Wow. Soda Junky was a bit of a surprise standout of a freeware game amidst a bunch of mediocre, time-consuming programs (some of them actually good
, though) that was included in a cd that came with a Retro Gamer mag that a friend of mine sent me. (Yes, they're FREE, so a person shouldn't complain, but like I said, they're time-consuming to try out and all, and especially
annoying when they suck.)
Of course, I went with some of the either familiar-sounding stuff first -- Gl Tron, based on the Light Cycles sequence from the cult classic Tron movie, a Western-themed Robotron takeoff, a Xevious remake, etc. -- or some other things that just sounded cool anyway (a Gravitar-type deathmatch and various puzzle games, shoot 'em ups and all).
Needless to say, in the on and off period of months that I had been going through the cd, it took me a while before I decided to give something called Soda Junky a shot.
And my overall impressions weren't that great, even! Ok, some of the graphics weren't bad for a freeware game, and some of the music's decent (first 10 rounds, the music in the 40s rounds in particular). You play Sammy Bottlecap, a kid that was born into such a great, distinguished name (cough, choke) that he became a soda junkie (I guess) by always having empty soda bottles around with him to throw at enemies, should his girlfriend, Rachel (who must have had an even worse last name that she decided just to leave it out of the game entirely) be kidnapped by the evil minions of a certain Dr. Pepper (oh, gag).
Ok, so it wasn't the storyline that did me in -- believe it or not -- with this platform/shooter/puzzle game, it just seemed a bit average...at first. The game starts off with several of Pepper's minions (that look like giant teeth, being a soda junkie's worst nightmare) appearing with Bottlecap (screw it, I'm just going to call him Sammy from now on, the hell with journalism "standards" [yeah RIGHT, since you're reading this review for free!] of going by the last name of someone) onscreen, which you must jump on what looks like various tree branches to destroy them all with several hits of the empty soda bottles that you throw.
The game doesn't necessarily get harder as it goes along, although you could end up getting screwed and hit several of the teeth (or whatever they are) and lose a life here and there. So that helps with the random way a game will go for you. Of course, you get power-ups throughout as well, like bottles that, if Sammy can grab them in time, will destroy all the enemies on a screen, other bottles will have shots that will take the teeth out with one hit, others will grant you extra lives, etc. There's also some pretty sweet (pardon the bad for your teeth pun) secrets throughout the game in regards to snagging certain power-ups (usually the ones with exploding, one-hit kill shots), which is usually in regards to firing off a bunch of shots, and a lot of bonus desserts will appear out of nowhere for you to grab for extra points (which creates giant, nightmare teeth for future levels to come, probably). Sure, a lot of the time you won't be able to get them all before they disappear, but they're a nice surprise, which is also a bit reminiscent of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Sega Genesis, with those hidden bonuses at the end of a level that you'll find by jumping around in certain spots.
So I'm going along, thinking at first I'll knock off the game playing in 20 minutes or so, dying here, getting further there, having to start over again, etc.
Then, after a while, I got to the first boss and destroyed him (it? What the hell IS a giant, floating tooth anyway? Right, maybe that's best left unanswered...).
I was then taken to a bonus diamond screen after that, with tons of diamonds everywhere, which diamonds were disappearing as time went on as I tried to jump around and catch as many as I could, netting a nice bonus and two extra lives for myself once the screen was complete.
Plus I got a password, skipping those first 10 levels.
The music changed too (it changes every 10 levels)...plus there was the boss and the bonus diamond screen music as well.
And the graphics changed as well, as there's themes that look like the levels are underwater or made out of ice.
Then there were a couple of screens and bosses that I couldn't figure out for a while, and I think one gaming session with Soda Junky ended up taking five hours.
I had gotten hooked, to say the least :)
Due to the way the game was designed (with the random level outcomes), having changes in the background graphics, having over 50 levels, passwords, etc., this could have belonged on a Game Boy or NES release. It's funny how new elements built up over time until the very last level, which it contained one of the very last surprises of the game, when it became one very long screen that suddenly scrolled once you started moving! Plus there were even a couple of cutscenes too.
Looks like John's Program (who created the game) had a lot of ideas floating around when this was created, or whoever responsible for it had too many nightmares by drinking too much Mountain Dew before going to bed.
There are a few faults with Soda Junky, though, as it can get pretty frustrating at times. There's also a level or two that has glitches where you or an enemy will get stuck and you won't be able to complete the level (so you'll have to start over within that multiple of 10 levels again), other levels have enemies or bosses that you have to wait and wait until they make their way down the screen before you can blast them to oblivion (and there aren't any, or enough, platforms to jump up to to reach them; arrrr) and there's a pause of several seconds for when you complete a round and you have to wait until the next one starts. (However, at least this is one of those games where you can fall down the entire length of the screen without dying -- like with Lode Runner or Doom -- nor getting hurt, or even stunned, so that helps.)
Other than that, this is a retro gaming-type treasure, to be sure, even if it was never released for a console or handheld, as the music, simplicity of the controls, and gameplay fit in with a lot of themes (Bubble Bobble comes to mind at times) perfectly. 9/10