I started out this evening playing some more Hot Wired and actually finished 3 of the 10 tracks. I think I’m well on my way to being able to write the authoritative strategy guide for the game. But duty requires that I soldier on!
Tonight’s game is a Taco Bell promotional game, Tek Kids Flash Ops– Mission: Polar Challenge. You might be surprised enough to learn that there is a Taco Bell promotional game, but wait until you find out that this is actually number 2 in a series. This is actually the first of a great many promotional tie-in games that I have in my possession and look forward to playing. This title is not very well-known: A Google search brings up an entry I wrote about it on another of my blogs.
Based on the CD sleeve packaging, this Tek Kids promotion must have run from August 3 through September 6 of this year (the sleeve says that you can call for technical assistance between those dates).
The primary game enables the player to select from one of four Tek Kids to carry out a special mission to stop a particularly insane villain, Dr. Havok, from inflicting his namesake effect upon the world. How insane is he? Insane enough that he saw Al Gore’s global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and decided that the best way to blackmail the world’s governments would be to accelerate the warming process by manually melting the polar ice caps with what the game describes verbally as a giant radar attached to a tank.
I was eager to jump right into the gameplay and see exactly how they managed to tie tasty tacos and burritos into what was sure to be a fast-paced action game. I am happy to report that Polar Challenge delivers, at least for a brief, free, promotional tie-in game. The principal action has your character piloting a little hoverjet over the ice, on your way to take out the problematic tank device. On the way, there are skiing robots that will try to trip you with their ski poles, spiked mines and some other exploding weirdness. On the plus side, there are 2 different types of weapons to pick up, as well as 2 types of powerups– fuel tanks to keep your jet craft moving, and spinning Taco Bell insignias to keep your life meter up. So that’s the tie-in! Taco Bell = life!
You have to maintain both your life meter (getting hit drains it) and your fuel meter (just moving drains it) or it’s game over. A frustrating aspect at the outset was that the game would abruptly end with Dr. Havok laughing himself silly– it would have been nice for some indication about exactly why the game was over. There are 2 different weapons — a green ring weapon and a pink cube weapon — but neither seems to be more powerful than the other. Also, there are copious warps on the mission that give you a major speed bump and make you bump into enemies much faster.
The game features 3 segments, each with progressively more obstacles. While the game has 4 characters to choose from, that doesn’t necessarily give it any particular replay value– the 4 different characters are apparently in place to fulfill certain demographic diversity goals, though someone put in a lot of effort to define different profiles for each Tek Kid.
After completing the game, you get a 4-character code. If you get the codes for all 4 games, you can unlock a bonus game. This implies to me that all 4 games carry the bonus game. The code at the end of this game is PXM6. Searching for the string in the binary is fruitless. I can’t imagine the developers put a lot of effort into an difficult-to-hack code system. However, only one character from each of the 4 4-character codes is used to unlock the bonus game, so it’s reasonable that the PXM6 string would not occur in any binaries (and the screen where it is presented is graphical).
From the code screen, I learn that the other 3 missions are titled Data Island, Aqua Zone, and Sky Fortress. I may make some trips to area Taco Bell restaurants and inquire about any CDs they might have in the back. Yeah, I’m just that lame.
One last feature of the actual game is that it allows you to create desktop wallpapers featuring the various Tek Kids on top of polar locale backdrops, with a “Think Outside The Bun” logo, and even that’s customizable.
The CD sleeve also contains a number of different puzzles including a connect-the-dot puzzle and a secret decoding message puzzle. The code is to drop the first and last letters of each word. Fiendish. The funniest puzzle is a picture of the Havok global-warming-accelerator tank, and the viewer needs to find the items that don’t belong in the picture, items like pliers, wrench, and snowshoe. I take this as a tacit acknowledgement that there’s nothing wrong with the tank being in the picture.
The game is the product of a firm named Maxx Marketing. Apparently, there is a long-running campaign based around Spy-Tek that they created for Taco Bell.
For multimedia trivia, underneath the covers, the game uses a lot of FLV files for full motion video. Flash-based game? That would certainly ease time to market.