COCA-COLA KID / Sega / Game Gear
Coca-Cola Kid plays like a mashup of Sonic (multi-path level structure and run-jump mechanics), Prince of Persia (ledge grabs and more realistic turning physics) and Ninja Gaiden (attack moves and wall jump-slide). This strange blend actually works out pretty well. It's not overwhelmingly good and there are some irritiating hinks, but it's much better than you'd expect a blatant advergame to be.

The Sonic influence comes by way of Aspect, the third-party development team that handled all of Sega's generally well-regarded Sonic ports and games for the Game Gear and Master System (save the very first one). The marching orders from Sega appear to have been "go ahead and use the base Sonic engine, but cut loose and do your own thing with it.

The game was created as part of a "tie up" cross-promotion between Sega and Coke centered on the Game Gear; it was actually released with a limited edition red Game Gear with Coke branding, which you can see below. This was only in Japan, however. There does appear to be a fan translation for the game, but I didn't know about it until I finished the game and started on this review ... it's a straight-ahead platformer and a lot of the between-level text is in English anyway, so it isn't really necessary.

If you're really curious, the story is that Sketchy Scientist turns into Mohawk Punk to the shock of Coca Cola Kid, who then sets off on a quest to defeat him and rescue his teacher (who he may or may not have an age-inappropriate relationship with). Turns out Mohawk Punk is just the first level boss though, there's a whole organization of randos who are apparently passing the teacher around that you have to work through. There's an Australian movie from the 80's that has the same name, but I'm pretty sure this game has nothing at all to do with it.

While the gameplay is enjoyable on the whole and I liked the branching-path level design (worth exploring to find coins you use between levels to buy various power-ups from a Coke vending machine), it does have that that special "stiff yet slippery" platforming feel of Sonic. The mainline Sonic games got around this by emphasizing finding the smartest (or at least most fun) path through each level and then blasting along it using your reflexes to avoid obstacles, but you can't Gotta Go Fast in this one, so a lot of times it feels like you're stuck in Marble Zone. The game is fine in relatively flat stretches but when you hit the bits with precision jumping over pits it can get real irritating real fast.

Still, there's surprising elbow grease for this type of blatant product pimpery, and the game is more often enjoyable than not. Some great sprite work on display here too, among the better of the efforts on Sega's collective 8-bit systems. Worth a look, especially for Sonic fans.
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