ENCYCLOPEDIA OBSCURA: SPONSORED SPRITES
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No matter where you turn today, there's an ad screaming for your attention. I for one am not too crazy about it. In fact, one of the few things that have ever terrified me in a sci-fi movie were those damn talking billboards in Minority Report that screamed your name at you when you walked past them. I'm really not looking forward to the day technology allows pop-under windows to sneak into my pants and jump up in front of my eyes when I go take a piss.
Blatant product placement in games has been a hot topic lately. When I say 'hot' I of course mean 'piss warm' and when I say 'lately' I of course mean 'I remember reading something about it a couple of months ago'. So it's not exactly up there with whatever Letterman is joking about these days, but it's been debated. And it isn't really a big deal. The reason why game developers include Coke machines in their games is to heighten the level of realism and little more. In fact, they have to pay Coca Cola money to include their logo. I'm sure there are cases where the tables are turned, but this isn't, despite what the media claims, a new thing. If you've grown up with a Nintendo or Sega in the household, you know what I'm talking about. Sports games have always been chock full of advertisements, like for example ABC Monday Football. I could of course name just about any other sports game out there, but I'll just stick with ABC. Not because the Gatorade plug takes up a large part of the screen, but because the crowd looks like rotting zombies reacting to the sound frequency that the genius kid discovered is perfect for killing all the zombies and ending the movie and I think it's too darn funny not to bring up.
Well, I think it's funny.
While you can find a good deal of ads in other games, nothing can compare to the European release of Biker Mice From Mars, a pretty decent game as far as licensed pieces of shit go. As far as I remember, the Biker Mice were basically Ninja Turtles minus the reptility and instead of pizza they were nuts for hamburgers or something. Most of you guys probably remember this stuff better than I do, I stopped looking for new heroes after I found Donatello. Anyway, I think it was hamburgers. Surprisingly, there aren't any hamburgers in this game. Lots of Snickers, though. In fact, there's more Snickers in this game than there are alien mice. Snickers Rad Death Rally would actually be a more appropriate name. One example of the insane amount of chocolate in this game is the victory screen. Whenever someone passes the goalpost, they stand up to declare that
I may be speaking for myself here, but it could seem that a crazy professor with a chocolate bar in one hand and a syringe in the other maybe isn't the best role model out there.
It's difficult to explain just how much Snickers there is in this game, so I'm going to add one more 'Snickers' whenever I'm mentioning the chocolate from now on. About three paragraphs from now you'll start to get a feel what it's like to play the game. Seriously, it's like the graphic editors were paid a dollar for each chocolateified sprite and went crazy. Take the banners, for example.
In the original game, you find a variety of banners and signs. In the European version, they're all Snickers Snickers. Hell, there's even a Snickers Snickers Snickers ad every ten feet in the sewer. Forget space rodents, bloated hovering reptiles in disguise and scientists riding around in giant bug carts, the sheer amount of Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers is what makes this game unrealistic. There just can't be a plane of existence out there where a chocolate bar is worshipped to such a degree you'll find an ad campaign in the bleeding sewer too massive for a corporate blimp convention taking place during the Superbowl.
In case you're curious what the first banner above is referring to, Last Chance is a workshop run by Not April O'Neill Because She Wears a Blue Jumpsuit and Not a Yellow One. Here, you can improve your chances on the tracks by upgrading your vehicle with new engines, tires, shots or armor. Hang on... that's not armor! That's Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers! How chocolate can make your bike more resistant to mutant crazy space rays is beyond me, but this after all takes place in an impossible dimension only intelligible to Douglas Adams, and he's dead.
Oh, and guess what? You can get Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers mid-game as well, and this time it doesn't make your bike/hover-craft/tricycle/insect more rubust, it lets you crash through all those who oppose you instead. Is there anything that chocolate can't do? All this, and on top of it all it satisfies your hunger. Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickers Snickersiriffic!
I have to point out that there is absolutely no connection between this game and what it plugs. Why on earth would someone think of combining Biker Mice with Snickers Snickers Snickers... all right, screw this, I've driven my point through. Why on earth whould someone think of combining Biker Mice with Snickers? I understand the appeal, a game that's basically a toy commercial in itself and has a decent shot at becoming part of the next big fighting animals fad is a lucrative billboard. But why Snickers? Well, I guess the Snickers people were the ones to take the initiative and the only ones to make a bid. It could have been anything. And if it absolutely had to be a chocolate brand, I know a company that should be slapping their faces and cursing themselves for letting the opportunity to pass them by. I'm not naming names, though. Not going to laugh at whoever were stupid enough to let Snickers swipe the deal when they would be more suited than anyone else to plug their chocolate in a game about Biker Mice From Mars, bar none. See what I did there?
