We’ve seen a lot of games lately with some pretty wacky premises, but Soda Drinker Pro might take the cake (or in this case, a 50 ounce Double Gulp). William Brierly’s game is a mockery of the fact that there are simulators for almost everything now, from farming to warehouse organization. In this case, players are simulating something they might do quite often in real life – drink sodas.
It’s a great joke, and it’s one that makes for an even better launch trailer (which you should watch below because it’s hilarious). Sadly though, much like Goat Simulator, it just doesn’t translate to much of a game. Every single one of Soda Drinker Pro‘s 100+ levels has the player standing around with the simple goal of drinking a soda. This is accomplished by using the controllers left trigger to hold the soda to your mouth and then using the right trigger to slurp it down. Conversely, if you own a Kinect you can use your own arm to drink sodas. Sadly, it’s cooler in theory than concept since you’ll still need a controller to walk around and look at objects. Once the soda is empty, the game promptly moves on to the next level. It’s super simple, but the gameplay isn’t the star here.
Instead, what’s really interesting about it is just how surreal it is. You’ll drink a soda in a roughly modelled spaceship and you’ll have another in a hospital room that features PS1 quality textures. If you can think of a strange place to indulge a soft drink in then it’s probably included. It’s beyond weird and I was actually compelled to see all of the levels in a single sitting.
The most interesting part of the experience, and Soda Drinker Pro is definitely an experience if nothing else, is the music. The soundtrack is a mixture of experimental music and spoken dialogue that is specific to each level. When I was drinking soda on a sinking ship, I could hear the narrator talking about the situation. “If this ship’s going down. I’m bringing my soda,” were the words that were spoken. He then continued to talk about how sharks need to drink sodas, too (which is only natural after all), and that if “this is the last drink I drink, I’m glad its a soda.” It’s a surreal trip, that’s for sure.
The narration quickly became my favorite part of the game, but it also led to one of my frustrations. The audio mixing is awful and there is no way to lower the music (which is overly loud) to hear the muffled narrator more clearly. There are also no subtitles, so the hearing impaired won’t get to experience the most interesting part of Soda Drinker Pro. When the gameplay is this simple and one note, that’s a huge omission.
Another issue I had was the design choice to make the player move at a snails pace on some levels. Your movement is always being toyed with, and while it works in some cases (like making it feel like you’re on a skateboarding the skate park level), it’s just not fun to move super slow. It makes it a pain to explore some stages and you’ll only experience some of the funny visual gags (and achievement points) by suffering through it.
While the virtual soda drinking might be the main selling point here, there’s a more fully fledged game hidden within the package (if you’re having trouble finding it just explore the second level thoroughly). Called Vivian Clark, this is a highly experimental title that plays with perspective. Players start off controlling a raindrop that is falling from the sky before they eventually hit another object (like a bird or a hot air balloon) and then take its place.
Each playable object basically has its own mini-game to try to complete. Sometimes its a Flappy Bird style game where you’re trying to avoid obstacles in order to reach a goal. Other times you’ll be shooting love at an enemy to become their friends. It’s as fast-paced as WarioWare, and you’re constantly trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing.
The key difference is that while all of WarioWare‘s crazy micro-games played well, Vivian Clark largely feels like a mess. You’ll probably fall off a stage and into the abyss on any platforming level since the controls feel slippery. It basically presents you with dozens of gameplay ideas but none of them are actually fun. It’s pretty disappointing too, as the premise of changing perspective constantly is a great one.
Soda Drinker Pro is an excellent joke, but it’s just not a very good game. There’s an interesting experience to be had going through the 100+ levels, but even that falls flat due to poor movement and lack of audio options. I wanted to love Soda Drinker Pro like the protagonist loves soda, but that just wasn’t the case. Ultimately, I was just left unfulfilled – even after drinking 102 sodas.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which we were provided with.