Ah, Cheetos – the staple food of Geekdom. What better way to sell your cheese-flavoured snacks to that core demographic than to have your Company Mascot With Attitude(TM) star in a videogame? I’ll tell you: with a better videogame.
Too Cool to Fool is the second and last of the short-lived Chester Cheetah ‘series’ (THANK GOD). Both games released in the same year, which should give you an idea of the time and effort that didn’t go into this.
It’s all the more disappointing when you consider the quality of the animation in the old commercials. There’s virtually no animation to speak of here, much less level design. Chester walks – yes, he’s a cheetah and he fucking WALKS – across a flat plain filled with enemy turtles that move faster than he does, in a post-Sonic videogame.
Unlike Sonic, Too Cool to Fool is Definitely Not Cool. The music can only be described as “dangerously cheesy”. The game opens with a prologue from the mouth of Chester himself (and indeed, so does every level) written in anapestic tetrameter. You may remember this poetic meter from such publications as Dr Seuss’ ‘Yertle the Turtle’ (AGAIN WITH THE TURTLES). Yeah, real cool.
Let me showcase the frustration for you: you’re WALKING along flat, boring yellow ground with the occasional purple tree blocking your view in the foreground, jumping on turtles that are faster than you, collecting items that are in no way Cheetos-related. Then comes a bulldog-driven steamroller, seemingly impervious to your jump attack. There’s no visual feedback; you knock it backwards a little bit, but the bulldog appears decidedly nonplussed and the steamroller undamaged. It wasn’t until I watched the demo that I learned you could in fact destroy the steamroller if you jump on it five times. Or you could do what I did earlier; just let it steamroll you and drive on by. There’s collectible shades (even though Chester is already wearing a perfectly serviceable pair of sunglasses) which make the whole screen darker. Then you come to piranha-infested waters at the end of the level. This is the part of the game that forces you to learn to press ‘Select’ at the title screen and realise that the ‘R’ button actually does something for once, and that is dash. You then of course map the function to a more logical button like ‘Y’ or ‘B’ and replay the level. Now apparently cats are afraid of water because it makes them shatter into pieces, and piranha schools rise and fall in Mexican waves. They try to eat you sideways to no avail, but lucky for them they have razor-sharp fins that kill you anyway. And if you survive that, there’s a boss fight waiting for you on the other side.
I can just imagine the disappointed looks on the 90s children’s faces as they wrangle with this 16-bit representation of their favourite cheese-flavoured snack mascot. Poor Mum didn’t know any better. It’s sad, because children were no doubt the intended audience, given the Seussian pre-level rhyme and the sheer poorness of the game. It’s a platformer without platforms, what else really needs to be said?
Chester summed up the whole affair from the very beginning:
“I just don’t dig this bogus gig.”
Neither do I. But maybe I’ve been asking all the wrong questions. Would it sell a pack of Cheetos? Probably it would!
“Screw this, Cheetos are heaps better than this game. Wanna get some Cheetos?”