You can complain about product placement in games these days, but it was bound to happen. However, on certain magical occasions, companies have decided that it's not enough to have your character drive past a Pepsi logo. No, they want an entire game devoted to peddling their brand.
This typically results in a confounding jumble of nonsense based loosely on an idea that was never meant to sustain anything beyond a 28-second television commercial. Like ...
#6. Captain Novolin, the Insulin Game
Novo Nordisk, maker of the Novolin brand of insulin, produced a Super Nintendo game back in 1992 called Captain Novolin featuring a superhero possessing the formidable powers of Type 1 diabetes.
"Congratulations! You ate 412 pieces of toast for breakfast!"
The titular captain sprints through the city during various mealtimes wearing a blue bodysuit and wrap-around sunglasses, leaping heavily into the air to crush sugary foods beneath his crimson boot heels. Somehow, this was meant to teach children about living with diabetes, despite the fact that every single activity we described in the previous paragraph is something a child with diabetes should never do.
In between each level is a blood sugar mini game:
The controller that stabbed your finger between levels never really caught on, though.
This was followed by trivia questions about diabetes posed to you by a half-melted wax sculpture of Alfonso Ribeiro in a lab coat:
Wait, no "bowl of sugar" option?
To win, you had to battle your way through eight levels of doughnut and ice cream monsters to rescue the mayor (who is also diabetic) from the clutches of Blubberman, a hideously obese man in a floating wheelchair who throws pies at you. Then you have to feed the mayor the correct snack or watch him succumb to hypoglycemia and die:
It's basically the same as the plot from the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter.
This game wasn't bundled with the insulin or given away to children at clinics -- Novo Nordisk charged people 60 goddamn dollars to bring home this "learning tool" for their sickly children. We feel that's a bit steep for families already paying the high cost of their children's treatment, especially considering that Captain Novolin is little more than a vaguely interactive commercial telling kids what foods to avoid (and more importantly, which brand of insulin will make them superheroes).
Kids shouldn't need a video game to tell them not to eat flying face-doughnuts.
And from here, we go to insulin's mortal enemy ...
Pepsiman, the aggressively enthusiastic and fringe-psychotic mascot of Pepsi in Japan, was given his own video game adventure on the original PlayStation back in 1999, because the combination of money, drugs, and deadlines occasionally results in company executives making decisions too quickly.
"Or I will fucking destroy you."
As you can imagine would happen in a game starring a soda-based superhero, Pepsiman involves the eponymous hero running in a perpetual headlong sprint, frantically collecting cans of precious life-giving Pepsi. What you do not expect is that the main enemies trying to kill you are Pepsi trucks ...
"Not good enough. Fill the entire screen with Pepsi logos."
... and giant cans of Pepsi that periodically try to crush you to death.
Pepsiman is literally running from himself.
Behind this complex metaphor for the human struggle with destructive vices is Pepsiman's bizarre quasi-surf-rock theme, which plays on an endless loop throughout every level. It's just one of many things Pepsiman does to make sure you never forget what game you are playing:
"I'm prone to blackouts and periods of confusion. Luckily, the thoughtful makers of Pepsiman went that extra mile."
Perhaps most baffling of all is the series of videos that introduce each level, which feature an overweight American man carrying an armload of Pepsi cans and various bags of junk as provisions for his journey into diabetes.
"Actor? Fuck that, I can just get my uncle to do it for a 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best."
Wait, weren't we supposed to be disappearing into a fantasy world where loving Pepsi makes us adventurous superheroes? Instead they give us this brutal, unvarnished look into the reality of their customer base. That's not how it works, guys -- you don't introduce a porn video with a clip of a fat guy jerking off in the dark. And why is he American? This game was exclusive to Japan -- it would've been much easier for the developers to just cast a Japanese person. Instead they wedge this guy into the game, and he doesn't even speak Japanese -- they had to subtitle it all. It's like they really, really wanted this guy in the game, at all costs.
He's like a cross between Ernest P. Worrell and Larry the Cable guy.
#4. Taco Bell: Tasty Temple Challenge
Back in 2000, Taco Bell gave away a free computer game called Tasty Temple Challenge in its kids' meals. It was essentially a Doom clone -- a ripoff of a superior product with Mexican food elements chaotically tossed in, which to be honest is a perfect representation of the Taco Bell business model.
Press "POWER OFF" to save your afternoon.
You play an adventurer named Baja Bill, exploring a perilous stone temple full of vicious monsters. To keep yourself alive, you have to eat Taco Bell menu items off of the ground, because apparently somebody went into the haunted mummy castle before you and left them there. In order to defeat the monsters, you squirt them with packets of Taco Bell hot sauce (also found on the ground) that burn them alive, reducing them to piles of smoldering ash. Essentially, you use one of the very products the game is supposed to be advertising to immolate godless creatures in the suffocating darkness of an ancient crypt.
It's basically the same thing that happens to your shit when you eat at Taco Bell.
Also note that statistically you are far, far more likely to die from eating Taco Bell food you find on the floor of a public building than from any of the creatures featured in the game.
Once you make it through the temple, you face off against a green piece of confused racism in the form of a vaguely Aztec/Mayan/Incan mummy.
Deicide is the price we pay for Doritos Locos Tacos.
If you manage to defeat him, Baja Bill flings open a wooden cage to release an imprisoned Taco Bell Grande Meal, and the game informs you that you've won, presenting you with a helpful tally of all your Tasty Temple Challenge accomplishments to stack up against all of the priceless memories you could have created instead of wasting your time playing this goddamn game.
No, Baja Bill. No, we don't.