In an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The Gang debates the merits of advertising on a local public access channel. To prove a point, Mac turns on the station where it plays an ongoing video of a middle-aged Asian man dancing to house music in his underwear against a blue screen backdrop displaying various locales from around the world. The Gang mocks the display of human oddity until they grow transfixed with the weirdness. So much so that when Mac tries to turn off the station, Dennis, Dee, and Charlie are angered. This was the reaction I had with Soda Drinker Pro. For as dumb and stupid the premise, the experience is infuriatingly compelling.
Soda Drinker Pro has cornered the market on soda drinking simulators. Such a thing might be ridiculous - well, it is - but remember that we live in a world filled with simulators of farming equipment, trucking, trains, and even goats. As mundane as they appear, Train Simulator and Farming Simulator are compelling enthusiast games. Even Goat Simulator has its wonderfully silly moments. Soda Drinker Pro, on the other hand, is kind of dumb. It’s the sort of game to drop on unsuspecting people to gain a laugh at their expense or have something to do while high. If made over twenty years ago, it would have fit perfectly alongside Desert Bus from Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors.
The game, if one could call it that, involves developer Will Brierly’s unwavering love for carbonated beverages. Brierly asks the questions everyone else is afraid to bring up: have you ever wanted to drink soda on the beach, in a park, or in space? Or, perhaps, inside someone’s mouth or atop a stranger’s butt? Such carbonated fantasies are wholly represented in Soda Drinker Pro’s collection of eclectic levels. The “action” is contained within a visible “box” textured with poorly textured backgrounds and surfaces. The game’s artwork is similar to a child’s crude finger painting often found on a proud parent’ s refrigerator. The entire product neatly falls within the “so bad it’s good” territory aided (abetted?) in part by the Internet’s love of irony and Brierly’s “is he serious or not” public persona. The whole thing is funny for the first ten or so levels. After that, you’ll wonder why you gave it the time of day. The cult of personality surrounding Soda Drinker Pro isn’t enough to hide its ridiculousness.
The gameplay structure of Soda Drinker Pro is pretty basic: traverse different locations and drink from a generic looking soda cup until it is empty. I appreciated the comedy of the drinking system because it requires two buttons to work, one to lift the cup the other to suck it from a straw. It’s hilariously unnecessary. With no timers or world clocks to keep you from moving forward at your own pace, there’s nothing to stand in your way of introspective soda drinking (there’s an achievement for spending ten minutes in one level). There are floating “bonus” sodas littered throughout a level and do nothing beyond contributing towards achievements. Most of them can’t even be reached. You can’t jump, crouch, climb, dive, or fly leaving many of these non-items inaccessible. That and the delayed sound file that triggers when you pass through a soda is legitimately funny the first few times. Soda Drinker Pro is a solo adventure with no one to partner up with or follow you around save for Brierly who chimes in with weird and sometimes lustful musings on soda drinking.
I give credit to Brierly’s commitment to his own joke. Like Crystal Pepsi, however, the gag gets old fast and is harder to defend seriously and sardonically. When the aforementioned self-realization of the game’s vapid stupidity hits, that’s the perfect time to engage with the secret game-within-a-game, Vivian Clark. As a collection of mini games, it’s a significant step up in art direction and gameplay than the main game, though not by much. The games function along the old school design of “do something until you get hit.” You’ll do things like control a raindrop falling from the sky, play an isometric copy of Flappy Bird, fight monsters, and control a rocket as it blasts off to space. There’s something legit about Vivian Clark and I would have liked to see what more Brierly could do with it instead of building a giant mouth for a player to walk around in.
Soda Drinker Pro is an “interesting” first effort by a freshman game designer. The soda simulation aspect of the game is silly and dumb while Vivian Clark offers a seed of promise. I also applaud him for developing a game and releasing it to both PC and Xbox. However, the $10 price tag is questionable. If it weren’t for the attention, a game like this would languish in the bowels of Xbox Live. Regardless of whether or not the price point was set by Microsoft or Brierly, $10 is too much for a game that achieved visibility because the Internet loves to support silly idea (remember that potato salad Kickstarter)? Soda Drinker Pro has all the joy of a flat, lukewarm Pepsi.
Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.