Genre: Platform Developer: Kaneko Publisher: Kaneko Players: 1 Released: n/a
One of the nice things about 16-bit gaming today as opposed to back in the ’90s is the influence of the internet. The presence of game hackers and people who dump unreleased roms makes retro gaming especially interesting twenty plus years after its time. Rom hacks, bizarre unlicensed and pirated games, innovative homebrew, and unreleased titles make the internet feel like a retro gaming treasure hunt. There’s just something exciting about discovering a game that for all intents and purposes did not exist during the heat of the 16-bit wars. It’s like finding some lost alien technology, or stumbling upon a live dinosaur in your local park. Creative ROM hacks and obscure Chinese pirate games bring a whole new dimension to what the Genesis can offer. However, the holy grail of all unlicensed 16-bit games is finding the titles that were completed by “official” developers but for reasons unknown and no doubt sinister were dropped last minute, never to be enjoyed by the eager minds of gamers… until now that is.
Such is the case with Fido Dido. Created by Kaneko, it was slated for release in 1993, but despite its completion was never published. The game features the cult cartoon character/less popular 7-up mascot Fido Dido. Never heard of him? Don’t feel too bad, his status as Pepsi Co.’s 7-up poster-boy was usurped by the apparently “cooler” Cool Spot for most of the ’90s. That sure didn’t stop Kaneko from fully developing a game for him (and subsequently not releasing it, for unknown, possibly financial reasons). Kaneko wasn’t a big company and only released a small number of games for the Genesis; DJ Boy and the two Chester Cheetah titles come to mind, so it is rather peculiar that Fido Dido got canned last minute, especially since this game is much better than both DJ Boy and the Chester Cheetah monstrosities (I love that cheetah too, but those games just aren’t right). So just how good is Fido Dido? Read on to find out!
The back story is simple and appropriate. Fido Dido’s artist has fallen asleep at her desk and poor Fido is stuck in an incomplete picture. So what does he do? He jumps out of it of course and takes a stroll around the artist’s studio, jumping into the various objects on her desk. This game automatically scores cool points for the big and obvious model 1 Genesis that the artist apparently keeps in her work area. (That Genesis is actually level three in the game, possibly the most difficult). At the start of each level you are treated to a little cut scene of Fido making his way into some object on the artist’s desk. This is followed by a bit of text explaining the back story and the objective you are to complete. Short and sweet with just enough info to answer the major questions and give you an idea of what you are supposed to do. The levels themselves look pretty good: quirky graphics and decent layout make them fun to navigate.
The gameplay is a mix of action side-scrolling and puzzle solving, similar to the Beavis & Butthead game or some Psygnosis titles. Each level offers side-scroller staples like platforming, slides, water, and hard to reach hidden areas, all the good stuff. The puzzles involve anything form finding a hidden object, activating a series of events, hitting hidden switches and playing various mini-games. Everything relies heavily on environment interaction. None of the puzzles are too mind boggling, but they are creative and full of personality. Fido’s thought bubbles will sometimes give you hints as to how what should be done.
This game is definitely challenging. The puzzle solving mechanic is interesting and clever, and it is made more challenging by the fact that you can’t kill most of enemies. Fortunately, the controls are tight and the enemies can be avoided fairly easily. Plus, some of them play into the puzzle solving dynamic, which is pretty cool and rare for a game of this era. Adding to the challenge of this game is the fact that you’re constantly on a timer. Solving puzzles and exploring huge levels is all well and good, but the ticking clock really makes things frantic sometimes. This is especially evident in the Genesis level where you have to fix a number short circuits, and finding some of them can be tricky (I guess Fido isn’t a hardware guy). You also have to be careful about timing out in this level since after you restart from a time-out death, the game only gives you two minutes to complete the level, instead of the regular six or eight. This can become a serious problem inside the Genesis level, where if you don’t complete your objectives and time-out before reaching a checkpoint, you literally will not have enough time to reach the rest of the level before your two minutes are up. Normally, this would be a deal breaker for me, but since this game uses a nifty password save system you can just restart the level. Also, extra points for the passwords being actual words which are memorable and not just twenty character strings of random letters or even worse shapes (James Pond, I’m looking at you).
After fixing the Genesis, Fido’s quest becomes a little easier and ends off on a high note with a really pretty beach level. I always dig a good beach level, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Cool Spot isn’t the only 7-up mascot that gets to have fun in the sun.
I guess by now you’re wondering whether Fido Dido is worthy of real hardware, or is it just good for a quick romp in the emulator. I’d say it’s certainly worthy of some console love. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea because of the puzzle aspect and difficulty, but if you enjoy games like Beavis and Butthead or the other unreleased gem ResQ then you will definitely feel at home with Fido Dido. The game has a great ’90s cartoon charm to it, and the fact that it is entirely complete means you won’t be wasting your time on something that will fatally glitch halfway through the game.
And just in case you’re wondering, here are the passwords, just because other online sources have them spelled wrong.
Level 2: ALLISFAIR
Level 3: SOFTWAREWOLF
Level 4: BONETOPICK
Level 5: FEAROFFLYING
Level 6: SINCORSWIM
SCORE: 8 out of 10