Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Closer Look at Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool

A Closer Look at Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool

I like Cheetos. I want to start this essay with that caveat perfectly clear. I like Cheetos, I like the puffy kind, and I like the Flaming Hot crunchy kind. So please, as you read, remember I like Cheetos.

Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool for the Super Nintendo, I am not as sure about. As a matter of fact I can tell you right now, this thing comes in a gray plastic cartridge, it fits into the cartridge slot of a Super Nintendo video game console, when you turn the machine on images and sound emanate from your television screen as a result of the cartridge being inserted into the console, but outside of that, CC: TCTF barely resembles anything you might consider to be a video game.

Ok, so maybe some of the above is hyperbolic. That’s ok, what is to follow might just convince you otherwise.

In the tradition of other video games based on product tie-ins, for example the very fun SPOT game for the NES based on the 1990’s 7up mascot or the variety of bizarre Kool-Aid man games for the home consoles of the 1980’s, Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool is a video game based on the exploits of a then popular, I suppose, marketing icon. The game is a simple platformer in which you must guide Chester through five (although the manual says six at one point, more on the manual in a bit) levels of trials and tribulations as he attempts to escape the Four Corners Zoo and regain his “radicool”* motorcycle, so he can, I don’t know, be more cool or something; the plot is pretty weak. The five levels of Four Corners Zoo feature all of your standard platforming elements with no real innovation or deviation. There is a water-type level in which you must cross a lake filled with alligators then navigate the lake in a boat. There is an air level where you ride a bird through the skies, a cave level where everything is dark except for your immediate area, you get the idea. If it has been done better in another platforming game it is probably here. The levels are incredibly short and lack depth or imagination.

*Sorry kids, it is in the manual like that…

The game is well themed. Apart from Chester running about, there are several other references to the product this game endorses. Part of your goal is collect paw print shaped Cheetos (remember those?) to regain your health. In the bonus stages, there are old school (then contemporary) Cheetos bags in the background. There is even a coupon for a bag of Cheetos in the back of the manual (but it expired Dec. 31, 1993, sorry). So if the true object of the game is to coerce me into the store to purchase a bag of puffed corn covered in orange “cheese” flavored powder, then the game has a good chance of success. After all, eating a bag of Cheetos is far superior to suffering through this sorry excuse for a video game. Heck an empty Cheetos bag is more fun than this game…but I digress.

The main problem with this game, however, is that it just plain isn’t fun. Oh sure, you can play it, but saying this game is fun just because you can play it is like saying Brussels sprouts are food just because you can eat them. Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool is the Brussels sprouts of Super Nintendo games. The levels are short and simple and lack much of interest outside the main goal of obtaining the motorcycle part and moving on to the next level. The controls are simple and the game is pretty much pick-up-and-play, although going up the pipes in level one is almost accidental rather that intentional. Swinging and climbing on the vines in level two is also a grind-it-until-you-find-it endeavor, but all in all you can work your way through the levels with fundamental gaming skills. There are items to collect, but they are generally irrelevant.

There are sneakers that allow you to dash, a helpful feature no doubt, but there are few opportunities that really call for them. There is a guitar power-up that makes you invincible, but there is a trade-off that renders the item useless. Sure you become invincible, but the entire time you are in that state, you lose control of Chester so that he can rock out on the guitar and do some asinine dance. Once the dance is over, the guitar is gone and you are back to normal. In general I avoided the guitar. The only item worth seeking out is the skateboard which will grant you access to a bonus stage if you make it to the end of the current level. The bonus stage is a sorta fun ride where you take control of Chester atop a jet powered skateboard in an attempt to collect as many Cheetos badges as you can. Aside from finding the skateboard, this game presents very little in the way of challenge. Well, that isn’t entirely true. There is a degree of challenge in a few areas of the game, but these areas are so frustrating that the real challenge is not throwing the game out an open window. Challenging can be fun, but monotonous frustration become tedious quickly. The third level comes to mind where there is a series of jumps across rotting docks while being bombarded by enemy attacks. You fall in the water so often that pretty soon you find yourself playing Super Star Wars instead. By far the most fun to be had in this game is level four, the Hidden Caves. The mine cart section of this level is a wild ride, but again, while fun the ride is too easy.

If there is fun to be had with Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool it is to be found whilst reading the absurd manual that comes with the game. If you are a fan of Engrish, that comical look at the mishandling of the English language particularly by Eastern cultures, then this manual will most certainly be the highlight of your Chester Cheetah experience. The manual text is a mix of “hip” 1990’s lingo and completely misunderstood English phraseology. I’ll give you a little taste of what joy is to be found in this tiny tome of tomfoolery:

“What you want to do is help me make it through every stages in Four Corners Zoo. When all stages are mastered without meeting disaster, I can ditch this zoo and ride away to Hip City, UCA.”

