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Review: Soda Drinker Pro

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Like explaining an inside joke to someone else

I, uh.....what?

Soda Drinker Pro (Xbox One [reviewed], Windows)
Developer: Snowrunner Productions
Publisher: Snowrunner Productions
Released: April 14, 2016
MSRP: $9.99

Hmm, where do I begin. So, Soda Drinker Pro is actually two games in one. Maybe that's a bit spoilery considering the second is technically hidden, but it's better to know this before making any decision regarding this game.

The obvious part is the title game, Soda Drinker Pro. Players have a customizable soda can (even down to the precipitation droplets) that they can take sips out of. One button holds the soda in the drinking position while another button drinks. When the soda is empty, the level is over. It's possible to walk into some floating sodas around the level for the "bonus soda!" audio cue, but that's all that happens.

And, well, that's it. The game looks and sounds like absolute garbage in every way possible. There are no redeeming qualities about Soda Drinker Pro except that it elicited a chuckle as I was customizing my can with a ton of wacky options and from the occasional sound byte. 

The other game, Vivian Clark, is hidden within Soda Drinker Pro. I won't say where it is on the off chance someone out there is looking forward to exploring the base game in order to discover it (haha just kidding, it's in level two -- just walk into the house). Luckily, I found it almost immediately and was rewarded with something other than Soda Drinker Pro that I could then boot to from the main menu.

Vivian Clark is much more difficult to describe. In fact, I'd wager that most people would call it an experience more so than a "game," but those are semantics I don't care to get into. While it may seem at first like a mishmash of random elements, this is not true. Players will soon discover that there actually is a rather solid structure that's easy to comprehend.

The best way that I can describe this game-within-a-game would be to say that it is a collection of mini-adventures. Players start out as a droplet of water plummeting towards earth. The droplet may land on a bird, which transports players to a different type of game where they are the bird. That bird might run into a butterfly, and then the player assumes that new role, with totally separate gameplay.

This chain can go on and on quite a few times. Other than the analog stick, the A button is the only button that does anything, so it is quick and easy to figure out what each game is like immediately. The objective is never told to the player, so there is an element of exploration and discovery. Sometimes it's as simple as getting to the end of a platforming level, but other times players will find themselves doing pushups or shooting television waves at people's heads until they explode. Yeah, this game gets weird.

The real problem here is that none of these events and adventures are particularly interesting or captivating. Occasionally, a chain of events will feel somewhat satisfying to pull off, but that's uncommon. The underlying mechanics are not strong enough to host the plethora of sub-games it attempts to. Most of these micro-experiences are incredibly simple, requiring the player to get to one place or another by platforming, flying, jumping, or some other form of movement. The controls feel way too loose and clunky, and I often ended up frustrated.

Oddly enough, I think that the fact that there is a fail-state in most of these smaller games is the biggest detractor. Some of them are quite long, and to lose towards the end of one is nothing short of disheartening. Many of the games aren't a joy to actually play, so to have to repeat them is an exercise in tedium. In other words, the worst part about Vivian Clark is that it's a little too game-y. If it were impossible or almost impossible to lose, it would be better off.

The art style here is very different from its shell game, and objectively better. It's bizarre to the point where I don't want to call it "bad," because it sort of works with the whole theme. Much of it makes me feel a bit uneasy, which I think was the aim, and it helps add to the uncertainty of what will come next. The music is actually pretty great and fits the theme perfectly.

Vivian Clark is at least an interesting experience. It's not one that I want to return to, ever, but spending time with it always kept me on my toes, thinking about what could be next. Unfortunately, the actual mechanics are poorly implemented and fail-states are way too common, making what should be a laid-back, almost euphoric experience more like throwing your head against the wall.

As for the base game in Soda Drinker Pro, just don't. 

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Soda Drinker Pro reviewed by Patrick Hancock

3.5

POOR

Went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice it has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.
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Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've persona... more + disclosures


 


 


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