AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article is about the 1995 Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game titled Spot Goes to Hollywood, not the 1996 Sega Saturn and PlayStation games of the same name which feature similar themes but different gameplay and presentation.
The 80s and 90s had many things going for them, and you’re sure to have read a million articles reminiscing the this or that of those two decades. However, one of the more salient accomplishments of that time period that I personally love to reminiscence about was the tendency of brand mascots to be just a little too cool for school, sunglasses and all.
While everyone loves Sonic the Hedgehog’s rad-ness, or loves weirdos like The Noid and Chester Cheetah, or even some mutated whatever-the-hells like Jazz Jackrabbit and the Toxic Crusaders, there’s a favorite of mine that isn’t remembered quite as well: Cool Spot.
You know, Spot… the red dot from the 7 Up logo who for a brief period of time, mostly during 7 Up’s “Uncola” marketing era from the late 80s to mid to late 90s, was given a pair of sunglasses and wobbly black stick-figure-ish limbs at the ends of which he adorned giant Mickey Mouse gloves and super fly giant sneakers.
I guess at some point some dude just looked at the red dot in 7 Up’s logo and said, “hey, what if that thing had sunglasses and sneakers, is that what the kids like these days?” and Cool Spot was born.
A more realistic reason for his creation might have had something to do with Fido Dido, the rather popular 7 Up brand mascot more commonly used in European and Asian regions, but not so much in the US due to either licensing (the character didn’t belong to 7 Up) or testing reasons. Spot might have been a way to recreate that kind of a character.
Whatever the case might be, we were blessed with Cool Spot.
Despite being sane and therefore not being a fan of 7 Up as a drink on its own, I’ve always had an affinity, some sort of unspoken but unrequited (since he isn’t, you know, alive) friendship with Cool Spot. There’s just something extra charming about the little guy compared to other mascots of the time that has never left me. In fact, quite literally. As I write this, I have an old promotional Cool Spot figure on my desk staring right at me. Maybe part of his charm is the ridiculousness of his existence.
But, how do you translate that into a video game? Back in the day, it didn’t matter what license you had on your hands, it needed to have a video game tie-in. Home Improvement got made in the form of a side-scrolling platform shooter (yes, with Tim Allen as the main playable character) at some point so, you know, it was a wild era.
Thankfully, Spot’s antics lent themselves to video games. Several games were made across various platforms from 1990 to 1994, with the most popular release simply titled Cool Spot, released for the SNES and Sega Genesis in 1993.
When most people think of Spot, they think of this particular game. It has become more popular than the character itself, which is kinda surprising since the game itself isn’t all that great, or at least not to my liking.
But, there was another.
I speak, of course, of one of the most important games of my childhood. The obscure, ridiculous and delightful…Spot Goes to Hollywood for the Sega Genesis.
Spot Goes Where Now?
Spot Goes to Hollywood was released in 1995, and was sadly Spot’s last big hurrah before he was retired to mascot heaven. There were a couple of other games released under the Spot Goes to Hollywood name, but those were not the same as this release (see author’s note).
His last outing, however, was perhaps his best one, and also perhaps one of the most interesting titles to be released on the Sega Genesis. The title has often been overlooked since release due to a combination of less than stellar reviews it had received initially, and also probably because no one expects a game starring the red dot from 7 Up to be any good.
First things first, the game looks more charming than it probably has any right to.
Presented in an isometric camera view, all the backgrounds, enemies and interactive environments have a very handmade appearance to them. While some could be written off as generic by description alone, the kind of locations Spot visits in his quests are reminiscent of cheesy Halloween party themes. Perhaps the design choice was to make them look like movie sets, but they come off more as the wild, creative, silly dreams of an imaginative child.
In this game, you’ll visit pirate ships, the ocean floor, haunted mansions and castles, dungeon-esque cellars, spaceships, a crazy minecart level (all the rage in the 90s) and even Hell itself.
What does all of this have to do with Hollywood? Well, I guess these are supposed to be movie sets, and Spot is shooting a movie maybe? Spot Goes to Hollywood’s European box art shows a fake Indiana Jones, Frankenstein’s monster, a green Nosferatu/Dracula type figure etc., in pursuit of Spot, but none of this happens within the game at all.
There’re very few vague homages to actual movies (save for one very direct reference to the Terminator films, who’s not even on the cover), so the game might as well be Spot Goes to Random Places for No Real Reason.
