The Mayor calls in the Noid to help, offering a reward in large amounts of pizza. Of course, the Noid accepts, and the adventure begins [ 1 ].

The game uses a modified engine of Wagan Land, an older game series by Namco. It’s a platformer that takes the player across several levels of whimsical New York City. The Noid moves sort of slowly, but can jump high, and has a surprisingly effective weapon in his yo-yo. Even so, navigating through the perilous streets is tough, as the Noid can’t take any damage or he’ll die. Being that this is an NES title, the Noid isn’t spectacularly detailed, but he looks recognizable enough that there would be no mistaking him for any other mascot.

Of all the strange mascots to get their own game, the Noid ranks right up there.

The 14 stages of Yo Noid! have simple color palettes, platforms, and detail that all give the idea of being in a city. There are docks, a park, the streets, rooftops, even a circus that came to town. You can often see skyscrapers in the backdrop when in outdoor areas, and there is a night stage where the city is lit up. All the stages have the same objective, which it to make it to the end within the time limit. The majority of these are regular platforming, but three stages feature a slight difference. Stage three has the Noid using his skateboard the entire time, and when he gains enough speed, he becomes invulnerable for a short amount of time. Stages eight and 14 feature a helicopter-like backpack called the Ornithopter, which allows the Noid to fly and makes for some tricky maneuvering. Most of these stages are quite difficult, as you can take no hits, and there are several traps and pitfalls that must be avoided. Notoriously, the first stage features water that moves up and down on a pattern, and this water will occasionally swallow up a platform that must be jumped to. If timed incorrectly, the player will find themselves downed before they realize their mistake. The second stage continues this seemingly merciless pattern with ice sheeting all the platforms, making movement slippery and much harder to control. The difficulty of stages is not linear, however, as some of the later stages are short and have few obstacles.

While this game does have bosses, they all function the same. The boss is another Noid of a different uniform color, and the two Noids face off in a pizza eating contest. You gather power ups for this contest in the stages and use them to help you win. The enemy Noid chooses a numbered card at random, and you choose a card non-randomly. The higher value card subtracts the lower value card, and that is the number of pizzas consumed. The first to fill their pizza meter wins. Your power ups include Pepper and Red Pepper, which will stop your opponent from eating any pizza that round, as well as x2 and x3 multipliers for your pizza. This is the only part of the game that features pizza in any way, and the pizza shop doesn’t even have a Domino’s logo on it. It’s kind of embarrassing.

Yo Noid! is an odd game, to be sure. It has a strange concept that reflects nothing of the marketing campaign it’s tied in with, and barely makes any references to the franchise it comes from apart from the mascot being the main character. Graphically, it’s fine as far as NES titles go, but its steep learning curve might drive more casual players away from it. Yo Noid! is an example of a misguided attempt to take a mascot with an already established concept, in this case making pizza deliveries late, and do anything but include that concept in a game. It’s not that you can’t make a game about a mascot where they don’t do the main thing they are known for; you just have to do it better than this. At the very least, one might expect more prominent references to Domino’s within the game. I can’t imagine that the big wigs at the pizza company were too pleased with the final product, and I would venture a guess and say neither was anyone who played this game.

Cool Spot (Super NES, Genesis, 1993)

The Spot was the mascot for 7 Up, a popular soft drink produced by Keurig Dr Pepper in the U.S. and Pepsi Co. elsewhere [ 2 ]. The Spot is one of many, and these weren’t referred to as “cool spots” until later in the commercial running.

The game itself is brought to us by Virgin Games, now called Virgin Interactive. The parent company, Virgin LTD, being the multinational conglomerate founded by the eccentric Richard Branson [ 3 ]. Cool Spot is a platformer where the player takes control of the Cool Spot. The objective is to free the other Spots who are trapped in the various game stages, but you can only free them if you have reached a sufficient Cool Percentage. You get more Cool Percentage by collecting non-sentient spots. There is a brief “how to play” screen that appears when you start the game for the first time that roughly explains all these concepts, which is helpful because there would otherwise be no indicator of what to do. We aren’t even told why all the spots are locked up in the first place.

The Spot itself looks like a pseudo-Claymation version of its commercial counterpart. It moves in a cool, smooth swagger, can jump high, and attacks by shooting soda bubbles with a snap of its fingers. The Spot can even take a few hits from foes before being defeated, though the exact amount of health remaining is represented arbitrarily by a portrait of the Spot that slowly melts and folds over. When idle for too long, the Spot will snap its fingers or play with its yo-yo. Truly, it’s hard to be much cooler than the Cool Spot [ 4 ].

