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Kool-Aid Man Reviewed by Adam Wallace on . Rating: 1%
Kool-Aid Man
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  • Review Score:

  • F
There are many factors to consider when judging the value of a video game. Factors include the initial asking price, the reputation of the production company, and, most of all, the quality of the finished product. Chase the Chuck Wagon was made by a small start-up outfit fronted by Purina (a set-up that was common in the Atari 2600 era), and it was only distributed as "free" promotion at the time.

The same cannot be said about Kool-Aid Man. This one wasn't made by some no-name start-up; it was made by Mattel. Mattel already had a solid reputation thanks to the Intellivision, and M Network's Intellivision ports on the Atari 2600 were actually pretty good. Kool-Aid Man was initially a free "proof of purchase" promotion, not unlike Chase the Chuck Wagon; however, it later saw a full retail release. When Mattel started asking $40 for it in stores, the standards changed for what was acceptable to the game-buying public.

Kool-Aid Man (Atari 2600)

With all that in mind, does Kool-Aid Man provide a gameplay experience worthy of a full-retail release? HELL, NO!!!

When the system is turned on, the first image you see is the Kool-Aid Man bursting through a wall like he did in the commercials. Then, without warning, the game starts. The gameplay screen is colorful, but it's also incredibly ugly. The pitcher you control looks fair enough. However, the "Thirsties," the game's enemies, look like cherries in the game, while the box art makes them look more like cousins of Mankey from the Pokemon games. It's very jarring. Even more distracting is the negative-space color technique the developers used. It's like taking a stencil and moving it over a mural. When the pitcher changes from red to purple just because you're moving up or down, it makes the game as a whole look cheap.

Kool-Aid Man (Atari 2600)

There is a pool of water at the bottom of the screen, and the Thirsties try to drop straws and drink it. When the water is all gone, the game is over. That's right, you only have one life. Your goal is to tag the Thirsties with your pitcher of Kool-Aid to get rid of them. However, there's a catch. You can only tag them when they're drinking the water. They are invincible until they drop a straw, and trying to tag them beforehand would bounce you away from with an annoying "boing" sound effect. There are letters that fly across the screen occasionally that, when touched, turn you into the Kool-Aid Man, granting you about five seconds of invincibility.

A stage is completed when a certain number of Thirsties are tagged, and the game doesn't tell you how many you need to get. It seems to decide arbitrarily that you got enough, and the remaining Thirsties just vanish. You get bonus points for how much water is left in the pool. Then the next stage starts, and it looks exactly like the first stage. It doesn't even bother changing the color scheme. Now more Thirsties are flying around and drinking at the same time; tagging the drinkers becomes nearly impossible. Even worse, the pool of water does not get replenished. I have NEVER seen ANYONE get past the second stage!

Kool-Aid Man (Atari 2600)

Honestly, the only positive I can find regarding the gameplay is that you can pause by flicking the left difficulty switch. That's it. The gameplay is so awful that pausing it is the only good thing I can say. With that in mind, why stop at pausing it? Just turn it off, drop it in a pitcher of Kool-Aid, and plug in a Burger King game.

People like to give more hate to Chase the Chuck Wagon, but, seriously, Kool-Aid Man is FAR worse. This "game" would have been garbage even if it was just a "proof of purchase" freebie, but the fact that Mattel tried to sell it in stores makes it even more abominable. It may be worthwhile for obsessive Atari 2600 collectors, but it is absolutely not at all worth your time. The Kool-Aid Man definitely wouldn't be saying, "Oh, Yeah!" to this colorful crap.
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