Monday, 7 January 2013

Pepsiman (PSX)

Pepsiman title screen playstation
Hey it's an advertising mascot game, I don't think I've played one of these since Cool Spot last May. I doubt this one's going to be a platformer though.

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.

The game starts with some live action FMV, as we spy on this American guy emptying out a vending machine one can at a time. He's going to feel so dumb when he learns you can buy them in packs these days.

Unfortunately years of cola addiction has given him brain damage and now he hallucinates the Pepsiman theme whenever he takes a sip.

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.

With that mystery solved he's free to go home... and grab some more Pepsi. You know somehow I assumed he was out to get some shopping done, but nope; apparently that bag full of cans he'd bought was just to keep him going until he could get home to his fridge full of cans.

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.

As our FMV observer settles in to watch the show, the game proper starts up. Turns out that Pepsiman has arrived just at the perfect time. A vending machine has run out of Pepsi, but the delivery guy has a flat tyre. Now there's a bunch of people gathering outside the machine and the word is that they're just about to riot! Only Pepsiman can prevent disaster, somehow!

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.

I gotta give the developers credit; this seems just like one of the adverts so far. Pepsiman's running down a street, his annoying theme tune is playing on a loop...

... and he keeps smacking his head on things. He's endearingly clumsy in the commercials, so really I'm just staying true to the character.

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.

Checkpoint! It hasn't refilled my time, so I'm hoping it's actually a restart point. I've only been playing for 40 seconds, but it'd nice if I didn't have to replay them because of a screw up in the next section. Like, for example, smacking right into a house that some insensitive bastard has built right at the end of the road. Pepsiman's not so good at turning.

Well that could have gone worse I suppose. Just ignore me guys, I'm just popping by to steal your floating Pepsi. I need to drink ten of them to recover my health, you see. Plus maybe I can shove a few of them into that vending machine at the end of the run to save the day.

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.

I came so close to escaping the house clean as well, until a trip through a shed in the back yard landed a bin on his head. With this thing covering his eyes he suffers from reversed controls, but somehow I don't actually mind. I think it's because the controls are so simple that it's easy to adjust, though I can't rule out the possibility that this damn music loop has sent me into a hypnotic trance.

"PEPSIMAN!! PEPSIMAN!! PEPSIMAN!!" Over and over and over...

Made it to the vending machines with mere seconds left on the timer! Though I didn't see that angry crowd of people I was promised. I thought a riot was about to break out.

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?

Oh hang on, this mission isn't over yet. That was just the end of the first stage.

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?

Oh shit, I can't make it! The cans lied to me, man! Either that or there's a sprint button I don't know about.

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.

Damn, the game's turning into Sonic Adventure.

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.

YES! I arrived just in time. Riot averted! The pixellated pedestrians of this mighty polygon city are safe from dehydration and civil unrest for yet another hour.

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...

Hey the game's got a 'run towards the screen' section too. It really IS Sonic Adventure! Man, I can't believe I'm playing as a Pepsi advert in a Pepsi advert dodging Pepsi adverts while being chased by a Pepsi advert. I'm getting mixed messages here about this brand.

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.

Well fuck, I screwed that up. See, I told you he was the humanoid avatar of a Pepsi can. When he gets dinted, so does the can.

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.

Alright, on this stage I've been sent to revive some people trapped inside by a fire. The guy made it sound like there was just the one building on fire and it was mostly under control, but this is absolute bloody chaos out here. Cop cars skidding by and exploding, people begging for soda in the streets, flaming barrels lining the road; it's like some dystopian vision of a world without delicious fizzy caffeinated sugar water.

I'm getting a lot of use out of the slide move on this stage, with construction workers spinning long girders into my path with suspiciously consistently inconvenient timing, completely unconcerned as parts of the building collapse around them.

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.

I'm still working on saving those people in the fire, this is just a shortcut. Or at least it would be if I could just stop getting instantly killed by trains. These things hit so hard that no amount of health can save me.

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.

And then on the very last jump of the level, I messed up the dash and fell off a building. No refreshment for anyone.

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.

Wait, didn't one of the Sonic Adventure games have a truck chase like this?

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.

Alright, the next job is from a guy with a crashed helicopter. A plane was forced to make an emergency landing in the desert and he wants me to get my glossy blue ass over there to bring refreshment to the stranded passengers.

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.

These assholes are deliberately trying to hit me now, I'm sure of it. They're driving up from behind and then turning to block the road in front of me! If they hit me from behind I'm kicked back to the last checkpoint, but at least I can survive a few collisions with a parked bike.

The game's actually started getting serious now, and I'm struggling. This is taking me a fair number of attempts to get right.

FUCK! I was so close!

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.


The passengers are at last refreshed! And for once nothing came out of nowhere and hit me from behind...

...oh for fuck's sake. This time I have to dodge logs rolling from under the log bundle, while being careful not to jump up into the ones flying overhead.

I can't quit now though. I HAVE to keep playing just long enough... to see the next FMV clip.

Pepsi is so often neglected as a pizza topping.

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.

Alright, this is Pepsiman's final mission, to save Pepsi town from collapsing into total anarchy after the main computer went out of control. Violence is flaring up and exhausted people are collapsing in the street because they can't refresh themselves with Pepsi. And this is supposed to make me want the product? It's like a cautionary sci-fi story about a society doomed by their over-reliance on carbonated cola beverages.

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.

Agh, you son of a bitch truck! Why are these Pepsi trucks always trying to kill me in this game? I realise the traffic computer is out, but that's no excuse for driving like a lunatic. Also no excuse for these giant holes in the ground now that I think about it.

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.


Shit, conveyor belts now? It's hard enough already to get the timing right when I'm dodging between moving objects, making the floor move as well is just taking the piss. I keep landing on my head and getting carried off into a hole.

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.


  1. Thank you for using one of my favorite words, "penultimate", although "antepenultimate" is better.

    1. I'll have to remember to work that into a post at some point then.

    2. If you really want a challenge, try to casually slip this one into a post at some point:

  2. I love that there's a Pepsi game, thanks for sharing this with us! I'm a coca-cola man myself but it's still fantastic.


Semi-Random Game Box