If high fructose corn syrup was ever cool, it was in CoolSpot.

There are 11 regular stages and six bonus stages. You have a chance to enter a bonus stage from every regular onre by collecting enough of the non-sentient spots to reach at least 85 percent Coolness before you release the captured Spot. Finishing any of the levels with 85 percent or more Coolness sends you to these bonus stages. You need to get to the bonus stages to collect all six letters that spell “UNCOLA.” If you collect all six of these letters, you no longer go to a bonus stage no matter how much Cool Percentage you have.

The stage detail is quite nice, and they all showcase the struggle it would be to be the size of a Spot, where almost everything is larger than you. You start on the beach, having just surfed in on a bottle of 7 Up. You are immediately confronted by hostile hermit crabs that are roughly your size, and you come across a gigantic Walkman and beach chair. You’ll guide the Spot through a pier with more aquatic foes, the inside of a wall riddled with mice and spiders, a kid’s pool, a toy store, and what appears to be the inside of a toy dispensing machine. At this point, you go back through the previous stages, though they all have changes to them. The bonus stages take place inside a bottle of 7 Up, with many bubbles for the Spot to use as jumping points to gather up all the items therein.

While this game lacks any boss battles, it’s probably the most playable marketing crossover in this roster. It didn’t revolutionize anything about platforming or item collection, but it also didn’t need to. Making a game as good as this despite having only a paper-thin marketing campaign to base it on is an achievement in and of itself. The game also had a (now long-over) contest, requiring that any player beat it on hard difficulty without using any continues and collecting all the letters from bonus stages to spell UNCOLA. You’d send in a snapshot of a screen that appears at the end of the game when these conditions are met, and if you were selected, you’d receive one of the many prizes in the mail. Cool Spot is one of the stand outs among marketing games and is likely the best example of a strong marketing campaign tie-in game that is genuinely fun to play. Having played this one both in the early ’90s and again to refresh my memory for this article, I find that it still holds up to good platforming standards. 

California Raisins: The Grape Escape (NES, 2003)

The California Raisins started out as a commercial for Sun-Maid raisins in 1986 but surged in popularity and briefly became their own sub-franchise. This popularity didn’t last, and the Raisins stopped selling merchandise in 1998 [ 5 ]. The Grape Escape was a canceled game, due to the drop in the Raisins’ popularity. It wasn’t until 2003, when a prototype of the game was found, and the ROM later released, that people were able to play it [ 6 ].

This game is a platformer developed by Capcom, so it couldn’t be that bad, right [ 7 ]? You play as one of the Raisins (no idea which one), and your objective is to rescue your fellow Raisins who have been kidnapped by the Wild Bunch, a rival fruit band.

Your Raisin definitely looks the part, with its sunglasses, sneakers, and otherwise purple raisin body. Its movement animations are quite quick and smooth, and while it only has one speed, this Raisin can book. Your weapon appears to be grape jelly that you shoot out of a jelly pistol at high velocity. The Raisin can also climb vines and moonwalk if you press Select. Honestly, not a bad iteration of the mascots. Apart from the sprite visuals and movement, the Raisin has a health bar, represented by miniature suns, and an extra life bar, represented by a Raisin’s face. You can collect both additional health via suns and additional lives via raisins in the various stages.

Remembering that this is an NES title we have a limited color palette to draw from, and that is reflected in the overall stage design. There are five game stages, and you can pick which one you wish to attempt from a stage select screen. These stages have decent designs to them, and aren’t too long or too short, though they do use a lot of the same textures over and over. We have the Juicery, the Factory, the Maize Maze, and the Grapevine, with the final level of Sky High Records being unlocked once you have defeated the bosses in these first four maps. The Factory is an interior full of pipes, bricks, and grape juice. The Maize Maze is, well, a maze of corn, though it’s not actually tough to navigate in the same way that mazes traditionally are. The Grapevine is, as you might expect, a massive vined area teeming with grapes, leaves, and stalks. The Juicery has a similar feeling to the factory, with pipes and grape juice flowing, though it has a lot more juice, as one might expect. Finally, Sky High Records is not a skyscraper. No, that would be too realistic. Instead, it’s literally clouds with structures on them. It’s also the shortest level in the game. Overall, these maps aren’t terrible, in fact some of them are kind of fun and whimsically amusing, and visually they work quite well despite the limited graphics of the NES.

