1. Kool-Aid Man Video Game – Putting your mascot in a video game can go either way; there are success stories like Yo, Noid! and there are less-than-success stories like M.C.Kids. Unsurprisingly, it comes down to whether there’s a good game or not underneath the license when considering how these games are remembered. Kool-Aid got a jump on the turn-your-mascot-into-a-game frenzy with their Kool-Aid Man game, released for Atari 2600 and Intellivision in 1983.
There was really no subtext here; Kool-Aid wanted you to buy more Kool-Aid, and they knew you liked video games, so they gave you a Kool-Aid video game so you’d like Kool-Aid so you’d buy more Kool-Aid. Even better, you could pay for the game using Kool-Aid points – those little stamps you cut out of the individual packages!
The game itself is gorgeous for that generation, but it’s mostly because of the colors used. You play as the Kool-Aid man, protecting a body of water (a pool?) from “The Thirsties”. The Thirsties are trying to drink all of the water out of the pool (which, presumably would result in a summertime disaster of some sort), and Kool-Aid man is tasked with sacrificing his juice to quench their thirst so that they’ll leave the water alone.
You can only quench the thirst of the Thirsties that are drinking from the pool – if you try to quench a Thirsty who’s not drinking you’ll suffer a penalty. This speaks volumes about the Kool-Aid Man’s moral code and the complex rules of the world that he and this pool are in.
So it turns out there’s a third option between a good game and a bad game, and this one falls into that. It’s “meh”. A mediocre game that has a great color palette, a decent art style, and a popular license on top of those two things probably made the whole thing worth the effort.
Here’s someone playing it:
2. Vanilla Ice Electronic Rap Game – At the height of the outbreak of Vanilla Ice Fever, this thing showed up on shelves.
The Vanilla Ice Electronic Rap Game allowed suburban kids from across the country to live out their hardcore rap fantasies by using a large yellow microphone that provided a beat for them to put their style on.
The board consisted of a series of cards and squares, and players would place cards to make lines that (presumably) rhymed, and then would rap those lines to earn points. Then the winner gets to rap THE ENTIRE BOARD at the end. I bet this thing provided minutes of fun before finding its place at the back of the closet!
3. Universal Studios Florida – Here are some materials from the 1990 Universal Studios Theme Park Opening. They really went out of their way to distinguish themselves from Disney as more of a “live the movies” experience, promising properties that wouldn’t actually be on the park for years after its launch. Jaws and Back To The Future had yet to be built, and Ghostbusters was a street show only, not a ride. As a kid living in Orlando in 1990, that last one was like a spear of disappointment that lodged in my side for years. And I never even got to see the street show!
Here’s an ad for the park, with the misleading properties included:
And a print ad:
Oddly enough, the Alfred Hitchcock, Murder She Wrote, and Horror Make Up Show attractions ended up being some of my favorites – all three of them really sparked my interest in TV and film production and led to me getting studying all that stuff in college.
Here’s the 1990 map, in all its 1990 font-and-color-choice glory:
4. Eskimo Pies – Here’s a 1960s ad for Eskimo Pies that ran in movie theaters and drive ins. It looks as if they’re recruiting you for something more nefarious than just eating a delightful Eskimo Pie.
5. Straighten Up and Fly Right – They say the only way to cure an earworm is to spread it to somebody else. This guy’s been in my head for about a week. At least this is a live version!