Pepsiman was the star of a series of Japanese Pepsi commercials (youtube link) aired back in the latter half of the 90s. He's basically some kind of CGI Pepsi can avatar superhero who races across the world to save people suffering from cola withdrawal... by breathing cans of Pepsi into their hands. Or something. Poor Pepsiman never made an appearance outside of Japan though, and neither did this game.
Somehow I get the feeling this post is going to be wall to wall product placement, so enter with caution. If you find yourself getting a sudden urge to empty out your fridge and fill it with Pepsi cans, you should probably take a ten minute break. The screenshots will still be here when you come back.
Actually it turns out that he's quite sane, as a closer inspection reveals that the music's actually coming from the Pepsiman video game title screen stuck to the inside.
Then he turned around and noticed that I'd followed him home. He actually looked right at the screen and said "hey let's start the game", as if his drink can epiphany had given him the power to comprehend his virtual existence and gaze through the fourth wall.
Or maybe I'm just playing as his friend.
I haven't suddenly learned Japanese by the way; the entire game is basically in English except for the subtitles, and the cutscenes have voice acting so even that's not an issue.
It seems to be a straightforward 'run into the screen, dodge the obstacles' type of game. I can jump and slide, but most of the time all I'm doing is tapping left and right on the d-pad to avoid cars and collect cans as he automatically sprints down the street.
Hey if these people actually cared about these cans they would have put them in the fridge or a cupboard. Leaving them hovering a foot above the floor is just laziness.
"PEPSIMAN!! PEPSIMAN!! PEPSIMAN!!" Over and over and over...
Wait, Pepsiman,what the fuck are you doing? You're supposed to be filling the machine up, not drinking the last can! You've collected 77 of them already, how is that not enough for you?
Man, I'm sure there's no way I can make that jump in front of me, but those cans are leading me over it. What do I trust: the game, or my own judgement? Do I make the jump, or walk the plank?
I can usually last two or three hits on a full tank of health, but falling down a pit is an instant kill. Fortunately all those cans I collected on the first stage have earned me a ton of extra lives.
For some reason he HAS to do this section on the skateboard. If he falls off I'm thrown back to the last checkpoint. It's not a huge challenge to dodge the cars and swerve around trucks pulling out; it's just a bit annoying having to replay it all due to a single mistake.
And then a few seconds later that delivery truck from the start finally catches up, and rams me into a Pepsi billboard! What, was he jealous of my adoring fans or something? Anyway that's one job done and the city is once again safe from Pepsi related crises. Well except for that giant fake can I knocked off the sign and sent rolling down the street, but that ain't my problem...
This bit's a pain in the ass, because I practically have to memorise the objects coming my way as there's barely any space to react to them. Though with four lives left, I'm sure I'll get the hang of it before I run out of chances to try again.
Fortunately choosing to continue put me right back on the giant can chase stage, so can get right back to fucking up on the part I'm stuck on, without having to replay the part I got through fine. Also it has saves (well, one singular save slot) so I could quit and continue later. It's the kind of thing you just take for granted from games these days, fortunately.
"You're pretty good. Have a Pepsi!" the man says with a grin, apparently directed at his TV.
"Next stage," he adds after a pause, as if the idea of gulping down another can had momentarily derailed his train of thought.
They've started throwing in tricks like this as well. If you look really carefully, you can tell that I'm actually sliding right towards a gaping hole here. Fortunately I can cancel a slide instantly by pressing jump, though that only helps if I actually notice the hole.
But I have learned a new trick. Pressing up on the d-pad while pressing the slide button triggers a dash instead. No clue why they couldn't map that to one of the other six unused buttons on the PS pad, but whatever, I'll get the hang of it. Or quit with frustration.
At least now I know that trail of cans wasn't deliberately placed to mislead me back at that pit near the start. I really could have made that jump with a bit more speed.
