Some of you may not even know who this “Spot” person even is. That’s OK, he hasn’t been around in a long, long while. In fact, I pretty much never heard of him until I played a few of his games.
Basically, Spot here was the mascot for 7-Up, a soda that basically tasted just like Sprite. I haven’t actually found any of this stuff in a long while, but apparently they’re still making it. Spot was in several commercials for the stuff in the 90’s, such as this one, which basically says that if you’re tired of soda, you should… drink a different kind of soda. Spot, as the way most mascot went at the turn of the millenium, eventually vanished, leaving behind only a legacy of average video games.
Now, you may be familiar with Spot for games such as this:
Or maybe this:
Both interesting games, and games we’ll get into in due time. For now, though, we’re going to be focusing on another game entirely.
Made in 1990 by… well, I’m not really sure. Wikipedia and Mobygames say it’s by a company called Virgin Mastertronic, who went on to become Virgin Games, who eventually published stuff like Disney’s Aladdin and McKids. However, the version shown here is the NES version, and its copyright information claims that a company called Arcadia did it. What else was Arcadia behind? Nothing of much note, apprently, the most recognizable thing on their list being the punishingly hard Silver Surfer. So, yeah, we’re in for a real treat, I can imagine.
So you might be wondering what kind of genre this is. A platformer, you’d assume, because all the other Spot games were, right? Well, that ‘Edit Board’ thing might give you a bit of a hint. See, this isn’t a platformer, or any sort of action game at all.
That’s right, it’s a board game. The game about the highly mobile mascot with the high-tops… is a board game. I don’t even know. If you’ve ever played Reversi, or Othello, or Ataxx, or, my personal favorite, Hexxagon, you know exactly what you’re supposed to do here. However, if you’ve been living under a rock and have just recovered from some kind of coma from being under said rock, here’s how it works.
You have control of either the blue pieces or the orange pieces. The object of the game is to have more of your pieces on the board than the opponent’s once the board is completely full. Pieces can move in either one or two spaces in any direction. If you move just one, the piece will split itself into the new space, but if you move two, the piece will move, a piece will not be created.
Now what exactly are the blue pieces trying to do while you’re sitting there making Spot dance like an idiot all over the board in your quest for yellow-colored domination? Well, any time a piece of an opposing color gets close to any of your pieces, they’ll capture it, making it their own, along with any surrounding pieces. This, as you’d probably figure, is a bad thing, and one you want to try to do on them as much as you possibly can.
As the game goes on, captures become more common, and the computer becomes more bastardly. Yes, that’s a word. I said so. Many will the times be when you reach over and stomp a few pieces onto your side, when the computer will literally cartwheel over and take out 8 of your pieces in one fell swoop. You have to appreciate an AI that knows the meaning of ‘revenge’.
It’s a Nintendo game, but if you’re not careful, the AI can and will kick your ass, quite readily. And what happens if it does?
So, not being satisfied by being beaten by a bunch of little blue tokens, I went and extracted a grevious vengenace upon the AI.
Of course, you get the same thing no matter who wins, only now it says ‘YELLOW WINS’ instead of ‘BLUE WINS’. Still, it’s about the principle of the thing.
So, is Spot: The Video Game worth playing? Eh, not really. There’s nothing technically WRONG with it, it’s not broken in any way, but it’s just Othello. It’s been done a million times before, and on something that wasn’t a $50 or more Nintendo cartridge to boot. There’s some nice animation of the Spots moving around when you move a piece, but that’s literally the only redeeming factor for the game. It’s basically a game grandparents would get if they couldn’t find you Super Mario Brothers 3 or something.
Fun fact: This game apparently started off as a game called Infection, and was supposed to be a cheap budget game for British computers before it became something else entirely. The programmer, annoyed at what his artistic vision had become, released his own version as freeware for the Amiga. Why don’t we take a look and see what could have been?
As time passed on, Arcadia would soon cease to exist entirely, Virgin would go on to make much more well-known, better games, and Spot would be a part of a good number of them. That, friends, is the story of Spot’s first video game. We’ll be checking back on him down the road, but for now… who’s hungry for candy?