Product placement is one thing, another is forging an entire game around a product. Since I'm trying to highlight more obscure titles on this site, I'm going to skim the surface to get the essentials out of the way before sinking my teeth into a chunky and mayonnaisey treat I've dug up.
Cool Spot was released for both leading 16-bit consoles and is nothing but one big 7up commercial. Spot himself is either a part of the logo or a bottle cap or both. In addition, there are at least three McDonald's games, and in at least one of them Ronald himself embarks on a wacky adventure instead of sending a couple of kids to put their lives on the line like he usually does. And these aren't the only games created solely to promote a brand. What's a bit surprising is that most of these are pretty damned good games, if a bit conventional. 'Conventional' is however not a word I'd use when it comes to Motoko Chan No Wonder Kitchen for the SNES.
Now, most product-centered games try to at least throw a flimsy storyline into the mix. Ronald McDonald is out to search for treasure and Cool Spot has to rescue his friends who got all kidnapped for no reason. Not the case in Wonder Kitchen. This game is about eating mayonnaise period. Ajinomoto mayonnaise, that is. Accept no substitutes.
Well, the game isn't only about eating mayo. First, you have to read grocery lists and find the ingredients needed to cook the dishes required to finish the game. This is one of the few games that supported the SNES mouse, so you collect these ingredients by clicking around on the screen until you've found them all. Perhaps there's a cabbage in one of the cannons on the pirate ship? Perhaps will a handful of leprechauns pop out of the fridge and dance a merry dance before turning into potatoes? Perhaps will a dwarf sleepily hand you a tomoato if you turn on the lamp above him? Click and you'll find out. When you've collected everything you need, you travel to a magical island where you'll find a kitchen.
Figuring out how to prepare a meal can be a challenge if you can't read the Japanese instructions. For instance, it took me a while to discover that to complete a salad, I had to turn the faucet on, fill a pot with water, turn on the stove and boil the lettuce instead of just cutting it and throw it in with the tomatoes. In case you're curious, this is how you prepare fish-filled tomato rings:
As if a trip to mayonnaise heaven so perfectly gastronomical it's practically astronomical wasn't enough, between meals you're also treated to some mayonnaisey facts I wish I understood. I'll do my best to interpret.
Blind tests prove that Ajinomoto mayonnaise is
preferred by women, businessmen and truckdrivers alike!
In fact, Ajinomoto mayonnaise constitutes 70%
of all mayonnaise purchased in
The next meal was a salad. I'm not going to go into detail, instead I'll just give a brief summary of the process: Take half a pineapple and scoop the meat out of it. Slice up some apples, tangerines and kiwis and throw everything into a bowl. Then add half a bottle of Ajinomoto mayonnaise and put everything back into the pineapple shell. Mmmmm. When the juices from the pineapple, tangerines and kiwis merge with the eggy yumminess of the mayo right in your mouth you'll doublecome!
The ruler of France was in a foul mood.
Then, someone made him a cake with
mayonnaise on it. He liked it lots.
It was declared that mayonnaise was good.
This is the story of how it came to be that
women started wearing hats.
The last meal confused me a bit, though not for the same reasons the other ones did. I figured out how to do the alien omelette I was assigned fast enough, but where was the mayonnaise? The first thing I did when I arrived at the kitchen was to rip the plastic wrapping off the bottle of Ajinomoto mayonnaise and hum along to the following fanfare. I suppose real mayo bottles don't play music when you unwrap them, but this is after all Japan, so you never know. I wouldn't be surprised if the real-life bottle shouts "Ajinomoto mayonnaise is the supar mayonnaise NAMBA WAN!" in the voice of an over-excited young woman when you squeeze it. Where was I? Yes, the confusing bit. Not once during the meal could I play my trump card when I was stuck and just assume I was supposed to add more mayo. There was no mayo in this dish! You can imagine my relief when I discovered that the mayo was to be added after the omelette was done. Enter super ultra mayo art minigame! What will your omelette look like?!
Question: What is mayonnaise made from?
Answer: Mayonnaise is made from eggs,
oil and 9V batteries.
The oil used in mayonnaise is extremely
effective against viral infections, in particular
against the vira seen in Dr. Mario. Nine out
of ten doctors recommend you eat a lot of
Ajinomoto mayonnaise whenever you are sick.
Mayonnaise is good for you. Do not question this.
All right, enough with the mayo.
Like I said, I'm not too crazy about exessive advertisement. Still, the product placements in today's games aren't something I worry too much about. In fact, there seems to have been a decrease in the number of plugs over the last ten years. Or maybe I'm just in denial because I want to think those damn talking billboards are hundreds of years away. In any case, how about replacing the ketchup with mayonnaise the next time you're having hot dogs?
Yummy yum yum! Until next time.
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Copyright Per Arne Sandvik