Face it: most licensed games are really awful. I don't know if this is because of too many hands working on the title or poor programming, but the games that capture the true essence of the character (whatever that is!) are few and far between. Maybe part of this problem is that here in America, the folks who own the rights to these icons tend to take them too seriously and refuse to poke too much fun at what they've created, instead opting to constantly skewer the competition. Or it could be that the characters these guys come up with lack any real personality, or aren't allowed to be really crazy. Fortunately, in Japan they seem to have no big problem with this, and if you're into imports, weird games or Pepsi collectibles, here's a game with your name on it! And I'm a person who HATES any sort of product placement in my games (the Jet Moto series, for example!). But Pepsiman is a rare and probably the only exception for me!
Pepsiman is possibly the funniest game I've played in a while, because it turns the whole "character as icon" thing on its ear by refusing to take itself seriously at all! From the opening "commercial" to the end credits, you'll find yourself laughing until you're blue in the face! Each of the four levels (the game isn't very long) has you running for your life as Pepsiman (of course) collecting Pepsi cans to deliver to the thirsty masses at the end of each level. While this sounds really simple, and indeed it is, the way the game is designed makes you keep playing, no matter how many times you die. And you will die a lot, mostly because you're in stitches from all the antics onscreen. Trust me, you haven't lived until you've seen Pepsiman running for his life from a HUGE Pepsi can, or trying to balance himself atop a huge oil barrel, arms flailing wildly! At one point, you even have to flip your controller upside down, after poor Pepsiman gets a garbage can stuck to the top part of his body!
The game is a forward scrolling 3D game, similar to the Crash Bandicoot games, but isn't as graphically impressive. In other words, Insomniac won't have any sleepless over this game. Still, it looks a lot better than a lot of 989 Studios' stuff! There's a very fast 3D engine here, with some slightly pixelly 2D sprites for people and some moving objects. The music in the game is just assorted remixes of the Pepsiman theme, a sort of surf-twist ditty with a chorus singing "Pepsiman!" every few seconds! By the time you get to the end of the first level, you'll have that silly jingle embedded in your skull, and walk down the street with a smile on your face and a spring in your step! The controls are quite simple: the D-pad directs, and there are jump and slide buttons, as well as a speed burst button- but you'll want to use this one with caution, as it can send you zooming to an early demise on more than one instance! But fortunately, there are unlimited continues, so the game isn't really too frustrating. The only "bad" thing about the game is the out of shape "actor" they got for the in-game cinemas- I hope the developers don't think this represents the average American! But I guess that it's better than some Gen-X wannabe hip-hopsters spouting crap like "Let's play the game, Yo!, or something like that.
So there you have it- Pepsiman isn't a great game, well not in the way that you'd think, at least. But if you really want something different, as well as a super GREAT party game (that your friends will hog!), then Pepsiman is your man! And chances are, it won't come out here, thanks to Pepsiman's self-deprecating style, but the Super Bowl is only a few months away, and I have the whole commercial in my head, if you're interested
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