Our boss battles, however, leave a lot to be desired. All of them can be rush-killed if the player has enough health remaining when the battle begins, and their mechanics are incredibly simple. The Factory boss, a mean banana with a headband, spits what I can only assume is banana smoothie at you, and you simply jump over his projectiles and fire back with your own. In the Maize Maze you face an ear of corn, who jumps around and shoots three seeds up into the air which fall outward and are all easily avoided.

The Grapevine boss, a grape inside a giant stomping foot, hops around and causes rocks to fall, but these rocks only ever fall three at a time, with two being small and one large, again easily avoided. The Juicery boss, a barrel of grape juice with a nozzle for a nose, has perhaps the strangest mechanic. While it drops grape juice on you, you destroy the platform it’s standing on, though the platform never actually gets smaller or takes any apparent damage. Even when you’ve beaten the boss, the platform doesn’t disappear, just the boss does. The final boss in Sky High Records, a full bunch of green grapes wearing a toga drops grapes on you while hanging from its vine. All you have to do is shoot the big leaf at the bottom of the vine to defeat him. While these battles may be challenging for a new player, even one failed attempt is enough to learn just how quickly you can beat these bosses.

It’s a bit odd that this game was fully completed but never released; despite the popularity drop it just seems like a waste of money. The game looks fine for an NES title. Though it is technically incomplete, it’s still playable, and even enjoyable to play, though quite short and not very challenging. Rather than having an effect in the gaming or marketing industry, this game was instead affected by it, becoming a lost title that might have otherwise entertained fans of the Raisins on their home consoles.

Chex Quest (PC, 1996)

One of the most successful marketing games of all time is Chex Quest. In order to get the game, you had to buy either Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, or Corn Chex. The CD-ROMs were packaged with the cereal; of course, you got one regardless of whether you ate the cereal or not. Developed by Digital Cafe, Chex Quest is a full conversion mod of Ultimate Doom. It makes everything from Ultimate Doom into a non-violent format, as it was marketed for kids. You play as a soldier clad in Chex armor, who must fight off aliens known as Flemoids on a planet named Bazoik. You don’t kill any of the Flemoids, rather your weapons teleport them away to another dimension [ 8 ].

As this is a Doom conversion, you have all the same graphics, interfaces, and gameplay as Ultimate Doom, just with a kid friendly Chex themed skin. The Chex Warrior has his mugshot, though it’s just eyeballs guarded by a Chex helmet. Other than this, he’s just a hand with a gun, or in this case a Zorcher, which is what all the guns are called in this mod. You have the Bootspoon (based on the boot knife), the Super Bootspork (chainsaw), Mini Zorcher (Pistol), Large Zorcher (shotgun), Rapid Zorcher (chaingun), Zorch Propulsor (rocket launcher), Phasing Zorcher (plasma gun), and Large Area Zorching Device, or LAZ (BFG). All function roughly the same as their Doom counterparts, and while they are fairly silly, it’s entertaining for both kids and adults to have absurdly named and designed weapons [ 8 ].

The Flemoids are, of course, reskins of the Doom demons. They all feature Latin-sounding names, which is a bit of an odd turn for a kids game. The roster includes Flemoidus Commonus (Zombieman), Bipedicus (Shotgun guy), Armored Bipedicus (Imp), Cycloptis (Demon), The Flembrane (Baron of Hell), and more in the later iterations of the game. Seems like the designers were having a bit of fun with the naming scheme for these baddies. The Flemoids are a lot less challenging than their Doom counterparts, as this is a game made for a young and inexperienced audience, though if you increase the difficulty to its highest mode, the Flemoids will continuously spawn, making the levels more of a race to find the exit.

While Chex Quest 1 was quite short, it was so popular it got a sequel, though it was only available via download from the official Chex website. The Chex Quest 2 storyline is almost a direct ripoff of Doom 2: Hell on Earth, wherein the Chex Warrior returns to his home planet, only to find it overrun by Flemoids! There is also a Chex Quest 3, which is a fan made game that wraps up the story of Chex Quest. Yes, this game has a large enough of a fan following to have its own custom ending made by those fans [ 9 ]

There’s not too much else to say about Chex Quest. If you like Doom, you’ll probably have a decent time playing this mod for it. The gameplay is the same and the visual stylings are fun and amusing, and with the fan made finale, it has the satisfying ending its fans always wanted. It should be noted that the fans would not have been able to add a finale to the series if Chex Quest was not a Doom mod. Not only Chex Quest, but several popular game franchises would not have been possible without those tools. While there are only a few standout titles among Doom mods, the ability to take that game’s engine and design and easily re-skin it is a phenomenon that has brought many gamers into the creation side of the industry. For myself, I prefer the actual Doom titles, but Chex Quest wasn’t bad. Indeed, as mentioned before, Chex Quest is likely our best example of a successful marketing game, having helped sell more Chex cereal, and creating a game series that people liked so much that a modding community made a whole extra game for it. It shows that a zero-shame approach to this sort of game can work in spite of it, or perhaps because of it.

