The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

Fuck You, We’re Talking ’Bout Cool Spot

For reasons I can’t comprehend, I’ve been playing Cool Spot quite a lot recently, despite the fact that I have many better games. I think I had this crazy idea o’ trying to speedrun it or something. @ the very least I want to see if I can 100% the game on hard.

Cool Spot was an ol’ platformer released for various systems o’ the time, most notably the SNES & Genesis / MegaDrive, based on a 7-Up mascot I only know ’bout ’cause o’ this game, which only means that it was a successful ad, & a bearded commie like me likes my ads to be good — preferably with a crazy Dr. Wily cosplayer involved. This doesn’t have that, but it does have some nifty level design.

Cool Spot straight goin’ the wrong way after spending all that time looking @ the map. You know he’s cool ’cause he don’t follow any fascist rules.

Cool Spot’s bretheren have been kidnapped by something that is ne’er ’splained — we’ll just say it’s the Coca-Cola Corporation — & you need to reach their cage & shoot the lock off. This has an interesting quirk in that you can sometimes beat a level early by shooting @ the lock through a wall, such as in “Off Da Wall”.

Actually, according to the official manual, they were kidnapped by a loon named Wild Wicked Wily Will ( who presumably does cosplay as Dr. Wily ) who wants to prove to the world & his subreddit that spots do exist. ¿Why? ¿Who knows? Maybe he thinks 7-Up is a Marxist conspiracy. Those li’l bastards are red.

Either way, you ne’er see Wily Willy Woe Wimpleton in the game, so it doesn’t matter.

But that’s not all: in order to release the spot & beat the level you have to collect a certain # o’, um, smaller spots out o’ the 100 total, depending on the difficulty. Easy requires only 30, normal 60, & hard 90. You can also get a bonus level if you get 75, 85, or 95 for the respective difficulties, where you can win continues & a chance to win a 1-up ( @ a total o’ 6 bonus levels ). Finally, if you collect all 100 you’re guaranteed a 1-up @ the end o’ the stage.

The difficulty levels is where the game gets annoying. This is 1 o’ those games wherein if you beat it on easy, the game says you have to beat it on hard. In addition, you have to collect 6 continues represented by “UNCOLA” letters & keep them till the end.

Back then if you did beat it on hard with all the “UNCOLA” letters & sent a picture to 7-Up you’d win some contest. Online all I found were a bunch o’ conflicting stories ’bout what one actually won, but I doubt you’d get anything for doing it now — well, ’less you’re The Completionist. But I’m not, so fuck that shit. I love how e’en 7-Up’s twitter said, “Deserved it!” Damn right they deserved it: Cool Spot on hard’s cheap as fuck; I’m not surprised this guy looks so grizzled & angry. “If I e’er see a wasp ’gain, I will crush it with my bare hands”.

¿What happens if you don’t have a camera? Tough shit: that’s what happens.

Strangely the game ends after this, not e’en giving you the credits. Apparently they acknowledged how boring credits are & decided to only subject losers who couldn’t beat the game the real way to them.

As you rise in difficulty, the # o’ enemies they throw in ramps up; but what makes hard mode so hard is finding all the spots. As I mentioned, you need 90 in every level & 95 in the majority to get all the “UNCOLA” letters ( assuming you don’t end a bonus stage without getting a letter, which is quite easy on the later stages, since these bonuses don’t give much time ).

& this game is dickish ’bout hiding spots. They love hiding them ’hind every piece o’ scenery. E’en after playing the 1st few levels dozens o’ times & checking ’hind every piece o’ scenery, I’ll still oft miss spots. I still haven’t been able to find all the spots in “Toying Around”, & I looked all o’er. That level just has so much scenery clutter that trying to sift through it all is headache inducing. ¿Why do I like this obnoxious game?

While getting all 100 spots in normal levels is challenging, getting them all in the bonus stages is much harder. Like I said, they give you li’l time, & once you run out, your chance is gone. All you get is a 1-up, so it’s not a huge loss. The game gives you plenty o’ lives & caps you @ 9, anyway. But the collectivist part o’ me still hates it. It’s like 101% Donkey Kong 64 while only getting 75% o’ the bananas in each level — it’s wrong.

Time is also strict on harder difficulties to the point that I don’t e’en know how you’d get 95 spots & beat “Toying Around” without losing a life to time-out a’least once.

