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Most gamers of a certain age have gleefully nostalgic memories of the 2D heyday of the 1990s, the era when Sonic and Mario reigned supreme and the noble platformer was still in rude health.
What most of us forget though, is that for every classy jump-fest hero, there were a whole lot more crappy wannabe pretenders to the throne. Whether their games were good or bad, these bandwagon riders themselves were frequently trite, characterless or just plain annoying. Truly, the crap platformer mascot was the bald-headed space marine of the '90s. So grit your teeth and join us on a tour of the most vile.
It’s difficult to criticise an environmentally-conscious game character without sounding like the kind of jerks who get their kicks from sacrificing pandas on top of flaming piles of tyres. (We'd never do that of course. Polystyrene goes up much faster) But criticise we’re going to, because Awesome Possum was loathsome.
His game was crap, he looked like a scrawny, cross-eyed stimulant abuser and, to top it all off, his title screen appearance saw him weakly exclaim "I'm awesome!" like a skinny, slow kid yelps "Mummy says I'm special" after being punched in the face for his lunch money again. As if the the word “Awesome” floating directly above him in letters as big as his own face wasn’t over-compensation enough.
Actually, what really topped it all off was the very idea of selling an environmental message to kids at £40 a pop, via the medium of a badly made game distributed on expensive, presumably hard-to-recycle plastic and silicon cartridges. Most of which are probably polluting a landfill somewhere right this very second.
Bonus possum fact: The common brushtail possum was artificially introduced to New Zealand by European settlers, making it an invasive species. Destructive to indigenous plants and wildlife and having no natural predators, the New Zealand possum is a bully, an environmental pest, and additionally carries tuberculosis. Not awesome.
Irem’s Rocky Rodent was nearly the most reprehensible of all mid-‘90s Sonic knock-offs. In a misguided attempt to attain the elusive holy grail of edgy attitude, he was designed to look like a slavering street corner crackhead. He used his obligatory running speed for the noble purpose of escaping from restaurants without paying, and he only agreed to save the damsel in exchange for a free feed (so actually, he very probably was a slavering street-corner crackhead).
And once he’d rescued her, he spent the entire end sequence staring, tongue out, at her arse or crotch (see below for the horrible evidence). Oh, and his entire power-up system revolved around the use of increasingly ‘rad’ hairstyles. Dick.
Bonus rodent fact: Rodents are characterised by having two continually growing sharp incisors in the upper jaw. If Rocky was a real rodent and kept his tongue lolling out as he does, the chances are he would have bitten it off long ago. Which would have been hilarious to watch.
Too Cool to Fool/Wild Wild Quest | Mega Drive/SNES | 1992
The long-time marketing mascot of Cheetos, Chester’s cynical advergames portrayed him as a tearfully boring "hip cat" cliché who only ever spoke in rhyme, despite sounding like an insufferable ponce.
This, coupled with his perpetual wearing of shades, even underground, clearly made him the kind of pseudo-counter-culture beatnik wannabe who turns up at open mic poetry nights at the local student pub wearing a black rollneck and smoking needle-thin hand-rolled cigarettes. Sporadic attempts to schmooze naïve drunken fresher girls with his ersatz linguistic pretensions are probably also not below him.
Also, he exists only to sell fried corn to children.
Bonus Cheetos fact: In 1996, Chester’s promotional catchphrase changed from “The cheese that goes crunch” to “Dangerously cheesy”. This proves that although a dick, he is at least vaguely self-aware.
Mohawk and Headphone Jack | SNES | 1995
In 1995, the SNES was facing stiff next-gen opposition. But Black Pearl Software had a plan. After years of Mario and Final Fantasy, the grey box of joy needed something even more special to enable it to stand its ground against the growing PlayStation menace. It needed a muscular, naked, gelatinous yellow man with big sunglasses and a haircut that hadn’t been cool since the late ‘70s.
Even better, give him a vague, gooey yellow cock bulge only partially obscured by the cable from his CD player headphones. Yeah, a ‘roided up jellybaby with a slightly rapey aura. That’s what the SNES had been waiting for all along. PlayStation? Pah! It wouldn’t last five minutes.
Bonus Mohawk fact: If you see a man who looks like Mohawk walking towards you in the street, you should run away quickly.
Next: Corporate clowns and a genuinely shitty mascot