Donald Land (FamiCom, 1988)

Developed by Data East, Donald Land was a very early game in the history of franchise video game tie-ins. As it was only ever released on the FamiCom, the predecessor to the NES, the game was only ever intended for the Japanese market [ 10 ]. The signature clown that we all know as Ronald McDonald in the USA is called Donald McDonald in Japan, because the person who first brought the English language to Japan was named Ranald MacDonald, and the Japanese wanted to avoid any confusion with the similar names [ 11 ]. So, the game stars Donald McDonald, who is on a quest to bring peace back to his magical land. An evil wizard has come and turned most of the animals feral, and Donald’s companions, the other mascots, have been kidnapped. So, it’s up to the red-haired clown to save the day.

On the waiting screen, there is a short intro where all the mascot characters are introduced. Starting up the game shows a title screen similar to the first Super Mario Bros. When starting the first level, Mayor McCheese comes on screen briefly and says “Good Luck” in a speech bubble. Then, Donald is off on his quest. Donald’s sprite is very low res, as the FamiCom had even less hardware than the NES. Still, you can tell it’s him, with his red wig, white face paint, long red coveralls with suspenders, and of course his clown shoes. Donald can jump relatively high, and attacks by throwing magic apples, which stick to enemies and explode. You can add momentum to the apple bombs by moving Donald, which makes controlling these explosives slightly tough to master. There are a few power-ups Donald can collect, like the ability to throw two apple bombs at once, and a helmet that grants him temporary invincibility [ 12 ]

This game is difficult in the classic game way—there are no continues, no save spots, no midway checkpoints, and no level warps. You have to get through all twelve stages from start to finish without losing all your extra lives. This alone probably makes this game the most difficult of any of the marketing games I’m covering here. Most of the game’s foes are fairly easy to defeat, usually taking one apple bomb to be blasted off the screen. There is a bit of strategy involved here however, as you can also use some of the enemies as platforms to jump from, as jumping on them doesn’t kill them. The foes include birds, butterflies, sentient slimes, angry fish, angry people, and giant alligators. Nothing a clown with sticky bombs can’t handle, right?

The game’s 12 stages include Home Town World, Lake Side World, Forest World, Sky World, Oasis World, Cave World, Pond World, Harbor World, Ocean World, Ghost Town World, Dark Forest World, and Castle World. What do any of these places have to do with McDonald’s? Basically nothing, apart from whimsy. The stage names serve as their descriptors: Home Town World is a town, presumably Donald’s home town. Lake Side World is on a lakeside, and so on. I’m particularly surprised by Ghost Town and Dark Forest, as these stages have quite a dark theme for such a normally bright and happy franchise. The map detail is decent, and while I am not sure what the budget was for this game, it appears that the designers were quite motivated to create something visually appealing.

Speaking of dark themes, some of the game bosses are terrifying to behold. Sure, there are some relatively benign level bosses like Woodpeckers, a small red Lizard, and even an evil clone of Grimace. But looking at bosses like the Giant Salamander, Serpent Skeleton, Cyclops Plant, 4-Eyed Octopus, Angry Hamburger, and the final boss, Gumon… these are the stuff of nightmares. Gumon especially is reminiscent of Killer Clowns from Outer Space and has the strange powers to match. Good thing our favorite burger slinging clown has an infinite supply of bombs!

While I’m not sure this game helped to sell any of McDonald’s food, it’s definitely a strange and oddly solid game. I’m genuinely impressed by how well it was made, especially considering how early on in console development it came out. I sort of like the idea of taking the McDonald’s mascots way out of their normal element and making an original story, especially since there’s no way to tell what counts as cannon for Donald and crew, which could mean that destroying cosmic horrors is what Donald does when he’s not making burgers. If nothing else, a game like this would encourage other marketing tie-in games to think outside the box. 