Interestingly, the bonus stages don’t seem to change in difficulty — not e’en in terms o’ less time or mo’ spike balls.

Despite that, it does have some nifty level design. The levels are open & mazelike, but the game provides arrows on easy & normal if you start going in wrong ways ( which is usually where you want to go if you want to get all the spots ). The themes are also mo’ exotic than in most platformers, with an o’erarching theme o’ being small in a big world: you have a sunny beach full o’ balloons; a pier with rope & fish hooks; an attic with severed wires for ladders & mouse traps as, well traps; a bathtub with rubber duckies & tadpoles for platforms & parade Zeppelins tied to strings hanging high ’bove; & a toy room full o’ all kinds o’ crap: upturned sneakers, stacks o’ quarters, glasses, towers o’ playing cards, fire trucks with upward sloping ladders that can be used to reach higher places, & shoelaces that can be used as ladders. Considering how my entire life was inspired by that fateful coffee can o’ my youth, it shouldn’t be too surprising why I’d love the toy room levels, e’en though they’re the most infuriating in terms o’ hiding things.

I think we can see why I like this game so much: pure nostalgia, nothing mo’.

Cool Spot also has a cool gimmick to how it shows the level themes: rather than going through all the levels o’ a theme @ once per theme, it mirrors through them: it goes through them, has 1 unique pinball level in the middle, & then goes back through them in the opposite direction, so that the beach levels are the 1st & last, the pier levels the 2nd & penultimate, the attic levels the 3rd & 3rd-to-last, & so on. There is a bit o’ a question ’bout the 4th & 4th-to-last level: they both have the same background, but different music, & while the 4th focuses on a bathtub, the 4th-to-last focuses on a train.

A quirk ’bout these level themes is that the difficulty seems to stay similar ’mong levels o’ the same theme, with the exception that “Dock & Roll” is much harder than “Pier Pressure” & matches its place as the penultimate level, “Surf Patrol” becomes ridiculously cheap & hard on the hardest difficulty ( but is 1 o’ the easiest levels on easy & normal ), & “Loco Motive” is actually easier than “Wading Around”, despite coming after it. The 3rd & 3rd-to-last level are similarly easy ( actually, probably both easier than the 2nd level ). Then ’gain the middle level, “Radical Rails”, which is the only level o’ its pinball gimmick, is probably the easiest, with no enemies ( though time is as dangerous as e’er ); but then, I think that was meant as a kind o’ bonus intermission.

As many note, the game has no bosses @ all — not e’en a final boss. This shocked me @ the time & led me to believe that you had to beat the game on hard with the “UNCOLA” letters to get the final boss, only to learn the truth later. I’m not as bummed ’bout it as other people, though, since I ne’er liked bosses, anyway. ¿Doesn’t hard mode have ’nough enemies to fight already?

Cool Spot’s physics are annoying & make the game harder than it should be. There’s no run button: ’stead you have to build momentum by walking, & how off you are significantly affects Cool Spot’s jump length. He also in general feels sluggish. Sometimes the hit detection can be finnicky, too. You have no idea how annoyed I’d get when I’d keep falling off ball platforms in “Toying Around”, forcing me to either lose half a level’s progress or kill myself to return to the nearer checkpoint.

It also has a terrible camera that makes every jump a blind jump. I’d say this is what makes the bonus stages as hard as they are. When you’re falling, since you’re so close to the bottom o’ the screen, you have no time to react to anything so it’s luck whether you hit a bubble or spot you’re aiming for. ’Cause Spot can hit bubbles from below & bounce up, it’s easy to jump up & hit a bubble you weren’t aiming for, throwing you off. In the level proper, ’specially in hard mode where the game loves flying enemies, it’s common for levels to just throw enemies into your face out o’ nowhere. I’d say it’s outright impossible to not get hit in this game without memorizing most o’ the enemy locations.

WARNING: Bullshit ’head.

