Cool Spot (Genesis)

Remember in the early 90’s when 7 UP was the coolest drink ever? No? Me either. Still, I do remember their ad campaign, Cool Spot. For anyone that might not remember Cool Spot, he was the mascot for the 7 UP brand for the late 80’s through to the mid 90’s. Somehow they took the random red dot on their logo, gave it arms and legs as well as a pair of cool shades, and called it a day. It might sound kind of stupid now, but it must have worked for them to keep it around for as long as they did. Moreover, I can’t think of the last time I actually drank a 7 UP since the campaign ended. I know I’ve had Sprite and Sierra Mist since then, but never 7 UP.

Cool Spot (Genesis) - 01

Regardless of my soda drinking habits, we’re here to talk about videogames. If you haven’t already figured it out, retro games were crazy, and everyone got their own game if they were even slightly popular at the time. To that end, we’ll be playing Cool Spot’s self titled game for the Sega Genesis today. I remember seeing this game when it first came out, and I remember wanting it so badly for some reason. Unfortunately I never ended up getting it, so I’m happy to finally get a chance to play it. Let’s just hope all these long years of waiting haven’t been in vain. Truth be told, I really don’t know much about the game other than the fact it’s a platformer starring Cool Spot. So now that I finally have a copy of the game, let’s jump right in and see what I’ve been missing.

Gameplay

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The game begins with no introduction to speak of. This is really a shame because as I’ve mentioned, I have no idea what the back story of this game is. Obviously we play as the mascot Cool Spot, and if this splash screen is any indication, we are tasked with rescuing other Cool Spots who have been trapped in cages. It looks like we also need to collect 7 UP logos and cups as well as collect tons of regular non mascot Cool Spots.

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We start out on the beach, and it looks like this game is going to primarily be a collect-a-thon style game. There are tons of the little Cool Spots scattered around the world just waiting for our hero to collect. Apparently our main objective is to collect at least 60 of these spots before we’ll be allowed to complete the level.

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Of course, what game would be complete without a whole collection of enemies waiting to stop you? For this first level, the whole beach is literally crawling with crabs waiting to sink their claws into our hero. Good thing he isn’t defenseless out there. Somehow he can shoot soda bubbles out of his hands to defend himself.

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Progress along the ground is fairly easy, even if there are a ton of enemies. The latter half of the level however is slightly harder. You’ll have to grab onto the balloons floating in the air and jump from one to the other. Occasionally you’ll even have to bounce off of a floating soda bubble to keep going. The problem I have with this area is that there are a lot of blind jumps, and a single miss will have you falling to the ground, forcing you to start the whole trek over again.

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There aren’t any enemies up here in the air though, and the ones on the ground never respawn, so there isn’t much stress here. Just don’t take so long that you run out of time. Eventually you’ll find your buddy locked up in his cage. One good shot with your soda bubbles and he’ll be free once again.

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Before moving onto the next level, I happened to unlock one of the game’s bonus rounds. This is fairly easy to accomplish if you explore the levels enough. You need to collect 60 Cool Spots to be allowed to open the cage, but collecting 85 will grant you access to the bonus level. In these levels you are confined to the inside of a 7 UP bottle. Here you need to bounce around collecting as many Cool Spots as you can before time runs out. More importantly, each bonus round contains one of the letters in the 7 UP slogan “UNCOLA”. Do your best to collect all of these, because they act as your continues. At the time of the game’s release, collecting all the letters in UNCOLA would also give you a splash screen at the end of the game which you could send in to win a contest.

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Death Count: 1

From here we move our search away from the beaches and onto the pier. While the location may have changed, the goal hasn’t. You’ll still be exploring the level looking to collect 60 of the Cool Spots while defending yourself against the various enemies. This time around you’ll still be fighting some crabs, but you’ll also be fighting worms which must have escaped from the bait bins, as well as a good number of flies.

