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Atari 2600 Game of the Week - Kool Aid Man MT4648

by Mattel Electronics, created by Steve Tatsumi, released 1983

Oh Yeah!

If you were a kid in the 80's (and you probably were if you're reading this) you remember the new ad campaign for the most ubiquitous of drinks - Kool Aid!

The introduction of the giant talking pitcher we still know and love burst upon us not only on television, but also on Intellivision and the Atari 2600.

That's right - long before the 7-Up dots starred in their own platformer, the Kool Aid Man starred in two different games!

You're thinking, wait a minute - there wasn't a Kool Aid Man 2 : Electric Boogaloo, was there? No, the two games I refer to are the two completely different games developed by Mattel Electronics - one for the Intellivision, and one for the Atari.

It was an experiment that the programmers at Mattel had wanted to try for some time. Mattel's Marketing department insisted that all games be designed the same across all platforms, the programmers insisted that games should be designed around the strengths and weaknesses of a particular machine (a view I share).

Because so little time was available for the development of the Kool Aid man games to coincide with the ad campaign launch, the marketing department capitulated, and two unique ideas were developed for the two systems.

The Atari game concept was developed by Steve Tatsumi, who won the internal two-week design contest.

The concept of the game: Thirsties (the villains in the early comercials) are drinking all of the Kool Aid! It's up to Kool Aid Man to stop them!

Of course, it would be far too easy if Kool Aid Man was his normal self... he is normally something more like Kool Aid Boy, and must touch the straws that the thirsties use to drink to eliminate the thirsty.

If Kool Aid Boy touches a thirsty, or a wall, he'll rebound across the screen for a few seconds, and if he touches something else, the bouncing will continue (which can get frustrating some times).

Fortunately, there's hope - if Kool Aid Boy touches a 'W' (water), 'S' (suger), or 'K' (Kool Aid Mix) he'll turn into his true self, Kool Aid Man, for a few seconds, and becomes invincible

Also, when one of the drink's components is caught, the level of Kool Aid rises by one line, which is important, because if the thirsties drink all of the Kool Aid, the game's over, man!

I really love this game, I got the cartridge in an auction quite a while ago. I tried it, just to see if I should keep it... I think I played it for several hours the first time. I got hooked, fast.

I apologize that the screen captures are fudged a little (I had to re-composite the pitcher and couldn't get a 'K', 'S', or 'W' in them - StellaX 1.1.3a doesn't seem to run the game properly...)

Kool Aid Man is yet another of my top ten 2600 games (It'll be fair to say that the first ten Games of the Week will be my top ten). It's a testament to the classic designers who had to design something fun - they didn't have 32bit mip-mapped textures to work with. I highly recommend it!

You can get the ROM and 2600 Emulators at the Classic Gaming Game Vault.

Comments? Questions? Answers? Email me!