To be fair, the game is rather generous with lives. I don’t know if it’s ’cause I’ve just practiced ’nough that I’ve gotten better @ the game, but I’m currently halfway through hard mode with the maximum 9 lives, & I died a lot ( sometimes intentionally to avoid going through a bunch o’ stuff ’gain after falling a long way down in “Toying Around” & “Wading Around” ). If you get a lot o’ spots ( which is necessary to get the bonus stage, & thus the “UNCOLA” letters necessary to truly beat the game ) & have a decent ’mount o’ time left on the clock when you beat a level, you’ll get an extra life after every stage. Levels are also full o’ extra lives. Also, I think the developers realized the toy levels are brutal ’cause they filled them with full-heals 7-Up bottles. The downside is that they don’t come back if you die, e’en though the enemies do.

As a note, the 7-up bottles offer an element o’ luck to the easy & normal difficulties: defeated enemies would randomly spawn them, which can either be extremely helpful or redundant depending on when you get them. It’s not too rare for a bottle to spawn just after ’nother or to go through an entire level without any — though I do feel like the game offers them mo’ if you’re low on life. Hard mode doesn’t have these @ all, which means that on most levels which don’t have hard-coded versions ( such as in “Toying Around” ), you have to be extra careful ’bout getting hit. I don’t like this change as it gets rid o’ the strategic benefit o’ killing enemies, making a lot o’ them not worth bothering with ( ’specially since some enemies, like the Pencil Goblins in the toy levels or the Clams in the pier levels take fore’er to die ).

This leads to interesting per-level difficulty changes ’tween the different difficulty modes. Some levels like the wall levels don’t become much harder — just a few easily-dodged spiders. The 1st & 2nd levels, meanwhile, become much harder, since they now have mo’ flying enemies. The 1st & last levels have the greatest difficulty spike, since it now has wasps all o’er the up-high balloon section & getting hit will cause you to drop off a balloon, forcing you to go all the way back up. Some o’ them are hard to dodge & thanks to the camera seem to come from nowhere if you’re not going slowly & carefully or don’t know they’re coming. Normal mode doesn’t have them @ all; the balloon section is perfectly safe. It’s interesting as when I played the game on easy & normal I found the last level, “Surf Patrol”, to be much easier than “Dock & Roll” or the toy levels; but on hard I couldn’t beat it without cheating. I could get up to it with plenty o’ lives, but couldn’t beat it. It’s just full o’ wasps that snipe you from offscreen ( meanwhile, you can’t kill them while they’re offscreen, as they despawn ). The vast majority o’ the spots are up in the balloon area, & it’s just too easy to get hit & fall back down. If you didn’t kill the millions o’ enemies swarming the ground, you’ll likely get hit a few times trying to get back up ’gain. If you did kill them all, you’ll ’ventually lose all your life & die & either have to go through the level spending minutes killing all the enemies ( & likely lose a few hit points from sniped shots from a spontaneous wasp ). It’s infuriating.

I do have to give them that: their difficulty levels are fitting. Easy is stupidly easy, normal is, well, normal, & hard is, well, hard. It offers a nice way to gradually build one’s skills. Unfortunately, the difficulty’s just not well-done: it’s almost all cheap, with the only solution being to memorize where enemies are & take advantage o’ the lives the game throws @ you. There are many times when the game just hits you when there was nothing you could do to prevent it.

Different Versions

The Genesis version is worse than the SNES version that I’m usually used to in every way ’cept for maybe the music. Not only are its graphics much worse, its physics are e’en worse. Jumping & hit detection feels mo’ finnicky, & Spot grabs ladders automatically just by touching them, rather than when you press up or down, which makes it hard to get off the damn things.

The PC / DOS, Amiga, Game Boy, GameGear, & Master System versions are e’en worse. The amiga version comes close to having almost bearable music, only for that music to be constantly interrupted by sound effects. The PC & Amiga versions were so bad that soft-drink 3rd wheeler Dr. Pepper / Snapple Group didn’t want their logo or the word “UNCOLA” in it… ( ’stead you spell out “virgin”, teaching kids that abstinence is way cool ) e’en though it still has their mascot Cool Spot. This also apparently applies to the European versions ’cause they have a different mascot… e’en though the mascot is the 1 thing that stayed in the games. This is why Coke & Pepsi are still beating you guys. Well, that & ’cause you didn’t have hilariously bad cutscenes with hilarious bad acting in your game. ’Cause if Pepsi knows anything it’s that stereotyping your target audience as fat, lazy, idiotic slobs is the best way to get customers.

In short: only play the SNES version & only listen to the music from the SNES & Genesis versions.