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Death Count: 4

In addition to those enemies, there is also the occasional clam to deal with. These guys can be quite annoying because their hard shells will simply deflect Cool Spot’s soda bubbles. You’ll have to attack them when they open their shell if you want to kill them. Curiously there is also the rare fish popping its head out of the puddles of water in the wood. I don’t know how deep that puddle could possibly be, but I doubt it’s enough room to sustain a fish.

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Death Count: 5

The first level tried to slow you down with the blind jumps at the end, but this second level doesn’t resort to such cheap tricks. Instead it simply tries to get you lost in the maze of ropes and then bombards you with enemies around every corner. Just keep pressing forward and you’ll eventually find your buddy and free him.

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The quest to free our captured friends quickly moves inside as we now find ourselves exploring the space inside the walls of a building. This is definitely no place for an unsuspecting Cool Spot to find himself. With the confined spaces limiting your movement, and the plethora of exposed nails threatening to impale you, you’ll be lucky to make it out of this wall alive. Although I must say, it is rather fun to launch yourself with the mousetraps, just don’t get stuck under it.

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Death Count: 7

Despite all the mouse traps, they don’t seem to be doing much to control the mouse population here. In fact the mice seem quite happy and comfortable in their red and white pajamas. It’s almost as if they’re simply angry at our disturbing their sleep. They’ll pop their heads out from holes in nearly every piece of wood and throw their cheese at you to make you leave.

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Death Count: 9

They’re hardly the most dangerous or even numerous enemies in the wall though. The whole place is swarming with spiders waiting to drop down on you. If I’m not mistaken, those markings look to be that of the black widow spider as well. A bite from one of those will surely ruin your day. Squash as many spiders as you can, and before you know it you’ll have rescued another of your friends.

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Death Count: 12

When we finally emerge from the wall, we find ourselves surrounded by water inside what I assume is some kind of inflatable pool. Unfortunately, Cool Spot can’t swim at all it would seem. You’ll have to jump between the lily pads, boats, and rubber ducks to keep yourself out of the water.

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Death Count: 17

However, you’re goal isn’t at the other end of the pool. Instead it’s high up in the air. You’ll have to jump up onto the various toy blimps and space ships hanging from the ceiling if you wish to proceed. This part I had a real problem with because there are a large number of blind jumps up in the air, and missing any one of these will have you plummeting down into the water below.

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Death Count: 18

What makes this even harder is the fact that the background moves at a different speed than the foreground. Because of this, you really have no frame of reference anymore for where your next platform is once it drops away off the bottom of the screen. What’s more, the tiny UFOs tip over as soon as you touch them, so you get very little time to assess the situation and plan your next jump. Somehow I managed to make it though here to free my friend.

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Death Count: 20

Now that we’re safe from the threat of drowning, it looks like we’ve stumbled into a toy store of some kind. There are dozens of toy robots and chattering teeth patrolling nearly every inch of this level. When you’re not under fire from the robots, you’re probably trying to avoid the green goo balls bouncing around everywhere.

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Death Count: 23

This level really does feel massive, and it can be easy to get lost in here. It’s also very easy to fall off the higher platforms and be forced to backtrack quite a distance as you make your way to the top of the level. It’s a good thing all these shoes are just randomly laying around though. Their laces provide a convenient rope for you to climb up. Eventually you’ll find your way to the top and manage to free yet another of your friends.

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Somehow it looks like we’ve gone and trapped ourselves inside a pinball machine or something while we were exploring the toy store. Now we’re stuck tumbling down all these ramps completely out of control. Then just when you think you’ve reached the bottom, you end up getting sucked up a tube and thrown right back to the top.

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Honestly, this was the easiest level in the game. There are no enemies around attacking you and unless I missed them there weren’t even any environmental hazards to worry about either. You are free to just have fun rolling down the slopes collecting Cool Spots without a care in the world. You do still have a time limit though, so don’t take too long before you head off to rescue your buddy.

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Death Count: 25

Most unfortunately, this is about where the game peaks. From here we’re pretty much just playing the game over again in reverse. And so we exit the pinball machine and are right back into the toy store. Obviously the level layout is much different and more complicated, but it doesn’t throw much new at you. The only new enemies I think I saw were some yellow pencil topper goblin things.