M.C. Kids (NES, 1992)

Made by Virgin Games (they get around, don’t they?), M.C. Kids is an item-collection platformer wherein the player takes control of a kid who must help Ronald McDonald. The Hamburglar has stolen his magic bag, and apparently only kids can help this grown adult find it. The kids need to collect a series of cards to unlock each area and finally find this magic bag [ 13 ]. Notably, this game was created by four people in only eight months’ time, which is both impressive and ill-boding. 

After the short intro sequence, featuring a Virgin logo on an airplane, the player is brought to the character select screen, which looks almost identical to the starting screen from Super Mario Bros. 3. You immediately have control of the main character sprite, and you select the characters by jumping into the crescent moon blocks, which changes your sprite’s appearance immediately. Giving this game some credit, it allows the player to select a white or brown skinned child to play as, a choice in diversity that was mostly unheard of in the early ’90s. After character selection you can choose one or two players by going left or right on the screen respectively. Another intro sequence plays to explain the plot, and you’re off into the game world.

If you hadn’t guessed by the opening screen, the graphic quality and game play is directly lifted from Super Mario 3. The movement controls, jumping, and the world map are all present, though the map is edited to reflect a McDonald’s theme. Rather than the 3-2-1 hit system of Mario power ups, the kids have a life bar of 4 hearts, meaning 4 hits and you lose one life. You can collect extra lives just like you would in Mario, as well as “coins,” which are instead the iconic golden arches. Other differences include upside-down sections, where a special device you touch essentially reverses gravity and makes you stick to the ceiling. Since there’s no size-changing power ups you remain the same size, which is roughly the same as Super Mario’s size, making the maneuvering of the game slightly different. Most blocks can be picked up and thrown, and these are basically your only form of attack. 

There aren’t a lot of enemies in the game, and the majority of these are either wild animals or sentient plants. You’ll encounter snails, squirrels, moose, birds, angry flowers, and even some kind of floating aliens when you eventually go to the moon. Yes, the moon is one of the area maps. Speaking of, each area map has a home base of sorts where you’ll interact with one of the McDonald’s franchise characters, including Ronald, Birdie, Grimace, the Professor, CosMc, and the Hamburglar. There actually isn’t much else present in game to tie this game into the franchise. There’s no happy meals or burgers or anything really resembling the fast-food products that McDonald’s is known for. 

The game only features one boss, and it’s the magic bag itself. The bag throws out several animated scarves, a magic wand that shoots fire, and a rabbit in a hat that attempts to stomp you. It’s not much of a battle, but this is a kid’s game after all.

This game’s overall presentation isn’t too bad, especially considering the conditions under which it was made. The graphics are solid for the time, and the controls are intuitive, especially if you have already played Super Mario, which was probably the idea. I have to give it some grief for its obnoxious color schemes, which can become hard to look at over long play times, though this was a fairly common problem with early games. While some might be impressed at what just a few developers can accomplish in such a short time, I fear that M.C. Kids’ short production cycle might have been an ill omen of things to come in the arena of game development. Today, the people who work on games are expected to work mandatory overtime, sometimes 80 hours a week, to finish a game before the shipping date, and are not compensated nearly enough for that time spent. Whether or not this culture was alluded to or influenced by M.C. Kids development is hard to say, but it’s hard not to see that parallel.

Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool (SNES, 1992)

Our final game comes to us from System Vision and Kaneko. CC: Too Cool to Fool is, of course, tied into Cheetos, and their cheetah mascot, Chester. His catch phrase, “It ain’t easy being cheesy,” is an iconic staple of ’90s marketing. You’d think a smooth-talking hip cat like Chester would translate well into video game format, and by all rights he should. Of course, this requires a level of competence in game development.

The plot of the game is simple enough, Chester is being held prisoner in the local zoo, and wants to escape. In order to do this, he needs to find all the pieces of his motorcycle, then he can make his quick getaway, but he’ll have to avoid Mean Eugene the zookeeper in order to do it. This information is presented in the opening plot crawl, which is helpful, because we might otherwise have no idea what this game is about [ 14 ].

Chester looks very much the part of his television persona. A cheetah with a small body, large head, and sunglasses, this cat takes his time going anywhere, counter to the nature of typical cheetahs. While his walking speed is slow, Chester can run, but this run first requires a Road Runner-esque buildup of spinning feet. Chester has no weapons, but he can jump on any foe to damage or disable them. His in-air animation is at least slightly amusing, as he does a full split whether he’s jumping or falling and flaps his arms to imitate flying. Chester also has a 4-hit life bar, which can be replenished by collecting giant Cheetos paws. There are also mini-paws that increase your overall score, as well as running shoes to increase Chester’s speed, sunglasses which temporarily make the game dark—for no real benefit—and the skateboard to open up the bonus levels.