Graphics

I have no complaints ’bout the SNES Cool Spots’s graphics. They all-o’er look nice & are full o’ creative detail. I already mentioned how much detail they went into for the scenery. It’s not just that it looks nice but that it also has character to it that makes it look interesting. For the attic level, they didn’t just use realistic wood textures for everything but added wires for climbing, tacs & mouse traps for dangers, mice in pajamas that throw cheese for enemies.

As you can see, the Genesis graphics are worse, which is no surprise, since the Genesis had inferior graphical abilities than the SNES. Not only are the graphics less colorful & detailed, different levels o’ the same theme don’t have different palettes.

Compare the 2 pier levels in the SNES version, the 2nd o’ which has a sunset cast:

The Genesis versions both have baby-blue skies:

I don’t know why, but I always liked seeing the return o’ enemies or levels later on with different palettes, usually in a much harder form. It’s that strange mix o’ familiarity & yet also difference.

Music

Cool Spot’s music is either very catchy or annoying depending on the track. Most oft it’s amazing — ’twas made by Tommy Tallarico, the guy who did the music for the Earthworm Jim games, after all. This is the 1 case wherein the Genesis version sounds good in its own right. It’s not as detailed or smooth as the SNES versions, but the rawer texture o’ its instruments sound good in their own right. ’Cause o’ this, I’ll be linking to both versions so you can listen to them both. I won’t be listing the other versions though, ’cause they’re ass. In fact, if you look on YouTube, all you’ll find are the SNES & Genesis soundtracks ’cause nobody liked the other soundtracks.

Bonus Level / Rave Dancetune

This is the song most people know ’bout & is most people’s favorite. I’d put it in the middle: better than “Shell Shock” & “Pier Pressure”, but worse than “Toying Around” & SNES “Off Da Wall”. I definitely prefer the SNES version, not the least o’ which ’cause it better emulates the sound o’ the song it’s obviously inspired by. The Genesis version also sounds choppier & less energetic.

Shell Shock / Beach Music

This is the most moderately good SNES track. It’s not as annoying as “Radical Rails / Parade Tune” or boring as “Loco Motive / Western Tune”, but it’s @ the bottom o’ the list o’ others. This is where I think the smoothness o’ the SNES version makes it not sound as good as the Genesis version. The Genesis version sounds like it has mo’ contrast & seems to bring out the beach sound o’ the instruments mo’.

Pier Pressure / Jazzy Tune

I think I prefer the SNES version, but it’s not a strong preference. It actually feels like it has mo’ contrast, & its bass & percussions sound much richer.

Off Da Wall / Wall Tune

The SNES version is definitely better. This is a track wherein the SNES’s smoother, deeper sound works better than the Genesis’s simpler, grungier sound.

This is the only track that doesn’t sound like it truly fits its level theme. ¿Does this sound like attic music?

Wading Around / Play da Blues

Like “Shell Shock”, this music sounds better on the Genesis — e’en mo’ than that song. The instruments sound — ’specially the electric guitar & some percussions — too weak on the SNES version. The Genesis version has that bumpiness to it; & I love the echo effect on its electric guitar.

It only loses points ’cause I’m getting sick o’ them using “da” for “the” as some hokey gimmick.

Toying Around / Groovie Tune

See, now this is my favorite song o’ the game, for the best theme, too. I definitely prefer the SNES version, since its smoother, deeper sound gives it the warmth it warrants. It’s where the soft percussions actually work better. The Genesis version still sounds good in its own way, though. ¡That rusty bass!

’Nother difference ’tween the Genesis & SNES versions: the Genesis version plays “Parade Tune” when you beat a level while SNES version has silence while the 2 characters scream for joy. I actually prefer the SNES version’s ’cause “Parade Tune” is bloody obnoxious.

O’erall

Cool Spot has great art, music, & level design ( not counting enemy placement ); but its basic game design — physics, controls, camera, & enemy placement — suck. I’d recommend playing it on normal or easy, but don’t bother with hard: it’s cheap bullshit.

There are a bunch o’ other games, like some crappy board game ripoff for the NES simply called Spot & Spot Goes to Hollywood, but nobody cares ’bout those games; & I didn’t grow up with them, so I certainly don’t. I think someone adapted McKids for the Game Boy & replaced all McDonalds stuff with Cool Spot, but it sucks & you should stick to the NES McKids.

Posted in Video Games