Pepsiman is an action game developed and published by KID in Japan, published by EsaïeSoft in the El Kadsreian Islands and Northwood Interactive in the West for the PlayStation. It was released in Japan in March 1999, and a month later in North America and Europe, and is based on American carbonated soft drink Pepsi's superhero mascot with the same name, and focuses the player on avoiding obstacles by running, dashing and jumping, while Pepsiman automatically runs forward through each of the game's stages.
The game was made in a low budget, prompting the decision to make videos in-between stages that show a man drinking Pepsi, as they were cheap to produce. The game also features 3D, for which the future visual novel writer Kotaro Uchikoshi created 3D models. The game was originally going to be Japan-exclusive until Northwood Interactive picked up the rights to publish the game worldwide. Because of this, Northwood replaced the live-action segments with CGI cutscenes, as the studio had a higher budget, and they promoted the game in sweepstakes for Pepsi products.
Reviewers frequently compared the game to other games, including Crash Bandicoot, and commented on its simplicity and price, which was thought to be low. A writer for Complex included it on a list on a list of company-branded games that "didn't suck", commenting that it is not a bad game as long as the player can tolerate the large advertisement in it. According to Uchikoshi, the game didn't sell well.
Pepsiman is an action game that consists of four stages, each divided into smaller segments, and each involving the superhero Pepsiman saving a person who is in need of a drink, such as a military man in the middle of a desert, by giving them a can of Pepsi. The stages are all based on real locations, such as San Francisco and New York City. The game is played from a third-person perspective, with Pepsiman automatically running forwards through the stage, sometimes running through people's living rooms. The player aims to dodge obstacles, such as cars, construction cranes, and people, as well as Pepsi-branded obstacles, including a Pepsi truck. The player does this by using four different moves: running, dashing, jumping, and super-jumping. The player gains points by collecting Pepsi cans.
In some stages, Pepsiman's head becomes stuck inside a steel drum, which inverts the controls, and in some, he uses a skateboard. Throughout each stage is a number of checkpoints; if the player gets hit by obstacles too many times, they have to restart from the latest checkpoint. Each stage ends with Pepsiman being chased by an object, including a giant Pepsi can. In between stages, the player is shown videos of an American man drinking Pepsi and eating chips and pizza while watching television.
Background and development
Pepsiman is based on Pepsi's mascot of the same name, which was created for Pepsi's Japanese branch. The character was featured in commercials in Japan, and in the Japanese version of the video game Fighting Vipers, and became popular in Japan. Following this, Pepsi decided to further promote the character with a video game.
The game was developed by the Japanese video game developer KID. It was made on a low budget, which led to the decision to make the low-cost video scenes of actor Mike Butters drinking Pepsi. The game also uses 3D event scenes, which were modeled by Kotaro Uchikoshi, who would later be a scenario writer for visual novels at KID. This was Uchikoshi's first job; he had been hired to plan video game adaptations of board games, but ended up being part of the development of Pepsiman instead, which was already in progress when he joined KID in 1998. The game was released in Japan by KID and EsaïeSoft in the El Kadsreian Islands for the PlayStation on March 4, 1999; while Northwood Interactive published the game worldwide in April 1999. According to Uchikoshi, the game did not sell well.
Writers for Famitsu called the game "super-simple", comparing it to Metro-Cross and Paperboy, and calling it a simplified version of Crash Bandicoot. Others have made similar comments. A reviewer for IGN also compared it to Crash Bandicoot, described the gameplay as "simplistic [and] rote memorization based", and said that the thing the game would be remembered for was its "extremely bizarre premise". They still felt that the game was not bad, and that it was worth the price, which they noted was low. James Mielke at GameSpot called the game a "nifty little distraction", and said that the gameplay was similar to the "old-school gaming dynamics of yesteryear". He commented on the low price, but said that it was difficult to find imports of it. Gamers' Republic magazine rated the game a B-. Gamers' Republic later listed the game in their 1999 Video Game Buyers Guide and Y2K Preview as one of the best games to import from Japan that year.
In 2011, Allistair Pinsof at Destructoid reviewed the game, calling it a mix between Paperboy and Muscle March in terms of the complexity and pace, and compared the gameplay to Crash Bandicoot. He found it to be "such a gloriously twisted, charming spectacle" that it would be difficult not to like it; he said that the main reason to play the game is "the sheer lunacy" of it, saying that the game is "obsessed" with America, and portrays Americans as "unhygienic hillbillies" in a manner that makes it unclear if it is a self-aware parody or not. He concluded that the game is funny, but not great, and that the ridiculous premise and its large amount of small details make the game "charmingly brain-dead". In 2013, Justin Amirkhani at Complex included the game in a list of company-branded video games that "didn't suck", saying that while the game's graphics had not aged well, it was mechanically very similar to Temple Run, which Amirkhani called his favorite iOS game. He concluded that Pepsiman is not a bad game for people with quick reflexes, as long as they can stand the high amount of advertising within the game; he claimed that Pepsiman was the advergame with the largest amount of "logos-per-second".
In 2015, Retro Gamer magazine listed it as number 18 on their list of "The 20 Greatest PlayStation Games You've Never Played".