Five For Friday continues with a look at some of video gaming’s most corporate moments. Ever wondered why Lara Croft only drinks Lucozade? Well, that’s probably not true but she got paid to pretend otherwise in the late 90s.
As you read these words I’ll be staring at paintings in Le Louvre. Or maybe fretting at the price of the lift up the Eiffel Tower. Or maybe my legs hurt from too much walking and I’m watching TV in my hotel room. Any way you slice it, I’ll be in Paris, so enjoy this brand spanking new Five For Friday while I’m gone.
Video games: for so many people an escapist dream. A chance to live vicariously through space marines, archaeologists and…erm, skateboarders. Probably the last thing you want to see when booting up a game is to be bombarded by advertising, but product placement has been an issue for decades now. Whether it’s the chance to add some brand realism to proceedings, or just a company trying to make up the shortfall of whatever budgetary black hole their game production has climbed into, we see it happening all the time.
While in some games, the ads make some semblance of sense, in others they’re out of place and altogether weird. Here are five games which went firmly latterways.
This didn’t happen if you played it on the SNES, but us Amiga players were treated to a weird enough prelude to this classic domino puzzler; a cartoon crisps mascot known as Colin Curly dropping his treasured packet of Quavers down into an ant hill, and enlisting the help of the game’s main character to help him out.
There he is, the clumsy fool. Fortunately this bizarre intro doesn’t have too much bearing on the rest of the game, as presumably it would’ve been too difficult to remove for the SNES port. Pushover was actually a fiendishly difficult but fun game – and to be fair, I still bloody love Quavers, always have.
Cool Spot (1993)
When your soft drink starts losing ground on its competitors, what do you do? Make it taste nicer? No, just bin off the humanistic mascot and replace him with a red dot with arms and legs. Poor Fido Dido, and poor us for being subjected to a Mega Drive platformer starring a red dot as the mascot for an inferior lemon/lime drink.
Long before the days when junk food was banned during children’s TV ad breaks, they were able to create video games to promote their brand! Cool Spot was first released on the Mega Drive, which leads me to believe that they weren’t always pushing for that mature audience which Mortal Kombat would deliver them.
For beleaguered parents and their fast food-craving kids, this for me was pretty much a low.
“As a licensed product for the McDonald’s fast food franchise, the game occasionally features the various logos and characters from McDonald’s restaurant signage and television advertisements, for the purposes of plot advancement and power-ups.”
I’m unsure if we actually owned a copy of this atrocity on our Amiga during the 1990s, but I definitely played enough of it to know that…they should’ve stuck to the burgers. I’m fairly outraged that they could even get away with this stuff, but as long as it’s all happy happy nicey nicey EAT MCDONALDS jolly jolly, then nobody will have been too concerned. Why is it that the moral majority was so up in arms about violent video games being illegally sold to underage customers, but nobody bats an eyelid about selling this shit?
As another blatant product placement, Zool is fairly indefensible, with very, VERY prominent signs for Chupa Chups lollies clogging up every single screen in the game. However, at the tender age of eight I was prepared to overlook this because it was bloody fun to play.
Despite this, The Ninja From The nth Dimension was a very tough game to play. Looking back now, it appears that 1992 had a lot to answer for with three of the four games listed so far responsible for polluting my tiny mind with in-game advertising. Hell, I feel silly enough now just pressing to watch the ads on AdVenture Capitalist to gain a 2x bonus, let alone expose my much more vulnerable seven-year old mind with this filth.
Enter The Matrix (2003)
This is the only one off the list I haven’t actually played, and with good reason: you’ve seen those last two Matrix films, right? Nuff said.
But the choice of tie-in product is especially strange for the video game adaptation of the Most Unwatchable 66% Of A Trilogy Ever. When you’ve had a hard day running through virtual world and trying to stay alive against virulent agents, what do you do?
…drink Powerade? Really??? This kind of thing works much better inside the cartoonish worlds of Pushover and Zool; hell, even McDonaldLand is a feel good fun time in spirit, but this particular endorsement in this particular tone of game really just brings you out of it, doesn’t it?