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Friday, January 6, 2012

Game 8 - Cool Spot

System - Super Nintendo (SNES)
Release Date: September 1993 (US)
Genre: Platform
Publisher: Virgin Interactive

For Starters:

    I am not entirely certain where to begin when it comes to doing a blog about the SNES game Cool Spot. It's a game that is on the lesser known side when it comes to most gamers, yet most people over a certain age remember 7-Up's marketing campaign in the late 1980's that involved an animated red circle wearing sun glasses. Simply know as 7-Up Spot, this little icon from the late 80's spawned a small series of video games. The only one I ever played was Cool Spot on the Super Nintendo. I found out later that this same game was also released on the Sega Genesis, and that it had a predecessor game (Spot) on the Nintendo and the Gameboy that was basically a flop. Having never heard of, nor played the NES or Gameboy game, I only stumbled upon the Cool Spot game at a local video rental store,that also rented out a large library of SNES games. Being a child of the 80's, and being purely sold on the game's potential by the screen shots on the back of the rental box, I decided to give this game a go. With that little intro out of the way, on to the game itself.

The Good:
    After being captivated by the game's potential, albeit based off of the screenshots on the back cover of the game box, I quickly learned that this game did in fact meet the expectations I anticipated. Simply put, Cool Spot is a fun game. The graphics are amazing, the controls are responsive, and the actual game play itself is challenging, and fun. I would like to add here, that the game designers got one important aspect of game play right. The ability to shoot in multiple directions. Yes, Cool Spot allows you to fire left, right, up, down, and even in diagonal directions. If you think back to Contra on the NES, one of the things that made it fun to play, was the ability to shoot in multiple directions. I can't think how much better games like MegaMan would have been, had they consistantly provided multiple directional firepower. I know some MegaMan games did allow for multi-directional shooting, including, diagonal, but I digress.
    The basics of this game are to rescue your friends, who have been captured, and held in a cage that is hidden somewhere within each level. Your only line of defense are carbonated 7-Up bubbles that you can fire relentlessly at the enemies that stand in your way. Once you have blasted your way through each level,and collected the required number of "cool spots" you must then locate your captured compatriate, and rescue him. Levels include a beach, the inside a wall, a pier, a toy room, and an inflatable kiddie pool. The enemies
that block your path are mice, crabs, bees, worms and a variety of everyday items, such as nails, and push pins are scattered throughout the levels that can cause damage.
    The greatest aspect of this game are the real world feel of the levels. 7 Up Spot exists in a world where everyday objects are larger than him. As such, each level utilizes a "Honey I Shrunk The Kids" look and feel. The open world feel of each level, allows you to explore not only left to right, but up and down through a simple, yet complex maze in search of each cool spot point. The game is generous in that it provides in-game means to restore your health meter, by means of collecting 7-Up logos, that are actually distributed somewhat
generously throughout each level. Each level has a time limit, but you can collect various extenders that will add additional time to the game. Some of these extenders are placed in precarious areas, but generally speaking, they are plentiful, and easy to reach.
    I have decided to save one of the best aspects for last. The music. The music of Cool Spot is well rendered, and sounds like it was composed by someone who actually understands music. I would guess that this is one advantage to having Virgin Records produce a video game. A little research found that the music for Cool Spot was actually compsed by musician Tommy Tallarico, cousin of Aerosmith leadman Steven Tyler. Tallarico also provided musical scores for games such as Earthworm Jim, Prince of Persia, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series. Not a shabby resume. No wonder I liked the music in this game.
    Even though this game is exciting, fun, and imaginative, it is not without it's frustrations. I will now move on to the lesser aspects of this game.

The Bad:

    As mentioned above, the game play is open, and allows for fast fluid level exploration. While this is an attribute to the game's better qualities, it  is also the source for one of the bigger frustrations, being blindsided. The open world aspect of Cool Spot, requires you to travel up, down, and around various stages, and sometimes, you cannot see hazards that lie just off-screen. You may drop off a ledge and land on a nail, or an enemy, or, you may be trying to jump from one baloon/bubble to another, and miss it, since it is hidden just
out of view. You can use the L and R buttons on the top of the controller to scan up and down from your current view, but it doesn't always give you a clear idea of what is above or below you. Nothing is more frustrating than working your way through a level, only to miss a bubble or baloon, and then fall all the way back down to the beginning of the stage. When time is a factor, this causes you to sometimes hurry, and become careless in your leaping. The best way to beat a level is to take your time, and ALWAYS, look before you leap.


    When I think back to how I randomly encountered Cool Spot all those years ago at Hastings Video in Logan, Ut, I often wonder who else may have stumbled across this hidden gem. If you can look past the fact that the game is a giant endorsement for 7-Up, you will be rewarded with a fun little game, that will challenge even a hardened gamer. I know this game did not have a huge following, as most people were soured by the games initial stint in the 8-bit world of the NES and Gameboy. But those like me that never experienced the
original Spot game on the NES were rewarded with a decent platform game, that has a high replay value.