So, try not to take the “Hollywood” in the title too literally. In fact, it’s not wrong to consider it more of a Halloween-themed game. A better title could have been Spot’s Horror Movies; save for maybe two or three levels out the game’s 14-ish levels, the rest are more or less horror-themed. And truly “horror”, with most levels devoid of vibrant colors, evoking chilling atmospheres. Yet, since the game never takes itself seriously, you’ll find things like sharks swimming in puddles of water and fire-extinguishers hanging on the walls of Hell.
If you enjoy silly and spooky levels in videos games, well, you’ve come to the right place.
Spot’s animations are fluid and full of character. He floppily runs and jumps around and even does a really “cool” slow walk when you move him around the map. There are mini-“cinematics” for different types of deaths, as well, which can be fun to watch. And, of course, there are some pretty rad idle animations thrown in the mix, as well.
Throughout the game, you’ll collect some nonsensical items, which is an aspect of any game I adore. It’s pretty similar to the kind of crazy collectibles you find in a Metal Slug title, only Metal Slug doesn’t have a collectible dog listening to music on his headphones (or maybe it does?).
It’s all just really charming and goes well together. Some enemy sprites and animations aren’t the best, but the rest makes up for it. Plus, even when the sprites aren’t designed all that well, they still play into the cheap costume party vibe of the whole thing.
Another thing that plays into that cheapness is the music, which is nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary, but fits well as background music. The BGM for a few areas, like the pirate ship level, can get a little grating over time. Plus, the generic boss theme in the game doesn’t really fit anything else around it. It would’ve been great to have more individual themes for each boss, but that’s not the case.
Similarly, sound effects are pretty run of the mill most of the time, and the majority of the enemies don’t make any sounds. Spot makes his bizarre yet cute voice noises throughout the game, which was pretty entertaining to me as a child, and still manages to make me smile from time to time but might get annoying a little to fast for some folks.
Most glaringly, the projectile sound, something you hear constantly throughout the game, can sound tinny and broken, and offers no satisfying feedback when you hit enemies. You’ll grow used to it, but it could have been a lot better.
Playing it Cool
The gameplay is a huge departure from the side-scrolling runabout in Cool Spot. As mentioned before, the game is viewed from a pseudo-3D isometric angle, though Spot still walks in a kind of grid.
This makes it easier to move around and eliminates a lot of potential depth-perception issues, though those will still happen until you get used to Spot’s movement. That said, it can get rough; Spot still moves in a stiff way that’s a bit of a determent to the game’s playability in certain levels where you might have to act quickly. Again, you can get over it eventually, but never fully.
I would describe the genre as an action puzzle adventure title with platforming segments. There’s action, which mostly amounts to avoiding enemies and then hitting them with a projectile attack from a distance, usually really easily, and you have to “solve” each level by finding collectibles and secrets that lead to a way out.
Levels are split into sets of three, with each set following a theme and a “story” of how Spot ends up from one place to another. Each level has a number of collectible red “spots”, a percentage of which you have to collect per level to be able to unlock that level’s exit, though you can go for a 100% collection rate if you’re into it. Overall, it’s not all that hard, though there are a few secrets in certain levels that are pretty ambiguous.
As a kid playing the game, a few of the game’s secrets I was never able to figure out in the pre-Internet dark ages. Still, the determination to find everything in the game had me replaying it for a very long time. And those memories have stuck with me well into my adulthood, and upon revisiting the title since then, have not disappointed.
Spot Takes it Home
I’d best describe Spot Goes to Hollywood as a hidden gem. Though its popularity on the internet has increased a bit within the past decade or so, in the early days, I couldn’t find any information about it, so it’s a welcome change!
It’s a bit of a diamond in the rough. It has charm for days, and for a game centered around the adventures of a 7 Up mascot, it’s not a game that ever comes off as trying to sell you a product. In fact, the 7 Up logo only shows up as a collectible that grants you extra lives. It remarkably stands on its own, and it’s clear the folks over at Eurocom (who also developed the more popular Disney’s Hercules game) poured a lot of love and creativity into it.
I would especially recommend this game for kids, as its visuals and often simplistic gameplay lend themselves really well to a younger age group. You might have to hold their hands in a few difficult areas, but it’s all well worth the experience.
It’s a wonderful, time capsule of a game, belonging to a certain era, that also in many ways remains timeless. Most importantly, it’s hours of fun, and as one of Cool Spot’s last appearances ever, it’s the best send-off possible to one of the quirkiest, corporate mascots to ever exist.
“Way Back Review” is a somewhat recurring column by Maxwell N where he reviews and talks about games of all shapes and sizes, classics and obscure gems, from….well, way back.