Do you think Mega Man has a driving license? I mean, he's technically a kid, so you'd think that would prevent him from legally operating a motor vehicle, but then again he is a robot blessed with enhanced reflexes and a supercomputer for a brain. I suppose it would all come down to whether or not he's got a spare pair of legs he can wear when behind the wheel, because the oversized flared appendages he usually sports cannot possibly be safe for driving in. He'd be standing on all the pedals at once with those things. What? Oh, I started rambling about how Mega Man gets through day-to-day life again, didn't I? Crap. Maybe I can turn this to my advantage somehow... what if I wrote about Capcom's 1997 Playstation game Mega Man Battle & Chase? Yeah, that should do it.

Mega Man might not be able to compete with Super Mario's level of spin-off participation, but he's had his fair share of non-platforming adventures - he's been a football player, a 2D fighter and an RPG character, so there was a certain grim inevitability about him appearing in a racing game. That's what Mega Man Battle & Chase is, it's a racing game featuring vehicular combat. Yes, it is a lot like Mario Kart. In fact, it would be very difficult to discuss Mega Man Battle & Chase without mentioning Mario Kart.

It features big, chunky, low-poly models rather than the sprites of Mario Kart 64, which I think work rather well. They give the game an appealing sense of solidity, at least. This is the intro, where Mega Man faces off against his rival robot Bass. Just in case you're not a Mega Man fan that's Bass as in the musical term, not the fish. Mega Man and Bass have a lot of similarities: they're both wearing helmets with weird glowing earmuffs, they both have hands that can turn into guns and they both own pet robot dogs that can transform into vehicles, which will come in handy for all the racing. The big difference is that Bass is a whiny little dork while Mega Man, a simple household robot who was never meant to fight, gets on with the business of saving the world with the minimum of fuss. That's why he's the hero, Bass, and you're just some side character with a hat shaped like the McDonald's arches.

Once you've picked your game mode, with Grand Prix and Versus being the two main options, it's time to choose a racer from this motley crew of Mega Man favourites. I'll being going through the Grand Prix as Mega Man - it is his game, after all - but who else do we have? Well, there's Mega Man's sister Roll, a housekeeping robot and a window into Dr. Light's deep-seated misogyny. Their brother Protoman also competes, because even mysterious loners can't ignore the lure of the racetrack. There's Bass, as we've already seen, and the rest of the cast is populated by various Robot Masters from across the Mega Man series: Ice Man, Quick Man, Napalm Man, Shadow Man, Guts Man and Spring Man. I've got to say, Quick Man really stands out in that list as a character that you might want to consider playing as.

Napalm Man's car definitely has the best name, mind you. I think I saw Patriot Bomber open for Napalm Death once.
The selection of available Robot Masters is pretty good, although on a personal level I'm disappointed that you can't play as Shade Man because he's my favourite. It also seems odd that there are no Robot Masters from Mega Man 4, 5 or 6 included. (EDIT: Yes, Napalm Man is from Mega Man 5. Many apologies for the momentary lapse in my Mega Man knowledge there.) I would have liked the option to play as Charge Man, who is a literal train. Terrible on corners, but once you get him on the straight he's unstoppable!

Unlike in most kart racing games, there's not a lot of difference in the speed and handling of the various characters, for reasons I'll discuss later. Instead, the thing that sets each racer apart is their special moves. That said, Mega Man, as seems to be mandatory for this kind of thing, is the "all-round" character with average stats and the most basic special attacks. It would be churlish of me to call him "Average Man," but there you go.

Rather than racing against everyone else and competing for points, MMB&C's Grand Prix mode takes a slightly different approach. Each race pits your chosen character against one of the others, with a few generic enemies thrown in to make up the numbers. The first race is against Roll and a couple of Roaders. The manual tells you that Roaders enter races all the time but they've never won, so I don't think I'll have to worry about them, but later races feature the much faster Joes and perennial Mega Man miniboss the Yellow Devil.

