"WARNING! This is not as much a game, as it is an interactive Pepsi advertisement!"
This disclaimer appears on the packaging of the new "running action" game from software developers KID, makers of Saturn H-games such as WELCOME TO PIA CARROT. This is not a joke. The game is one gigantic Pepsi advertisement and the makers make no pretenses otherwise. In this reviewer's experience, there have been plenty of console games centered around licenses where the developers strived to make an enjoyable gaming experience, and have fallen way short. (Countless movie licensed games come to mind). Having said this, I was quite skeptical about the quality of PEPSIMAN, but was drawn to it nonetheless because of my fascination for quirky Japanese games that will likely never see the light of day on US soil. Upon receiving a copy of this game, this reviewer was excited to give it a go and was pleasantly surprised. PEPSIMAN is very simple, with gameplay reminiscent of 8-bit and 16-bit action games, but it is a very fun game and also funny as well.
For all those devoted Pepsi drinkers out there who have never heard of Pepsiman before, there is an explanation why. Pepsiman is the official licensed mascot of Pepsi of Japan and is only used for Pepsi ads on their side of the Pacific, which is a shame because the Pepsiman commercials are some of the funniest things aired on TV. Basically Pepsiman is a lovable but luckless metallic action hero emblazoned with the Pepsi logo who looks like the love child of the T-1000 Terminator and Dural from the VIRTUA FIGHTER games. Similar to Frosted Flakes' Tony the Tiger, his mission is to come running whenever there is trouble and quench people's thirsts with Pepsi Cola power, and like Tony the Tiger, he makes cool entrances. However, unlike Tony the Tiger, his exits tend to end up as painful slapstick comedy . For example he'll appear on the mountain slopes snowboarding, helping thirsty skiers, and then crash on the slopes below and be carted away on a stretcher. Unfortunately most of the American pepsi drinkers probably will never see nor appreciate the greatness of Pepsiman.
This is not the first time the Pepsiman character has appeared in a video game. His debut was in home version of Sega's fighting game, FIGHTING VIPERS as a hidden character, due to Pepsi's heavy sponsorship of the Saturn version of the game. It was here that Pepsiman was introduced to a legion of import gaming fans, and rather than being merely a cheap marketing gimmick, Pepsiman was actually a very fun character to play, heightening his popularity. Sadly the legal powers that be decided that our thirst-quenching running hero was not to be included in the US version of FIGHTING VIPERS, so once again, we were denied. Now Pepsiman stars in his own game, this time on the Sony PlayStation.
Essentially Pepsiman is categorized as a running-action game, and that pretty much sums up the gameplay. The player controls Pepsiman as he runs through various levels, usually on city streets, dodging cars, pedestrians, holes in the ground, and other obstacles in his path. The game is mostly played from a TOMB RAIDER "behind-the-back" point of view, although he is viewed from other camera angles as well. Pepsiman runs on rails as he jumps, duck-slides, and speeds up. Pepsiman is constantly running and cannot stop unless he hits an obstacle or falls down a hole, so the player must used all his action skills to avoid obstacles on the road. The action is not limited to running. Pepsiman also surfs, skates, barrel rolls his way past obstacles on the road as well. Plus there is more than one instance where he has a barrel over his head and the controls are reversed while he is stumbling blindly.
Pepsiman has to complete running each level against a countdown timer and along the way can pick up Pepsi cans which add to his lifebar and helps out with the countdown timer as well. There are 800 cans in total across 4 levels/8 stages and certain special options can open up when all 800 cans are collected. When the game is completed, a free play mode opens up where the player can select and run specific tracks rather than play the whole game from the start. Other bonuses includes choosing between the "new" Pepsiman color scheme (the default), and the "classic" Pepsiman color (based on the old pepsi can design. In between levels there are FMV cut scenes. I was hoping for FMV movies of the original Pepsiman TV commercials, but unfortunately they are cut scenes of some fat gaijin pepsi addict.
Graphics are pretty standard for a PlayStation game, running in full 3D polygons at a constant 30 fps. While they are not flashy nor hi-res, they get the job done. There is one noteworthy aspect of the graphics however, and that is the presence of Pepsi logo everywhere and anywhere. In fact there are imitation logos of certain 'rival' soft drink companies as well in this game.
Music is actually redbook audio which is a rarity for PlayStation games these days, meaning you can pop the game disc into a CD player and listen to the music. As expected, the familiar trademark Pepsiman theme is present in the game, and it is virtually the only music in the game. The game's BGM consists of the original version of the Pepsiman theme accompanied by 7 other 'variations' of the theme which play during different stages of the game. This can either be a joy to Pepsiman fans or an incredible nuisance.
This review concludes the same way it began. This game is simply one large interactive Pepsi ad, but never has this reviewer had so much fun playing a marketing gimmick. For an import, the price is extremely hard to beat as well (¥2800). What makes this game so much fun is the simple old-school style gameplay combined with a good sense of humor and a luckless but likable action hero.