EW Staff
June 25, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It has all the ingredients of a great kids’ video game: a sunglass-wearing, finger-snapping title character; bouncy, upbeat music that sounds as if it might have been recorded by actual musicians; and well-drawn, not-too- threatening bad guys ranging from pesky bumblebees to adorable pajama-clad mice. So what is it about COOL SPOT (Virgin Games, $59.99, Genesis and Super NES) that might make parents and children alike feel they’re being used? The hero, Spot, just so happens to be that round, red 7UP mascot familiar to Americans from countless animated TV commercials, because Cool Spot is an official licensed product of the aforementioned Uncola. Even worse, Cool Spot isn’t the first such product to flaunt its corporate affiliations so brazenly. The trend took off a couple of years ago with Yo! Noid, a game starring the Domino’s Pizza ‘toon, and similar efforts have since been multiplying faster than commercials in kids’ TV shows. What should make these games especially worrisome to parents is that they’re so much fun to play. Like a million-dollar, 60-second advertisement, except about a hundred times as long, Cool Spot is loaded with production value, from the opening scene of Spot surfing on a giant 7UP bottle (to the tune of the Surfaris’ ”Wipe Out”) to the panicky expression on the little guy’s face when he takes a tumble. And the action, as in all good commercials, is relatively unobtrusive vis-a-vis the company that’s doing the advertising- except when Spot replenishes his energy by quaffing you-know-what along the way. In fact, it’s the relentless accumulation of disposable consumer product that seems to characterize all such sponsored games, whether they’re hawking soft drinks, snack food, or hamburgers. In CHESTER CHEETAH: TOO COOL TO FOOL (Kaneko, $54.95, Sega Genesis; $57.95, Super NES), the big-headed spokescat (”it’s not easy being cheesy!”) restores his life points by nabbing huge Chee tos Paws; the game manual even includes a clip-out coupon for that salted treat. It’s small consolation to grown-ups that Chester is as entertaining in this cartoony game as he is in his commercials-at one point he stuns the bad guys with a protracted, duck-walking guitar riff. However, it’s with MICK and MACK: GLOBAL GLADIATORS (Virgin, $59.99, Sega Genesis) that corporate gamesmanship reaches its apogee. As with McDonald’s television ads, it’s easy to love this video game and hate the business behind it: The main character is black, unfortunately a rarity in video games, and the antipollution theme (gooey green monsters are dispatched with squirt guns) is nicely handled. But there’s no getting around the hard sell behind the selflessness: Kids have to collect a certain number of Golden Arches before they’re allowed to proceed to the next level by a checkered-flag-waving Ronald. (At least Mick and Mack is a bit less obvious than its prequel, M.C. Kids, for NES, which features cameo appearances by Grimace, Birdie, and the Hamburglar.) Sure, you must be saying by now, most everything a child touches nowadays is an aspect of marketing-the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles alone constitute a nearly billion-dollar industry. But for concerned parents, the issue comes down to this: Do you want your kids playing commercials or merely watching them? All three games, as games: A- As harbingers of an ever more decrepit consumer culture: D-

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