There’s nothing cool about this barely Cheetos-adjacent marketing tie-in.

The game has five total stages, these being the Four Corners Zoo Park, the Monkey Pits, Gator Alley, the Hidden Caves, and Bird Houses. All these stages are quite short, though some of the maps are a bit convoluted, having their own secret tunnels and passages to be explored in the name of more points and more power-ups. The first two play as regular platforming sections, lots of jumping, item collecting, and enemies to either destroy or avoid. Gator Alley changes this formula slightly with its ending section, where Chester chases Eugene on a small motorboat to steal the motorcycle part he has. This happens again at the end of Hidden Caves, where you ride in a mine cart, and catch up to Eugene in his underground locomotive, and battle his dog who throws boulders at you. In Bird Houses, you have another brief platforming section, then you are whisked away on the back of a giant moth. Look, I don’t know why, it has nothing to do with Cheetos, so I’ve got nothing. As I mentioned, there are bonus stages in the game that can be accessed if you find the special skateboard item in the main stages. In these bonus stages, Chester rides a motor-powered skateboard and can collect more of the miniature paws for more points. The level of detail in sprites and backgrounds is about average for the SNES; not terrible, but not amazing.

This game is extremely lacking in the boss fight department, and I’m wondering why they even made the attempt if it was going to be this poorly done. The first stage boss, a dog in a tall 4-legged robot, doesn’t need to be attacked. You can simply get to the other side of him and wait for him to leave. I’m not certain that the Monkey Pits has a boss. There is a wolf with a fork and knife patrolling near the exit, but again you don’t have to fight him to pass. You can just leave. Gator Alley’s “boss” appears to be Eugene, but there’s no battle, you just catch up to him and take the part. At least in the Hidden Caves there’s a battle, and again in Bird Houses, where Eugene has somehow gotten an attack helicopter to pursue one cheetah. The helicopter shoots several missiles, which you avoid by moving up or down, then a bird with a bomb will fly overhead to try and bomb Chester, but you use this bird’s bomb to hit Eugene instead.

This game fails at its own goal of advertisement. Other than the mascot and the giant Cheetos paws, the actual product is never mentioned. On top of this, it’s just not a very exciting game to play, and it’s riddled with bugs. What was particularly frustrating for me, personally, was that I could find almost no written information about this game online. No guides, barely any reviews, and even the Wikipedia page is almost barren. If you really must see what it’s like I recommend a YouTube play-though.

Before we close this out, I wanted to make note that there are many more food franchise games out there, and they continued to be made up till the early 2000s. I doubt we have seen the last of commercial marketing game crossovers, but hopefully we’ve seen the last of the bad ones. Of course, that’s a fool’s hope, isn’t it? While many players scoff at marketing tie-in games, it’s important to note where they have succeeded and failed, and not just because we want better games. Any major mainstream company supporting the creation of video games is good for the industry, as they generate a unique opportunity for game developers. It takes a lot of creativity and skill to bring a marketing mascot into a video game world without it being a ham-fisted attempt to cash in on the popularity of a product. The name recognition may get you in the door, but people will only stay if the game is actually fun.


  1. “Of all the strange mascots to get their own game, the Noid ranks up there.” Yo Noid! Capcom. 1990. NES.
  2. “If high fructose corn syrup was ever cool, it was in CoolSpot.” CoolSpot. Virgin Games. 1993. SNES/Genesis.
  3. “There’s nothing cool about this barely Cheetos-adjacent marketing tie-in.” Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool. Kaneko. 1992. SNES.

A man of many talents, Clayton has worn several hats. His work focuses on visual mediums like film and gaming. A practiced martial artist and a graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design & New Media, he brings both tactile experience and academic credentials as measures of his considerable expertise. Clayton is both Manager of Steam-Funk’s core writing staff and part of the firm’s senior creative team, helping craft both The Living Multiverse and firm policy.


  1. Cassidy, Michael, et al. “Yo! Noid for Arcade (1991).” MobyGames, Blue Flame Labs, Accessed 29 December 2019.
  2. Dr Pepper/Seven Up Staff. “Enjoy 7UP®!” 7up.Com, Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc, Accessed 29 December 2019.
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