We're off and racing! I don't have to explain the basics of a racing game to you, do I? Get round the track faster than everyone else to win. The first thing you might notice is that there are enemies all over the road: Mets, the hard-hat wearing series staple, wander around the course, but even more common are these cones. The cones challenge you to throw away the preconceived ideas built up from every other racing game you've played and to drive right into them. Drive into the Mets, too. Any enemy you see, drive into them. Why? Because that's how you collect items. Nothing so simple as driving over a big question mark for MMB&C - instead you have a counter at the top-right of the screen that decreases each time you hit an enemy, and when it reaches zero you're awarded a power-up. They're a familiar bunch of items that you'll have used some version of in other mascot racers, like remote-controlled bombs you lay behind you, temporary speed-boosts, invincibilities and a lighting strike that hamper all the other players. The only item that feels unique to MMB&C is the one that turns all the enemies into mines that make other players skid out if they hit them, a particularly enjoyable attack to use in Versus mode when your opponent is coming up to an enemy-infested section of track with dreams of collecting a nice new item dancing through their mind.

All these cones have eyes. Why do the cones have eyes? So they can see their impending destruction barrelling towards them? That seems a trifle unnecessary. As is so often the case in the Mega Man series, disturbing questions are raised about just how sentient all these robots are. How much do they think, how deeply do they feel? I get myself to sleep at night by telling myself that these cones are programmed to love being hit by cars, but deep down I know it's not true. That would defeat the very purpose of a traffic cone.

Ah yes, Residient Evil. One of my favourite videogame franchises. It's called Bioihaziard in Japan, you know.
Roll is not a difficult opponent to defeat, mostly thanks to her insistence on driving through the muddy portions of the track that slow her down, and Mega Man soon has his first win under his belt.

Don't get angry at me, Roll. Dr. Light was the one who hooked Mega Man up with combat capabilities but gave you in-depth floor-sweeping routines and algorithms for ascertaining the optimum method of doing the dishes, maybe you should take this up with him.

Guts Man is the next opponent, and in the screenshot above he's visible both in the distance and in the bottom third of the screen, which is given over to keeping an eye on the character you're racing against. It also illustrates the unique way the characters operate their vehicles - that is, by having their heads bolted directly onto their cars. That's one of the perks of being a robot, I guess.
Despite being well equipped for the off-road terrain, Guts Man's car weighs about as much a seven-storey block of flats and so Mega Man easily sped past him for the victory (once he'd realised that the red panels on the floor slow you down).

Here Mega Man is neck-and-neck with the ninja Robot Master Shadow Man, whose car is shaped like a frog. I'm sure this is because of the long association between ninjas and toads that comes from the legend of Jiraiya and not because Dr. Wily created this car by sticking wheels on a failed prototype of Toad Man.
Shadow Man's stage is crystal-filled cavern, which doesn't exactly scream "ninjitsu" but then Shadow Man's stage in Mega Man 3 was some kind of lava factory so he's never been thematically consistent. Unless the theme is "ninjas can strike anywhere, even in a crystal cavern or strange industrial plant that seems to exist just to move lava from one place to another." Anyway, it's a fun course, with ninja traps like the the big metal spikes that come out of the wall and some wildly undulating road surfaces, and Shadow Man might be the first racer to give you problems thanks to his ability to stick giant shurikens into you.

Ouch. That's one of Shadow Man's main attacks: as mentioned earlier, everyone can collect items to use but each racer has their own unique special moves too, and in Shadow Man's case it's a huge ninja star that slows down whoever it hits for a while. Mega Man's specials are rather more basic, just being his Mega Buster but on the front of his car instead of out of his arm. Pressing R1 as you race makes Mega Man fire a small projectile forwards, which is useful for knocking small enemies aside but not much else. However, if you wait for the blue bar at the top-left of the screen to fill up and then press fire, Mega Man launches a charged shot  that will cause any racer it hits to spin out of control, which is very useful, like having an endless supply of green shells in Mario Kart.