Annoyingly though, when I retried the level I managed to pull off the move correctly... and fell off the building. Because it seems he was always meant to fall off, it's the only way to finish the level. But the first time didn't count because I didn't fall off in the way they wanted me to. So dumb.
Actually I can't complain, as this level is actually a straight adaptation of one of the adverts, more or less. It basically plays out the same as when I was chased by the can on the first level though: objects scroll up from the bottom of the screen, and I have a split second to dodge them.
That's what he said. After laughing like a maniac for seven seconds while shovelling food into his face. Here watch it yourself on youtube if you want, see if it makes you want to run out and buy a can.
And I will, just as soon as I get the timing right with these trucks. I can just about make it through the gaps as long as I don't use the dash move, but that countdown timer on the top of the screen is giving me a big incentive to speed up.
The game's actually started getting serious now, and I'm struggling. This is taking me a fair number of attempts to get right.
Unfortunately the camera turn threw me off so I wasn't able to get myself lined with the car wash in time and he bounced right off the side of it. He doesn't just fall over when he takes a hit, he gets knocked backwards, which is exactly I want to happen when I've got a time limit.
It's even more hilarious when I manage to jump clear over a hole, hit something on the other side, then get knocked backwards right back down into it. Instant failure.
I can't quit now though. I HAVE to keep playing just long enough... to see the next FMV clip.
Well I did all that work just to watch a guy eat pizza. I really have to wonder what they were thinking when they added this guy to the game. I mean he's not in the adverts as far as I know, at least not the Pepsiman ones, and he's got no influence on the story at all. He doesn't even comment on it.
When he shows up it's like having a commercial break in the middle of one long commercial. Though at least it really is a break from that bloody music. Every track in the game is a variation of the Pepsiman theme, which works fine in a 20 second ad, but kinda gets old when it's repeated for hours straight.
There are only four jobs to do in the entire game, each with two regular stages followed by a reverse camera escape stage. So that's twelve stages in total, not actually that many considering how fast I've been working through them. But they have made arrangements to compensate for that, by making these last stages bastard hard.
Even walking down a seemingly clear road puts me at risk of surprise street signs falling from above. I'm having to learn each piece of the track at a time, getting a little further in each run. It's become a game of memorisation instead of reflexes, which is kind of a problem for me because my memory sucks.
This part of the game is incredibly frustrating to me, because I don't have many lives, and when they're all gone I'm thrown back to the start of the stage, a few checkpoints ago. I know a minute and a half of progress doesn't seem like much to have to replay, but it starts adding up as I throw away lives due to stupid mistakes and awkward jumps. Plus I still haven't got the hang of pulling off the dash move.
FINAL LEVEL, STAGE 2!!
This is the penultimate level in the game, I'm so close to saving Pepsi city (and by extension, the world), but I can't even reach the first checkpoint! Sadly I'll never learn how the story of our caffeine addicted TV-game fan ends.
Actually I just gave up and watched the ending on youtube. Amazingly it seems that not even FMV bloke is entirely immune to the effects of drinking 50 cans in an hour, as he stumbles through the trash lining his living room to get outside and take a piss. You know, I'm not sure these game developers realised they were supposed to be promoting this product.
Pepsiman is about as shallow as a PlayStation game gets really, but to be honest I enjoyed it for what it was. Even as the difficulty started ramping up, I found I wanted to just give it one more try, two more tries etc. until I found I'd nearly completed the thing. Failure isn't usually a massive frustration as the checkpoints mean you only have to replay a third of a stage at most if you've got enough lives, and each stage is under two minutes long anyway. Everything is scripted, so half the trick is learning the best path; once you've got that figured out you can fly through a stage.
No one would ever accuse it of being a great game, but it can be an entertaining one for an hour or so, if you can tolerate the music.
Any thoughts about Pepsiman, my writing, blatant advertising in video games, your favourite corporate mascot, or anything else halfway relevant? Feel free to leave a comment.