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Death Count: 27

Just like before, you’ll be fighting your way through wave after wave of toy robots and chattering teeth and even the occasional racecar. So climb up those shoelaces and fight your way to the top of the map. You’ll be leaving piles of scrap in your wake as you force your way to your caged friend.

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Next up we have my most hated level from the whole game, “Loco Motive”. In this level, Cool Spot is riding through the toy store on top of what must be a toy train. The train itself isn’t bad, and was a nice change of pace from the last levels. The problem is the background. You can’t tell from the still images, but the background is actually rushing by as fast as you would expect it to while riding on a fast moving train. This level honestly gave me a bit of motion sickness just looking at the background and I had to look away occasionally. This is especially upsetting because I’m not usually prone to motion sickness.

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Death Count: 28

That’s not what makes me hate this level so much though. Much like the pool level earlier, you eventually have to start traveling upwards to reach your goal. This time instead of blimps and rockets to jump on, we’re now jumping on the backs of goofy looking fat kids. My problem is that the blind jumps were hard enough before without a motion sickness inducing background throwing off your trajectory.

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Death Count: 29

It’s virtually impossible to judge how far you’ve jumped with the background rushing by like it does. This left me falling down to the train so often that for the first time I actually ran out of time for the level. Eventually I did manage to make it to the cage and free my friend, as well as free myself from having to look at that background anymore. I can honestly say without exaggeration that even if the rest of the game was wonderful, I would never play this game again simply to avoid this level. I have never before gotten motion sickness from a game, and I don’t wish to repeat the experience.

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Death Count: 30

Thankfully, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to worry about that anymore as we once again crawl back inside the walls of the building. Other than the occasional dancing electrical sparks, not much has changed since we were last crawling through here. There are still tons of mice in pajamas, and even more black widow spiders infesting every corner of the map.

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Death Count: 31

As a whole, this map does feel a lot bigger than last time, but that might just be my imagination. However, because the whole map is so tightly confined, it’s hard to actually get lost. It’s not like the much more open toy store levels we just left. Just keep following the helping hands and you’ll eventually free another Cool Spot.

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Death Count: 35

Now that we’re back outside, we’re once again on the pier. That means lots of crabs, flies, and the occasional oyster. Again, there isn’t really anything significant to set it apart from our last adventures on the pier. The level is much more difficult, and there are a lot more spots where you can fall and need to backtrack, but not much else new.

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Death Count: 40

There were a few spots I thought were a bit poorly designed though. Simply because Cool Spot has such a high arc to his jump that you end up hitting your head in the tight areas. I think that was the point though, you have to make the jump perfect, or you fall and have to try again. Overall it wasn’t a very difficult level, and we eventually free the Cool Spot from the cage. Just one left to go.

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Death Count: 41

So here we are on the final level. And wouldn’t you know it, we’re back out on the beach where we started. Personally I’m a bit upset with this circular level progression the game made. It makes the whole quest feel somewhat pointless.

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Death Count: 42

This time around, the balloon to balloon jumping takes it to a whole new level. In fact it’s the majority of the level. Now the balloons are actually moving around as well, which makes it even harder to land your jump. There are so many of them this time though that it’s not much of a problem and before long we free the last of the captured Cool Spots and finish the game.

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In an anticlimactic finale, all the Cool Spots get together to spell out “COOOOOOOOL!” with flash cards. Then they just kind of wander off as the credits roll. All of this is accompanied by what sounds like the song “Wipe Out”, and that alone is supposed to make the whole thing feel cool and relevant. But without any kind of big boss fight at the end, or even a relieve of who the villain was, the whole game ends on a flat note for me.