Not all the special moves are as straightforward as Mega Man's, with some not even being attacks at all: for example, Quick Man has two different types of speed boost, and Proto Man can move the shield on his car to block attacks from either the front or the rear. Most of them are attacks, naturally, but there's quite a variety between them, from Roll's spinning move to Spring Man's short-range punches whose direction can be changed, and personally I think it's a good system that keeps each racer distinct and unique. The problem is a lack of balance: Roll's jump move is nowhere near as useful as, say, Ice Man's freezing power, but on the whole I think I'd rather have characters who feel different from each other than a cast of identikit participants.

Here's Mega Man making a mockery of his older brother Proto Man by storming into the lead even though Proto Man has a sports car and Mega Man's driving a big pink cartoon dog. This is only going to send Proto Man's brooding loner act spiralling into even greater depths. The way I managed to get in front of him was by using one of those metal plates on the track; when you drive over them, a metal pole pops up in their place, one of which Proto Man drove straight into.

MMB&C is a racing game, so I should really discuss the actual racing. It's okay. Definitely better than competent, although not exactly brimming with advanced driving techniques. This is mostly down to the increased emphasis on weaponry, both the items you collect by destroying enemies and each character's personal armaments. The biggest issue with the driving is that there's very little sense of speed - the HUD might say Mega Man's travelling at over four hundred kilometers per hour but it most definitely does not feel that way, and even on long straights you never get the impression that you're moving at anything faster than a brisk jog. Still, it's solidly put-together, with everything being pleasantly robust, cars bouncing off each other in a consistent manner and well-designed tracks that keep you interested even if you're not tearing around them like a whippet with a Rolls-Royce engine up its backside.

Especially attentive readers may have noticed that the Rush Roadstar is looking a little different than it did at the start of the game. This is thanks to Mega Man Battle & Chase's part harvesting system - whenever you beat someone in a Grand Prix race, you can choose a piece of their car to take for yourself, with each part having different attribute. You can take the tyres, engine or "wing" (the spoiler) - here I've got Gut's Man's tyres, which stop you losing speed when driving over gravel, and Roll's wing, which provides better handling. Once you've beaten someone four times you can take their car's body, which gives you access to their special attacks. So, if you were wondering how Capcom were going to work the Mega Man trademark of acquiring defeats enemies' powers into this game, this is how. It works really well, too; it's nice to get a reward after each race, and while some of the parts are more useful than others with a bit of forward planning they can all be used to your advantage
In fact, I've just realised that in addition to gaining the powers of your rivals, you also go through eight stages / races before taking on a pre-Wily area and then doing battle with Dr. Wily himself, so MMB&C is more faithful to the flow of the original games than you might expect.

This is Spring Man's course, and it's got a fun gimmick: most of the track is covered in panels that change function when someone drives over one of those big red buttons, cycling through ice, gravel, speed-up and deceleration zones. It sounds like could be a nightmare, but because the buttons change every floor panel on the track the conditions are the same for every racer and it's fun when the surface you're driving on suddenly turns into a boost panel and you go flying into a wall. I know that sounds sarcastic, but it's not meant to be.

Ice Man has a track that's covered in ice. This is hardly surprising, but his frosty home court advantage isn't nearly as much of a hindrance as you might think. Instead, it's all the holes in the floor you have to worry about. Ice Man doesn't seem to care that his glacial home is dropping to pieces.

He probably doesn't care because he's too drunk to know what the hell's going on. Just look at his face, that's not someone who's upset that they lost a race, that's someone who just drank a bottle of scotch and really wants to fight about it. "I'm not going to go home and cry yet, first I'm going to accuse someone of looking at me funny and then glass them!"

Well, this sucks for Quick Man - he probably would have performed much better in this race had it taken place on, you know, a race track, instead of in a half-pipe filled with rocks and water.
He might be underwhelming as a racer, but at least Quick Man has the best theme on the soundtrack:

Mega Man games are pretty synonymous with excellent music, and Battle & Chase is no exception - it's a score filled with up-tempo, energetic tunes in a mix of electronic and guitar-based styles. It's perhaps not the usual Mega Man fare, but no worse for it. As I say, Quick Man's theme is probably my favourite, Mega Man and Proto Man's themes are also good and honestly the whole soundtrack's worth a listen. Even if you've never played MMB&C before there's one tune you might recognise:

In the Japanese version, finishing the Grand Prix under certain conditions as Roll rewards you with a special ending song called "Kaze yo Tsutaete" that was later used as Roll's theme in Marvel vs. Capcom, amongst other things.

