A refreshing platformer
Every so often there will be a licensed game that’s actually worth something. It will have a great soundtrack and decent controls and not be so obnoxiously unplayable that legions of older gamers remember it with a certain hatred that burns deep within their soul to be passed down through generations to come. Cool Spot, licensed from Pepsi partner 7UP, is the exception to the norm. If you’re expecting a half-baked idea of platforming solely because it’s a mascot, think again. This romp to release sentient little red dots is actually not half bad and has genre-redeeming qualities.
Cool Spot starts off innocuous enough. Spot must rescue its friends, who are trapped throughout 11 levels in cages. Why its friends are trapped, we’ll never know but it’s up to Spot to rescue them and lecture you about not drinking dark sodas. Spot’s traversal through these 11 levels is nothing short of amazing despite the rampant product placement. It’s surprisingly good, with solid controls that don’t make controlling Spot a chore, and competent simple mechanics that don’t get in the way: It’s mostly jumping and shooting magical sparks at enemies and barred gates. The life system — hilariously denoted by an ever-peeling and deteriorating picture of Spot — is more than generous and there are helper power ups galore to get through levels. The levels themselves have a lot of depth and are timed just right with enough time to explore or get the bare minimum experience in the search for Spot’s missing friend.
While Spot might be on a product placement-filled journey, it’s a lushly drawn trip. Cool Spot is no slouch when it comes to the audio-visual department. The backgrounds are drawn with Spot moving through an obviously human world at about 25 percent of the size of everything else. It isn’t big at all but the world surrounding it is and it shows in the sheer scale, though my only gripe with the game comes here: The backgrounds, while beautiful, are recycled except for a few stages. At least the first three stages are repeated and reused, just with new stage names and some recoloring in spots.
While you’re soaking up the beauty of it all, however, the soundtrack is rocking in the background. Cool Spot is one of the best soundtracks for the Super Nintendo and should be in every gamer’s library. Magnificent production values, crisp audio and nice, deep bass lines make for some interesting tracks that don’t sound like standard 16-bit audio. Tommy Tallarico, pre-Video Games Live fame, put obvious love and care into the audio and it shows. It’s one of the best soundtracks for its time.
Cool Spot has a lot to offer in the way of good ’90s platforming. If you can work around the product placement and shilling for the 7Up brand, you’ll find an uncomplicated hop-and-bop with depth and a banging soundtrack that’s surprisingly refreshing.