Verdict

Gameplay – 6 / 10

The controls and general gameplay of the game are fun, even if they are a bit generic. Unfortunately the game is full of tiny annoyances. Nearly every level has a handful of blind jumps and leaps of faith. The only thing more annoying than the blind jumps are all the backtracking you have to go through when you miss them. Then there are the swarms of enemies which boarder on the obnoxious level. Thankfully they never respawn, so they are at least somewhat manageable. They’d be even more manageable if the game allowed you to stand still while attacking, specifically in the diagonal directions. Because the diagonals incorporate in part the left and right directionals, you start walking in that direction as you’re shooting. Not only does this bring you ever closer to the enemy you were trying to kill, but it also moves your aim off your target. The real nail in the coffin though is the complete lack of boss fights. It leaves the whole game feeling shallow. Yeah you rescued all your friends, but you never learn anything about how they got captured in the first place, and there’s no real resolution to know it will never happen again.

Graphics – 7 / 10

I thought the graphics were generally great. All the enemies were rather large and very detailed and all the animations were very fluid. Unfortunately they started recycling assets very quickly, just the layout was different. My biggest disappointment wasn’t even when I was playing the game, it was afterwards when I saw a YouTube video of someone playing the SNES version. There are just so many little details that are so much better on the SNES version than they are on the Genesis version. Just one example that really sticks out is the balloons. In the Genesis version they are all solid red, but in the SNES version they are multi colored and semi transparent. These little details go a long way towards the graphics.

Audio – 6 / 10

Honestly I just finished playing the game and I’ve already mostly forgotten what the music was like, so I’m giving it a midrange score out of ignorance. If I don’t remember it than there must not have been anything too horrible, but there also wasn’t anything that was overly memorable either. Don’t get me wrong, the music all fit the tone of the game very nicely, but it was all so generic that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it all came preprogrammed on the synthesizer.

Story – 0 / 10

I love RPG games with deep stories, that’s part of why I grade all the games on story. But I know not every game needs an epic story to be a great game. That’s why a lot of times I’ll simply give games like this a “N/A” score. This game was an exception and it earned an honest 0 because its half assed excuse of a story I found detrimental to my enjoyment of the game. Without the manual, there is no story to speak of. You have no idea WHY your friends are trapped in cages. All you know is that you need to free them. If you have the manual you’d know that they were captured by “Wild Wicked Willy Will” while you were out surfing. That’s why you are the only one that wasn’t captured. It’s a simple story along the lines of other platformers, but other platformers at least show you the villain throughout the game. Everyone knows when Bowser kidnaps Peach, or when Dr Robotnik does… whatever it is he does… Serious, what is Robotnik’s plan other than stop Sonic? Sorry, getting off topic. My point is that “Wild Wicked Willy Will” is such an anonymous villain that even Google couldn’t find him. So his inclusion in the manual is pointless and adds nothing to the game. In fact, the lack of resolution with him at the end of the game makes his inclusion infuriating because there’s no resolution at all. It’s because of this that the half assed attempt at a story is actually worse than no story at all.

Total Playtime – 1h 43m

It’s a very short game which no doubt relies on its difficulty to create the illusion of value. Honestly I doubt I’d ever be able to beat this game normally.

Total Deaths – 42 Deaths

If I slowed down a bit, I probably could have avoided a lot of my deaths. The fact that the enemies never respawn really helps to keep this game balanced. However, all of the blind jumps can make the game very frustrating, especially on the pool level where a missed jump means instant death.

Overall Score – 5 / 10

Before I start badmouthing the game, let me start by saying I generally did enjoy playing this game. However, it is objectionably a generic game at best and a bad game at worst. The lack of story or boss battles or really any other gameplay elements beyond collecting items destroy any satisfaction you would normally get from playing a game. It also removes any possible replay value the game might have. You can only collect so many Cool Spots scattered around the levels before you just stop caring. Without any boss battles to raise the excitement, the whole game is just a bland trek from the start of the level to the end. And while the levels themselves are rather large, your progress through them is mostly linear. You also only need the smallest amount of exploration to collect the minimum 60 Cool Spots before you reach the cage at the end of the level. Add to this the minor frustrations present in nearly every level, and you are left with a generally bad game. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun. Like I said at the start, I still enjoyed playing the game. It’s just that the game will never make my top 10 list, and in fact I doubt I’ll ever bother to play the game again, there’s simply no reason to.

Cool Spot (Genesis) - 64

That’s the only trophy this game is getting…

 

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