Okay, back to the racing with Napalm Man's track, a weapons factory filled with conveyor belts and narrow tunnels. Another fun course, this one's all about making sure you end up on the conveyor belts that are moving in the correct direction, as well as avoiding Napalm Man's bombs. That's a lot of bombs to avoid, too, because Napalm Man really likes bombs. Say what you will about Dr. Wily, but when he builds a robot he really commits to a theme, and Napalm Man isn't so much a fellow racer as he is a high-speed cloud of explosions that wants to destroy everything in his path. Dr. Wily didn't even see fit to give Napalm Man hands. He's got rocket launchers where his hands ought to be. What kind of psycho gives someone rocket launchers instead of hands? Imagine going through life like that, inadvertently triggering World War III every time you tried to dial a telephone or hail a taxi. Poor old Edward Missilehands here doesn't even have a robot Winona Ryder to teach him about love and not blowing everything up.

Mega Man wins the Grand Prix! His prize? 10 million Zennies, brought to him in a briefcase by a flying robot. I would definitely say that prix is tres grand; so grand, in fact, that Dr. Wily can't help but turn up and pinch it.

Imagine how many themed robot bosses with steal-able powers and a weakness against one of their colleagues' weapons you could build with 10 million Zennies! That'll be enough to keep Dr. Wily going through Mega Man 11, 12 and 13, surely. Mind you, he'll probably be running out of new ideas for Robot Masters by then, desperately flipping through a thesaurus so he can squeeze out another fire or ice-themed robot.

Mega Man isn't 100% sure that Dr. Wily stole his money, despite seeing Dr. Wily fly overhead in a skull-shaped car and steal his money. Good work on those logic circuits, Dr. Light. You have to admire Dr. Wily's brass neck, though, stealing from the one robot who has consistently defeated him. He's nothing if not confident.

This means there are a couple more races to go before you can truly claim victory. The first is against Bass, and because he's almost identical to Mega Man only in a purple car, he's not difficult to beat. There he is, spinning around because I zapped him with a lightning bolt. Then I shot him with a charged Buster Shot. Then he crashed into a barrier. C'mon, Bass, get it together.

Indeed you did. I put it down to a combination of your helmet being extremely unaerodynamic and your tendency to drive into barriers.

The final race is against Dr. Wily himself, and he's a much tougher prospect than his incompetent accomplice. A big reason for this is that he's immune to Mega Man's charged shots, allowing him to speed away with impunity as your attacks ping off his car. Maybe you should have used that technology when building your Robot Masters, hey Wily?

It's a tough race on a tough course, and unfortunately it seems that victory is more likely to be achieved through lucky item acquisition than any degree of driving skill, but after enough attempts you'll win through in the end to become the champion of Mega Man Battle & Chase.

Ever the weasel, Dr. Wily tries to weasel out of his upcoming prison sentence like the weaselly weasel that he is. Once you beat him you unlock his car for play in versus mode, where being immune to the attacks of his competitors is as useful as it sounds.

Mega Man was going to buy Dr. Light a new computer with his winnings, but Dr. Light fixed it himself so Mega Man has suddenly found himself independently wealthy. No doubt he will being the papers six months from now, complaining about how the constant stream of people asking for cash and the pressures of his new-found fortune have made his life a misery.

I really rather like Mega Man Battle & Chase. I know it's just another kart racer and that the actual racing is probably the weakest aspect of the experience but still, I have a fond place in my heart for it. Would I like it nearly so much if it wasn't a Mega Man game? No, I wouldn't, but that's because the colourful, carefree world of Mega Man is such a joy to be a part of.

