Kool-Aid Man – WTF Wednesday

Oh yeah! Well, no not really.

It’s hard for us to look at the Kool-Aid Man in a strange light, but for some reason, he just does seem quite strange to us outside of the US. We’re from the UK for reference, and while some of our country staple heads may be a bit confusing to the yanks, like Mr Blobby, for example, the Kool-Aid Man just seems… like a bit of an oddball. Is he a sentient jug of punch? Having never touched Kool-Aid, we can’t attest for what it tastes like, but just being a being of pure liquid must be hard. I can imagine the Kool-Aid Man had quite a few restless nights. Heck, does he sleep? Age? Was he ever the Kool-Aid Boy?!

We’re not here to question how exactly the Kool-Aid Man lives his day to day life, however. Instead, we’re here to look at yet another game that makes us go WTF. The character in question already does, and unsurprisingly, like most strange concepts from back in the day, he got his own game. You’d expect it to have released during the later gaming boom where such games were cheap to make, like the 16-bit era for example.

But no, we’re looking at Kool-Aid Man on the Atari 2600 a game that we’re still surprised exists.

The Game

So who do we have to thank for the lovely game that is Kool-Aid Man? Was it Capcom? Sega? Nintendo? No of course not, I don’t think anyone would touch such an idea in those companies. No, instead it’s Mattel. Popular toy manufacturer turned entertainment juggernaut, or at least that was the idea when they set their sites on the gaming market. Kool-Aid Man wasn’t even a retail launched game at first, instead given away for free as a promotional piece. It did later go to retail, but people were hesitant to pay $40 to play a game about the Kool-Aid Man.

Turning on your 2600 after putting the game in greets you with a neat graphic for the time of the Kool-Aid Man bursting out of a wall like he did in commercials. As far as we’re aware, for those of us outside of the US, our exposure to the Kool-Aid Man is more than likely his inclusion as a joke in Family Guy. But yes, you get the neat graphic and then the game starts with no warning. The colours used for this game are just dreadful, the Kool Aid Man looks alright, but the same can’t be said for the other assets in the game.

The ‘Thirsties’ are the enemies in the game. That word has a whole new meaning in the modern world, so reviewing it has brought a few chuckles so far. These guys look like cherries in the game, but the box art paints a whole other picture, depicting them as these sort of monkey like things. It’s all quite awful really in terms of colour, now, of course, it’s a bit harsh to harp on the Atari 2600 for looking a bit iffy from time to time, but it’s just painful to look at the game at points, whenever you get a different flavour of Kool-Aid, the effect just sort of leaves one cringing and squinting their eyes.

So how does the game actually play? How do you battle these Thirsty enemies? Well, as their name implies they want to get some liquid to quench their thirst. There is a pool of water at the bottom of the screen and these little guys will dunk straws into it in an attempt to try and drink it all up. If the pool does end up empty, it is game over as you might have guessed! You’re tasked with touching the fellas to get rid of them and stop their draining of the pool. The catch is that you can ONLY touch these guys when they are drinking, if they haven’t put a straw into the water, then that is a no go.

Any attempt to touch them beforehand will be met with the Kool-Aid Man being bounced away and giving them the upper hand. So you have to be careful with how you approach them unless you manage to snag one of the letters flying around the screen which will give you five seconds of invincibility, much like that of Pac-Man when he gets to turn the Ghosts blue instead of needing to run away. Once you get rid of all of the Thirties, the stage will be completed. The issue is that you never get told how many are left, so sometimes it can feel like the stage will never end.

Every stage is the same, no change whatsoever. Barring stage effects though, the game is pretty frustrating. Since the controls are pretty difficult and dodging the Thirsties can be neighed impossible, and the water will be drained faster than you might expect, leading you to become increasingly frustrated as you try and stop them only to be bounced around because SURPRISE, they stopped drinking. The water never replenishes and you pretty much need to have lighting quick reflexes to complete the stage, and as if everything else wasn’t awful, you get one life. That is it!

Summary

What can be said about the Kool-Aid Man game for the 2600? It’s upsetting to think some poor unfortunate souls may have paid for this game in a shop at one point, it’s strange, needlessly difficult and overall we don’t think anyone really stood up and asked for this. We know plenty of things have hardcore fan bases, like Power Rangers and Beyblade, but we doubt there is a hardcore fanbase of Kool-Aid fans ready to jump to the nearest shop to experience what the big ol’ jug is up to.

At the core, the game is flawed and just not fun to play. We’re sorry to say for anyone who enjoyed this when they were younger, but this game really left us scratching our heads and thinking WTF?

Did you ever play this game? Did you actually enjoy it? Let us know in the comments down below!

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