Today we’ll be looking at a game that’s the very embodiment of the Pepsi product. For those of you who have never heard of Pepsiman, it’s sort of like the precursor to famous mobile apps such as Temple Run or Subway Surfers (I don’t know about the second one but I used to see it a lot, therefore, it must have been popular).
What’s funny is that this game was developed by the now-defunct Japanese company KID. One would wonder why they tried to highly promote the product in a country other than America, but I guess to them it was “worth a shot”. Sadly, it didn’t sell well. And yet, many have stated that the game is actually kind of fun and enjoyable. Maybe if it wasn’t just a shameless excuse for blatant product advertisement, it might have done well. But alas, that’s not the case.
Pepsiman is basically a game where you play as the titular character as he tries to save people from perilous situations. So how does he do that? Well, by delivering cold and delicious Pepsi of course!
Yes, the whole game revolves around the popular soft drink. Different problems that you have to solve range from having to deliver Pepsi to a group of firemen just so they’ll do their jobs, or handing the cold drink over to a dehydrated Military soldier out in the desert. The game is absurd in more ways than one, and that’s honestly its charm. It’s because of these unrealistic moments that you actually chuckle or smile at how utterly ridiculous certain situations can get.
But there is something that’s off, even for a game such as this. Should you decide to play, you should know that before every level, there’s a cutscene which shows an American person in his living room, drinking a can of Pepsi as he provides pep talk directly to the player. It’s just weird seeing these as they’re so out of place. You can take away these cutscenes and it wouldn’t affect anything. I mean, I guess it’s a way to get players feeling great after every stage they clear. But other than that? It’s just… there.
Now, let’s move over to the gameplay.
As Pepsiman, you’ll be traversing different levels based off of locations in the United States—two good examples being San Francisco and New York. What you have to do is to guide Pepsiman as he automatically runs towards the end of the level. Again, it’s very similar to Temple Run wherein you have to move him left or right to avoid incoming obstacles.
But don’t think that’s the only thing you have to do. There’s actually a good layer of depth to the game that you wouldn’t have expected to find. You actually have two objectives: You must make it to the end of each level, and collect as many Pepsi cans as possible. If you’re a perfectionist, then most likely you’ll want to collect them all. But even if you’re not, you may want to take them as collecting a particular amount can give you a health boost—your health represented by the Pepsi icon on the top left. Pepsiman can only take so much damage and if you fail to miss obstacles enough times, you’ll die and will have to make your way back until you complete the level.
Don’t worry, there are checkpoints and they’re relatively close by one another. Getting through the game isn’t too hard. The real challenge is trying to go for 100%. Remember that Pepsi cans are scattered everywhere throughout each stage. If you want to collect them all, then you’ll need to determine where they are and how to get them. Trust me on this, it’s much harder than it sounds.
Throughout the whole game, the number of obstacles you have to deal with can get pretty insane. At first, it’s pretty tame. A good example being Pepsiman having a trashcan stuck to his head, reversing your controls for a small amount of time. Then as you progress, it gets noticeably more ridiculous. It can range from having to watch out for trucks trying to slam into you, or running away from a pile of logs! These make it so much harder to collect those cans. Some of these obstacles can even make certain levels feel way more difficult than they should be.
Luckily, you have three abilities to help you get through all of them. You force Pepsiman into a dash for as long as you need to, jump to leap over certain objects or gaps or make him briefly come to a screeching halt. This is good in the sense that there are more ways for you to play around every level.
However, take note that using them could mess with the whole timing of the game.
Let’s say that you decide to dash through everything. It’s possible that you can slam into something that you normally wouldn’t have if you didn’t dash at all. The same thing can happen if you repeatedly halt Pepsiman’s movements or do continuous jumps.
This means that not only will you have to actively be aware of the dangers in every corner, you also have to know what ability to use and when to use it. It can get pretty tricky too as certain Pepsi cans are located in spots that force you to make use of your abilities. For example, some are stuck behind breakable walls that you need to dash through in order to get them. Also, combining the dash and jump abilities allows you to leap further. You’ll want to do that in order to get through extra large gaps and collect those cans. Again, just don’t use this too often as you can get damaged or killed if you’re not careful.
For how the game looks, it’s actually pretty good for a PS1 title. Nothing revolutionary, but background renderings look fine, albeit somewhat too pixelated at times.
If you’re looking for music? Then there’s almost nothing here. I say almost because certain gameplay segments will play out Pepsiman’s main theme. But even if it’s just one piece, it does sound pretty nice and will get your blood pumping in a weird sort of way. Other than that though? You’ll be playing majority of the time in silence. All you’ll be hearing is the constant sound of Pepsiman’s steps as he runs, and a few noises from obstacles here and there.
I’ll give credit to the game’s voice acting. The characters actually provide dialogue that has emotion to them. You can feel that they’re in peril over the fact that there’s an absurd lack of Pepsi. That’s not something I thought I would write but hey, it’s true.
By this point, I know you guys are thinking “What do you get for collecting all the cans?”. Well, there are alternate skins you can acquire. Sadly, there’s only less than a handful of them and they look…fine. Oh! You also unlock expert mode, an even more challenging version of the game.
So when you think about it, there’s not much incentive to actually collecting these cans other than for health. But if you can’t stand the sight of missing even one can throughout your entire playthrough, then you might just end up trying to collect every single one of them.
All in all, this was still a pretty fun game. It’s charming, somewhat challenging, and funny. If you’re genuinely curious as to how a Pepsi game would play out, then I suggest you give this a shot.