I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is that I actually own a copy, having picked it up from a games stall on an indoor market when I was a kid. MMB&C has an odd release history - it didn't come out in America until 2006, when it was included as part of the Mega Man X Collection. It did get a European release, however, although unfortunately it's inferior to the original Japanese version, with a fair amount of cut content such as interviews with the racers. The story goes that it was denied a US release by Sony, who considered the market for cartoony kart racing games to be over-saturated. It's a shame, because MMB&C is one of the better ones, and apparently Sony Europe had no such qualms because there were more kart racing games on the PS1 over here than there are knock-offs of Flappy Bird on iTunes.

There's certainly more to it than most mascot racers, what with the part-collecting aspect of it, each character having an (admittedly brief) ending sequence and some secret extras - legends tell of souped-up black versions of the generic racers, ready to put your driving to the ultimate test. There's even another character I couldn't show you: Duo is playable, but to unlock him you had to complete the game, write down a code, send it to Capcom and then have your name picked from a hat. If you got that lucky, Capcom would send you a memory card with Duo unlocked on it. So I hear, at least. I'm having to take other people's word for that one.

Mega Man Battle & Chase is a nice-looking game with a great soundtrack and solid, fun gameplay that might not be the most cutting-edge around but which is given an extra boost by the sheer charm of the Mega Man universe and the polish that Capcom so often bring to their games. Plus, you can play as a humanoid Slinky who wants to win the prize money so he can buy weighted parts that he hopes will stop him from thrashing around the place, and you can't say fairer than that.



Please note: this article is in no way approved or endorsed by the Coca-Cola Company. I wrote it off my own bat and I am definitely not being paid to talk about the taste and refreshment that only Coca-Cola-brand soft drinks can provide. Death to the Pepsi-drinkers. I mean, uh, here's Aspect and Sega's 1994 Game Gear title Coca-Cola Kid!

He is a kid who loves Coca-Cola, a kid who apparently served as Coke's mascot in Japan for a while and a kid who presumably has no teeth. That's okay, you don't need teeth when you've got buckets of mid-nineties attitude and a pair of bell-bottomed shorts.
Released only in Japan for Sega's battery-chomping handheld, the game's full title is Sassou Shounen Eiyuuden Coca-Cola Kid, which I think translates as something like Dashing Boy Saga: Coca-Cola Kid. If you drank as much carbonated sugar-water as the Kid here you'd spend a lot of time dashing to the bathroom, so we know where the title comes from. To my great surprise this vaguely videogame-shaped cola advert does not have much in the way of a plotline, so you wouldn't be missing much if you don't read Japanese, but I'm playing a version translated into English by someone called "Filler" which means we get the full impact of the game's story.

This is Miss Sakurako, Coca-Cola Kid's teacher. She's got a bit of a Barbie vibe to her, despite being a brunette. One of School Teacher Barbie's classroom assistants with a name like Chrissie or Melinda, maybe.

Yes, yes he does.

Mr. Iwayma does that thing where someone takes their glasses off to reveal that they're really beautiful, except instead of being attractive he looks like an early boss from a side-scrolling beat-em-up. He hits Miss Sakurako with the pow-gas, possibly a euphemism for cracking her over the head with a cosh, and then kidnaps her.

CC Kid hears the commotion and, distraught that his teacher has been abducted, sets out to rescue her. That doesn't seem a very likely reaction from a child who's just been handed some free time off school, but then I went to the kind of school where sending your teacher a thank-you card would probably get you a swift kicking after class so I might not be the best person to judge.

The Kid begins his adventure downtown, and if you've ever played a platformer before you'll immediately be comfortable with what's going on. You can run, you can jump, you can kick things, you can jump and kick things at the same time. Coca-Cola Kid falls into that category of platformers that lets you grab on to ledges and pull yourself up, so if that kind of thing excites you then you're in for a treat. Kid can also cling to and leap from vertical walls, just like Mega Man X. Holding down and attack charges up a dashing move for extra speed, longer jumps and the power to smash through enemies. It's a full-featured set of controls, certainly more intricate than I was expecting, and all Kid's moves are intuitive enough that you should have no problem exploring the areas ahead of you.