“Dig this, CHESTER CHEETAH ordered this really boss “chopped hog” from a motor cycle catalog,”

“Help CHESTER CHEETAH collect the missing parts today.”

“When finding parts to CHESTER CHEETAH motorcycle, collect points by advancing, walking, jumping, geeking, and eating “power-ups” through numerous levels of play. We can then advance to each of the stages of game play.”

And it goes on like that, as you might imagine. There are quite a few chuckles that result from perusing this document, particularly if you can tell me where the “UCA” is, or perhaps the urgency of helping Chester “today.”

In the final estimation, this game is crap. It is clearly a marketing gimmick to capitalize on the questionable popularity of Chester Cheetah and maybe sell a few video games and bags of Cheetos at the same time. Chances are pretty good you have never heard of this game outside of this Closer Look, and chances are, unless you are a glutton for punishment, you’ll not think about it again after this feature goes into archive. Chester Cheetah: Too Cool To Fool is collection filler is best. The worst part is, we get a Chester Cheetah game while far superior spokesanimals go gameless. Where is my Spuds McKenzie game? What, no Joe Camel: Smoke ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em? Are you telling me Alex from Stroh’s gets no love in the video game market?

Ah well, join me here next time when I’ll take a Closer Look at something that deserves it: Asteroids for the Game Boy Color.

Too Cool Stan


Ok, so you are a glutton for punishment and for some reason you want to play this game. If you have chosen this lot in life, then you are going to want some help getting this phase of your life over with so you can move on to more enjoyable pursuits like maybe listening your way through the Andy Williams LP catalog.

Level 1: Four Corners Zoo Park

This is more of a general tip, but the sneakers are useful once you have them, just don’t forget to use them. They can help you traverse otherwise frustrating areas quickly and often allow you to make greater jumps, particularly across a pond with four jumping fish late in the level. (you can also bypass this pond via the underground pipes).

Going up the pipes can sometimes seem almost accidental. All you have to do is position yourself directly below the vertical pipe and press up. Grind it until you find it.

About midway through this level you may think you are in for a boss fight. The action stops, the screen adjusts and a giant spider-like machine descends upon you. Don’t worry; this isn’t anything to get excited about. All you have to do is walk under the legs of the machine as it lifts them in sequence. You can even run between the middle two legs meaning that there are only two legs to get past. Just be sure you duck the torso of the machine as it drops. Snore.

Level 2: Monkey Pits

Find the shoes early on between the first and second trees at the bottom of the screen. This will help you make some jumps across the tree tops and ultimately score the skateboard located high in the first part of the level. Follow the arrow made of badges.

Avoid the Kangaroo in the bottom left corner. There is no reason to even get near it.

To swing properly on the vines, you can swing back and forth with the D-pad while holding on with the action button. When you are ready to dismount, let go of the action button and press it again quickly to jump from the vine, otherwise you’ll just kind of let go.

Only the monkey can help you reach the motorcycle parts high in the tree in the middle of the level.

Level 3: Gator Alley

The sneakers are your best friend here. Any time, outside of the Hip-O ride, you are having trouble, just dash and jump your way through the area.

While riding Hip-O do everything you can to avoid the guitar power-up positioned halfway through the ride. You will ALWAYS fall off Hip-O if you pick it up. I have had the most success jumping over it.

The logs toward the end of this level seem to sink at completely random intervals. I cannot see any real pattern to their behavior. Therefore, my best tip is to stand on one and wait for the next one to sink, the immediately jump to it. It should rise just as you land. Good luck.

Level 4: Hidden Caves

Fall down the second hole after the Pig Guy to find the skateboard, sneakers, and lots of badges and paw print Cheetos.

The caves are circular, so falling down a hole will always drop you back out at the beginning of the level. To progress, just avoid falling down any of the holes.

Duck repeatedly to shake off the smaller bats that cling to you.

If you don’t want to fool with the mine cart section of this level, just keep your head ducked until the ride is over. Unfortunately, you’ll miss the best part of the game.

Level 5: Bird Houses

Not much to see or do here, other than ride the bird and dodge the enemies. I will tell you that the best offensive is tricking the enemy birds to drop their payloads on your enemies, this also applies to the final boss. Good luck.

I never beat the final boss, but mainly due to a lack of interest, not ability. You only get three continues and the game generally frustrated me to the point that when I finally did get to the boss if I didn’t kill him in the first try or two, I really couldn’t suffer playing the whole thing again just to give it another try. No, not even for you, the loyal reader. Sorry, but I did make all of those Private Eye maps for you, and that giant Pryzm article. You gotta give me some credit, right?

1 comment:

  1. Do you have any scans of the manual? I'm really interested in seeing it.