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August 1, 2011 / jwaxo

Chex Quest (Familiarity)

Nothing cleans up green slime like crunchy rice cereal.

Several years back I went to college and was finally able to choose my own cereal. Not that my parents had any strict rules governing cereal choice, or at least not in the past few years. But when I was buying my own cereal I now could do it unselfconsciously. Proudly I drove to the local Winco, strode to the cereal aisle, not even looking at the Malt-O-Meal section, and purchased all of those more expensive but more name brand cereals. Cap’n Crunch, Honey Grahams, Lucky Charms: these filled my cart, along with the other usual purchases for college: soda, way too much cheese, ramen, cup noodles; you get the gist. I went home anxious to test this cereal out.

It wasn’t that I had never had name-brand cereal, we had just stopped getting it after some point in the early 90’s. Ever since we had the bagged, much cheaper cereal that graced the bottom rack.

And you know what I discovered when I bit into that first bowl of Lucky Charms? Marshmallow Mateys, the Malt-O-Meal alternative, was actually better. The marshmallows were thicker, the frosted bits not so hard and angering. This was confusing.

I finished off those boxes, sadly disappointed. Had I not told people for years that Cap’n Crunch, with those soft golden pillows of delight, was my favorite cereal? But now it was apparently Collossal Crunch.

The lesson learned was that, sometimes, the blatant ripoff is better than the original.

Cereal is serious business.

Chex Quest was announced to us across magazine ads, newspaper spots, and TV commercials. It was a game that wasn’t like any other video game; it came with your cereal, free of charge! All you had to do was find a participating box of Chex cereal and the disc for the game would be slipped inside, ready for installation and playing. And it looked like an epic game! Shooting these green slime guys, picking up more powerful weapons, navigating 3D mazes and finding secret areas and eating cereal to regain health. A full game! So awesome.

Like so many of my stories, one Wednesday night we were out grocery shopping and I managed to convince my mom to drive us to a few extra stores to look for a box of Chex that had the game with it. Chex was one of the few name-brand cereals that we ate: my mom is a Wheat Chex addict and eats it dry almost every morning. I try to use this fact to convince myself that I wasn’t buying into any marketing scheme, that the box of Chex would have been bought by us at some point, anyway. This does not convince me in the slightest.

With the game in-hand, we returned home. It was late by this point, so I had to wait for the next day to install and play the game. Not for the first time ever, I was super excited to wake up and eat cereal. And name brand cereal!

See how I tied those themes in together?

The game was awesome, just as I imagined. We had played only one first-person shooter before, the classic Wolfenstein 3D, and were amazed at the fun Chex Quest gave us. Finding new areas and more powerful weapons, doing it on harder difficulty levels for added fun, trying to get a higher score each time. The game lived proudly on our computer desk for years.

The imaginary Chex-based armor was uncomfortable.

Then, years later, I happened across Doom on a friend’s computer. And there were significant similarities. The layout and look of the levels, the perspective, the user interface… it was all extremely familiar. Then I realized it: Chex Quest had been a ripoff. Just like those Power Rangers games that I had so disliked, I had bought in to this sham that was Chex Quest!

This was not the first time. At another time I had come into yet another ownership of a disc of shareware games. Featuring over twenty games, each of them crippled in some way to convince you to buy more, it included classics like Jill of the Jungle and Jazz Jackrabbit. It also included two games under the Skunny name. One was a platformer where you guided a squirrel through a cartoony, almost-3D world, collecting various items, landing in barrels that shot you across the screen and riding in mine carts. There was also SkunnyKart, where you drove a car around a flat but 3D map, shooting items that you picked up at other drivers and avoiding the hazards that they left for you.

Wait a second… those sound like ripoffs of Donkey Kong Country and MarioKart, don’t they?

Yet all three of these games are held dearly in my heart. You can’t take them out. They were, dare I say it, good ripoffs. ChexQuest is still fun because it plays like a modded Doom (most likely because it is): there’s all of the things that made Doom good, with some pretty good, kid-friendly humor injected. The Skunny games were good because, well, they were on a computer, and not some console I didn’t own.

It’s really a question, most likely, of which came first. Which did I play hours and hours of before even knowing Doom existed? Which cereal did I eat for years and years before trying the cereal it was supposedly impersonating?

Wow, that’s almost like I’m saying something about the nature of nostalgia, isn’t it? I didn’t mean to at all. I just sometimes like ripoffs.

Chex Quest guy does not approve of Chex ripoffs, however.

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5 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. citizen / Aug 1 2011 6:44 PM

    chexquest was simply a doom .wad file

  2. bucino ulje / Aug 7 2011 12:09 PM

    Just want to say your article is as astonishing. The clearness in your post is simply nice and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.

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