"Exploring" is a more apt description for the gameplay of Coca-Cola Kid than many other platformers of the era, especially handheld ones, and each stage has a variety of routes you can take by climbing up high or kicking through secret walls. There are a lot of secret wall you can kick through in this game, and while they're never marked as long you slam your foot into every dead-end you come across you'll uncover most of them. Don't worry about the Kid's feet, judging by the size of his trainers he wouldn't feel a nuclear bomb go off it it landed on his laces.

Thorough exploration leads to rewards in the form of power-ups, mostly coins and the occasional pick-up that replaces your kick with a frisbee. Having a projectile attack sounds useful but in almost every situation the jumping kick is better because it covers a larger area, so generally you want to stick with the melee attacks. This makes sense to me. I'd much rather get hit by a frisbee thrown by a child than have said child slam his foot into my face. Something that makes less sense is that in this Coca-Cola game you get power-ups by smashing Coca-Cola advertising, but what the hell do I know? I'm no marketing expert, which is one of the reasons no-one reads this site. Maybe focus groups remember a product more clearly once they've rammed their foot through it.

Speaking of ramming your foot through things, the enemies in this first stage have no thematic connection to either Coca-Cola or the downtown setting. You're kicking robot birds and, for some reason, boxers who roam the streets looking for children to punch. It's a narrow tightrope, this advertising lark - I know for sure that the next time I drink a Coke, I'm going to remember that time I watched a boxer punch a little kid, and hopefully now you will too. Even if it is only a tiny pixel child, I don't think that's the kind of association the Coca-Cola Company were after.

Don't worry if you get hit, because you can always drink some great-tasting Coca-Cola that will restore your health and definitely not contribute to any problems with diabetes later in life. I'm not sure you'd get away with that nowadays, not with "real" products anyway. It's a shame videogames weren't around in the thirties, I could be looking back on games where packs of cigarettes refill your health bar and a radium enema makes you temporarily invincible.

Here's a screenshot of CC Kid performing a kickin' rad skateboard jump. Enjoy it, because it's the only one I've got - the skateboards only appear in the early stages and this was the only time I managed to travel for more than three seconds with hitting something that caused the skateboard to disappear. Once again, jumping kicks are proven to be the most expedient and most effective means of travel.

After two short stages of platform-hoppin', soda-quaffin' action, the Kid faces off against the punk from the intro in what I suppose is a boss battle despite it being the easiest part of the game thus far. The boss throws a couple of projectiles at you - projectiles which look a lot like they're made from cola - and then runs towards you, eager for a kick in the head. Jump over the cola hadoukens, kick the boss a couple of times and the first world is over.

Why, how terribly helpful of you. I will do just that. I hope your comrades in the League of Sinister Villainy don't mock you too hard for getting your ass handed to you by a schoolboy half your size.

Between worlds you can spend any coins you collected at this vending machine. I strongly recommend you buy the life-ups before anything else. Coca-Cola Kid is not a difficult game: I never needed to use a continue, especially not at the start of the game, and purchasing some extra health is a much better use of your CokeBucks.

Despite being a Japanese game starring Coke's Japanese mascot, Coca-Cola Kid must be set in America because the second area is Central Park. I can understand that - after all, there's nowt so American as Coca-Cola. This version of Central Park is a collection of floating grassy blocks patrolled by fat men who can curl up into a ball and ram you like angry woodlice who have indulged in too much of a competing brand of soft drink, so we're not looking at a realistic depiction of New York here.

There's an increased emphasis on jumping in this stage, or rather there's now the consequence of immediate death from falling off the bottom of the screen to contend with. This is a shame, because jumping is by far the weakest part of Coca-Cola Kid, with a strange physics engine that's strongly affected by momentum and, more infuriatingly of all, a noticeable delay between pressing the jump button and Kid deigning to, you know, jump. There are a lot of jumps, especially later in the game, that require you to be right at the edge of a platform to complete them and thanks to the input lag it's far too easy to run off the end of platforms instead of gracefully leaping off them.

Central Park is guarded by this guy, who is defying my attempts to describe him. He's some sort of martial artist, obviously - he's wearing a pink karate outfit and Japanese shoes - but he must have learned his combat skills from one of those mail-order karate courses you see advertised in old comic books because his moves consist of running back and forth and throwing sticks at you, a deadly karate technique that most five-year-olds will master by themselves on a trip to the park. Jump over the sticks, kick the boss, repeat until he gives up.

