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Kool Aid Man - The Atari Times

Kool Aid Man

Was a summer of guzzling Kool-Aid worth it? Yep!
by Ethan C. Nobles

July 19, 2002
Back when I was a 13-year-old kid, I drank enough Kool-Aid to fill a bathtub. Why? Because General Foods Corp. was running a promotion through which I could get M-Network's Kool-Aid Man for my Atari 2600 in exchange for a certain number of proof of purchase seals from everyone's favorite powdered drink mix. So, I spent an entire summer guzzling Kool-Aid, bumming proof of purchase points from relatives and being a complete sucker for General Foods' latest scheme. In retrospect, General Foods probably made a small fortune off of me that summer, but I maintain that buying all of that Kool-Aid was worth it. Of course, I eventually got my copy of 1983's Kool-Aid Man through the promotion, and that title has become one of my favorites for the 2600 over the years.

Kool-Aid Man is a total "twitch" game of the type which made Atari a household name. The title is a pure arcade game which is simple in scope and more fun than a barrel full of monkeys. The player, naturally, controls Kool-Aid Man, represented by a pitcher of liquid. Kool-Aid Man's goal in the game is to run into Thirsties and give them something to drink so they'll quit drinking out of his pool. The game takes place at a party at Kool-Aid Man's home, and I've never quite understood why the lad would invite such a bunch of unruly, rude characters to his house.

As far-fetched as the concept behind the title may be, the game is a heck of a lot of fun. And, besides, how many games for the 2600 were actually grounded in reality? At any rate, the colorful Thirsties move horizontally across the screen and will, every now and again, stop and lower a straw to drink from the pool. Kool-Aid Man can run across a drinking Thirstie, give him a beverage and that particular Thirstie is eliminated. If Kool-Aid man is fast enough to clear out all of the Thirsties before the pool is out of water, bonus points will be awarded and the player will advance to a faster level.

The thing that makes the game challenging is that the Thirsties will "bounce" Kool-Aid man all over the screen if they come in contact with him while moving and not drinking. The player loses all control of Kool-Aid man, thus losing time and putting the player in a position to get bounced even more. Power-ups will appear in the form of a packet of Kool-Aid, water and sugar. If Kool-Aid man can grab one of those, he will be invincible for a short period of time and a bit of water will be added to the pool.

As for graphics, Kool-Aid Man looks very good for the Atari 2600. It even comes complete with an intro in which Kool-Aid Man smashes through a wall. The game is colorful and runs very quickly in the later stages. The amazing thing is, screen flicker isn't even noticeable here no matter how fast the action gets. In addition to being bright, the characters are well-defined and Kool-Aid Man, indeed, looks like a partially-full pitcher of liquid. Also, it's easy to tell a moving Thirstie from one which is getting ready to drink from the pool -- an important feature when the action gets lightening fast.

The sound here is pretty good, too. The game starts out with the 2600 "blooping out" the Kool-Aid Man theme, and the sounds are very indicative of what's going on during the game. The audio cues, like the sharp graphics, become really important when the game gets moving quickly -- the player can immediately see and here enough information to let him make decisions in a hurry.

As good as the graphics and sounds are, the control is even better. The response to the stick is immediate and precise, thus making it easy to move Kool-Aid man around and allowing the player to concentrate on the game rather than a messed-up control scheme. Indeed, the graphics, sound and control all add up to one thing -- this game was built for speed, and M-Network put some real care into creating this fantastic title.

Kool-Aid Man is yet another "go to" game that I show people wondering why I still bother to set up and Atari and play it. The simple, addictive gameplay offered by this title is hard to resist, and I highly recommend this cartridge even though it isn't as common as some other fine 2600 games.

Kool Aid Man

(c) M-Network

As usual there is no title screen, but there is a cool "break through the wall" sequence as seen below.
This has to be one of the most exciting sequences in a 2600 game!
Stop the "thirsties" from sucking down your Kool-Aid! (But... Doesn't GF Corp. WANT people to drink Kool-Aid?)
Touching a non-sucking thristie will cause you to bounce around like a rubber ball!
Kool Aid Man
System: 2600
Publisher: M-Network
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 95%
Sound & Music Score: 90%
Gameplay Score: 95%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 95%

Reader Comments for Kool Aid Man

Good but not awesome by Randy Johnson on 2014-07-24 18:17:49
The beginning sequence of this game was awesome. Two more things about this game were also awesome. It has the pause feature (unlike most 2600 games) and it didn't cost anything. Kids got this game simply by mailing the UPC codes on packs of Kool-Aid. But except for those three things, this wasn't an awesome game.
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