Yes, it is definitely time for you to retire from your job of dressing like an idiot and lobbing twigs at children.

Stage three is set in the Ruins. The ruins of what? I have no idea. It doesn't even look all that ruined, although the Coca-Cola graffiti daubed all over the walls is rather lowering the tone. The enemies give no clue as to the ruins' former purpose, either: for example, at the bottom of the screen you can see a luchador popping out of a manhole to throw bombs at the Kid. Not a feature of any ancient civilisation that I'm aware of, that one.

Also patrolling the ruins are small whirlwinds, revealed to be assassins when you boot them. So, have these assassins been sent specifically to murder the Kid, or has the kid merely stumbled upon a secret society of hired killers amidst these ancient ruins? The ancient ruins which, I should remind you, are within walking distance of Central Park. Skateboarding distance, at the very most. And what does all this have to do with Coca-Cola, besides the Kid really liking Coca-Cola? I really like Jaffa Cakes, but I wouldn't expect "McVities" to be spraypainted around every place I went if I was on a rescue mission.
I have no answers to these questions, or rather I have one blindingly obvious answer - Coca-Cola Kid is a generic platformer with a soft drink license bolted onto it like a dad who starts wearing an earring at forty because he thinks it makes him look hip. I think that explains everything.

Sticking with the game's theme of having no discernible theme, the boss of the ruins is an Elizabethan minister who attacks by throwing either his neck-ruff or his bald cap at you. All things that I'm sure happened frequently in the royal court of Elizabeth the First, but just when you think you've got this guy figured out he climbs into a big turtle shell and slides around on the floor for a while. I can't add anything to that.

Man, the Kid really did a number on this guy - broke his "helmet," gave him a black eye and knocked all his teeth out. That's what you get for pretending to be a Privy Councillor from the 16th century / a turtle.

The next stage is a steel factory, where the Kid demonstrates the awesome power of Coca-Cola by running across a vat of liquid metal. You don't get that with Dr. Pepper.
You might be thinking that a steel mill is a difficult place to shoehorn references to Coke into, and you'd be right, but it doesn't matter because despite the license the developers don't seem that fussed about pushing the Coca-Cola name. Aside from the first stage, the branding is minimal, limited to having COCA-COLA scrawled on the odd bit of scenery with the level of care and attention normally seen in teenagers tagging a bus shelter with a marker pen. As such, I'd say that of all the games I've played with this kind of tie-in flavour to it, it's the one that's been daubed with the least strokes of the big branding brush.

As I was charging through the level, trying to keep my speed up and get a rhythm going, something suddenly occurred to me. I'm playing as a very "nineties," attitude-having character. The stages are split into two "acts" followed by a single-screen boss fight. There are a variety of routes through each stage. The Kid has a special dash move activated by holding down and pressing a button. This is a Sonic the Hedgehog game! That's why the inertia-heavy jumping physics felt so familiar.  I looked it up and Aspect, the developers of Coca-Cola Kid, did indeed make the Sonic games for the Game Gear and Master System.

Here's Coca-Cola Kid alongside the Aspect-developed Sonic and Tails 2, and they are extremely similar. The same scale, look-a-like HUDs and gameplay that feels almost identical means that I'd be very surprised if Coca-Cola Kid wasn't running on a (very) slightly modified Sonic the Hedgehog game engine.

Sadly the boss of the steelworks is not Dr. Robotnik. Instead you have to fight some kind of Cossack with a spear. The Cossack has a spear, I mean. You don't get to use a spear. You just kick things, as always, and avoid the boss when they move across the screen. This boss moves around the screen by rolling into a ball and bouncing, but unless he turned into a three-headed dragon in a beekeeper's outfit who attacks with paperclips he was never going to be as interesting at the previous boss, was he? His main gimmick is staying invincible for ages after each hit, dragging a simple battle out into something that long overstays its welcome.

I guess this final stage won't be a problem then, will it? Not with Infinite Power and all.

The final stage is set in a disco, which sounds like it would be much less dangerous than a steelworks or ancient ruins full of assassins, but if you think that then you haven't taken into account the vicious killer disco balls that fire lasers at the Kid should he get close enough. The glowing figures in the background are nothing to worry about, however. The just fade in and out of sight, the damned souls of clubgoers who were caught drinking rum and Pepsi, the heathens, and thus were banished to a nightmare realm of endless tinny music and flashing lights.

Everything flashes in this stage pretty much all the time - the staircases, the backgrounds, even the Kid himself when he's performing his dashing attack. You'll get a lot of use out of the dash in this stage, along with your wall jumps and your sliding kick. Oh, yeah, Kid can also perform a sliding kick. I forgot to mention it because you need to use it maybe twice in the entire game, and not until this final area. Coca-Cola Kid comes together quite nicely here, cementing its status as an above-average if unimaginative handheld platformer, and if you've played the game this long then you'll hopefully have gotten used to the finickiness of the jumping controls to a degree that lets you enjoy the route-finding, ledge-climbing action.

This is what I mean about the lack of Coke branding. Sure, it says Coca-Cola on the wall but I've seen that so many times I've almost stopped noticing it. Just look at those glass bottles, though - not one of them is in the iconic Coke bottle shape. A missed opportunity, that. Of course, now that I've noticed that I'm worried it means I was supposed to spend my life in (ugh) advertising. What if I have a natural gift for lying to people so they'll spend money on things? Let's test it out - if you donate money to VGJunk, everyone will think you're cool and handsome and the appearance of fine wrinkles will be noticeably reduced.

In keeping with the wholesome family-friendly ethos of the Coca-Cola Company, the final boss of Coca-Cola Kid is a flying dominatrix who tries to whip the Kid from the skies. Hmm. You know, I assumed the plot of this game was going to be about someone trying to steal Coke's secret formula or something, not kidnapped teachers and BDSM enthusiasts. No matter the trials ahead, however, Kid will emerge victorious by kicking all those who oppose him. In this case it's much more difficult than in all the other boss fights, because you have to cling to the sides of the arena first to get the height necessary to hit the dominatrix. She also puts a lot more projectiles into the air than the other bosses, including lightning bolts that travel across the floors and wall and which I only managed to avoid once or twice thanks to their wildly inconsistent hitboxes. Luckily, you only need to avoid them once or twice, because if you avoid the boss' first attack or two and have five hit points remaining you can then forget about avoiding attacks altogether and just trade hits with her because she'll run out of health before you do.

After a few solid blows the boss is defeated and Miss Sakurako is freed from whatever evil organisation had her in their clutches. Overwhelmed with happiness, she almost kills the Coca-Cola Kid by suffocating him with her breasts. I am not making that up.

Wow. Between the mammary asphyxiation and the dominatrix, Coca-Cola Kid has taken on a strange sexual tinge towards the end. Who was that dominatrix, anyway? Just some psychopath who abducts attractive teachers and whisks them away to her discotheque lair? Did she even have anything to do with Coca-Cola? Perhaps she represents the evils of drinking tap water instead of healthy, nutritious fizzy pop. Unlike all the other bosses she has no dialogue when you beat her, and the only other woman in the game is Miss Sakurako, so here's my theory - Miss Sakurako is the dominatrix, and the Kid has simply kicked some sense into her.

Coca-Cola Kid is, on the whole, exactly what you'd expect from a soft drink tie-in platformer for the Game Gear. The giant hand of corporate branding lies relatively lightly upon it, however, and the gameplay has enough extras to keep it interesting for the short play time - the Kid has plenty of moves, the graphics are nice and wall-jumping is always fun. Substandard jumping controls aside, Coca-Cola Kid is an above-average platformer, so if you've played and enjoyed all the Sonic the Hedgehog games then give this a try, and experience the magic of a Sonic game where Sonic is replaced by a kid in a baseball cap who drinks enough cola to dissolve the Statue of Liberty.

VGJUNK Archive

Search This Blog