Soda Drinker Pro Review

By Mark Delaney, 8 months ago
Where do I begin?

This, my 20th for TrueAchievements, is the hardest review that I've ever had to write. Soda Drinker Pro is an examination. It's a game by which its title informs you that it isn't meant to be taken seriously. It's also as much a peering behind the curtain and a reveal of its wizard of weird, Will Brierly. You can't really look at SDP without learning more about the game's creator who, according to legend, made SDP in a single day back in 2008 when he simply "really wanted a soda", but didn't have any. During my playtime with the tongue-in-cheek "First-Person Soda" title, I didn't have to remind myself that the game is meant to be taken lightly. There are constant reminders of that fact. That intent, however, doesn't save Soda Drinker Pro from simply being several fluid ounces short of satisfying.

In SDP, you drink soda. Sometimes you drink it on a beach. Sometimes you drink it on the moon. Sometimes you drink it on a "human butt". Over the course of 100+ levels, you'll drink a lot of soda in a lot of places. The game's music and art design make many of these locales feel surreal, and the repeated one liners - each level has their own - echo out like the mutterings of someone whose anesthesia is wearing off. You can drink it quickly, drink it slowly, collect bonus sodas, or just look around at the crudely drawn environments that resemble a child's first six months with Microsoft Paint. Some levels have secrets to find, although it seemed that most did not. When you're done with your sodas on the game's 102 levels plus bonus levels, that's it. You've "won".

Are you someone with a lot of free time and an affinity for terrible things? Yeah? Well, I have just the game for you.Are you someone with a lot of free time and an affinity for terrible things? Yeah? Well, I have just the game for you.

Unless you find the most important secret of all. Vivian Clark is the game within the game, which itself is actually a series of mini-games. They are, again, crudely drawn, lack almost any audio design, and don't wait for you to figure out how they work. In the absence of any sort of direction or explanation, you'll probably fail many of them very quickly, but they can always be revisited later. Remember Warioware? Vivian Clark is like that game crossed with the desert hallucination in Beavis and Butthead Do America. You have some choice in which mini-game you end up playing, and after you've played one of the dozens that are available in the game, no matter how great or poorly you do, it's added to your collection. One game is a bit like Flappy Bird but much less difficult. Another has you strafing a blue creature along a curvy balance beam. Most of them are built around some sort of platforming mechanics like these, just don't expect any sort of tutorial.

Across all of these games is a common collectible item, never explained and somewhat resembling an ice cube. The game keeps a tally of how many of these you've collected. For what purpose? Seemingly none, which is par for the course in SDP. Both the main game and this hidden bonus game exist as jokes, or at least I think they do. They're dreamlike, both of them moving in and out of environments every few seconds (unless you really nurse your soda), with no thread tying any two sequences together.

Much of my time spent with the game left me wondering if it was all a brilliant metacommentary. The countless mini-games, each with their own objectives and control schemes, collectively formed a mirror into which gamers would have no choice but to stare. "Look at you, with all of your games, wasting all of this time." Maybe that's what it was saying. Then I thought of the game's sarcastic title, and how its premise was a hit on Steam Greenlight a few years ago, and that too seemed to point to the game being a satire of the indie influx, something to which Xbox's digital store has also fallen prey with its doors-wide-open policy. "Terrible games are coming. And you can't stop them." Wow, I thought, this game is really kind of smart when I look at it that way. Pointless collectibles, programming bugs galore, level after formulaic level to pad completion time. Soda Drinker Pro must be ingeniously poking fun at the modern gaming landscape.

<i>Vivian Clark</i> is a whole second game in itself, but it shares one major trait with <i>Soda Drinker Pro</i>: they're both very bad.Vivian Clark is a whole second game in itself, but it shares one major trait with Soda Drinker Pro: they're both very bad.

But no. That's doubtful. The game, as I said, was originally created back in 2008. It has only grown to its current level of popularity because it was ported to Unity, the indie scene's popular game engine, and was re-released via all of the new indie-friendly channels. Was Brierly clairvoyant? Did he foresee this parade of titles without curators or regulation and wish to satirize it before it even existed? No. More likely, the game's sole developer is just a weird guy, and that's totally fine, but the game itself is far from fine. It mistakes non-linearity and purposelessness for being experimental. It confuses colorful, labyrinthine, broken polygons with psychedelia.

My defining experience with the game came during my early play time. When I first began, the visuals were nauseating, the controls were painfully slow, and the geometry was broken. but I expected that. All of the absurdities that I anticipated, I found them and hated them. It felt like a tremendous waste of time. Later, my brother entered the room and asked about the game. We shared a few laughs and, as levels went on, laughed harder for a short while. Eventually he left and I kept playing. When he returned a bit later, he went about his way while no longer interested in watching or laughing. I felt the same. The game's laughs come early when the surreal nature of it all is fresh, but they fizzle out in a hurry as you grow weary of the awful design and lack of a point.

The achievements might provide the only sense of direction in the otherwise directionless game. With a list that was partially curated by fans, it promotes exploration of various levels, at least as much as one can explore in a game that moves so slowly, has so little to see, and grows stale after ten minutes. Several achievements will require you to perform tasks in specific levels, like finding the spider under the bed in the level titled "Drinking a soda on a bed", of course. Another tasks you with finding a sewer pizza in the level "sewer". There are many like this. There are several more that will come with natural progression through the... story mode? Campaign? Monotonous sequence of formulaic levels. It will be a very easy completion for anyone with the patience to sit through all of the requirements. I blindly unlocked twelve before the list was made public, at which point I went back for three more. Even while still staring at several other very simple ones, I've decided I can't waste any more of my life playing Soda Drinker Pro.

Summary

Games like Soda Drinker Pro often seem to stand behind their own supposed shields of self-awareness. "Look how bad our game is," creators of such games might say. "It's so bad it's good, right?" But does a bad game that knows it's bad make it a good game? No. It just makes it a bad game that knowingly wastes everyone's time. Soda Drinker Pro, gaming's equivalent to carbonated sugar water, might be enjoyable in very strict moderation, but it's hard to forget that one would be better off to consume nearly anything else.
1.5 / 5
Positives
  • Extensive soundtrack of original music
Negatives
  • Slow, unreliable controls
  • Formulaic, boring levels mixed with boring mini-games
  • Hideous visuals
  • Loses all so-bad-it's-good appeal in a hurry
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent five hours with the game, drinking dozens of sodas and playing dozens of mini-games, collecting 15 of 34 achievements for 295 gamerscore. A copy was provided by the developer for this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a lifelong gamer and current Assistant (to the) News Manager on TA. When not playing games, he can be found cheering for a bad football team, playing Batman action figures with his son, or going to concerts with his lover. Days where he does all of those things are his favorite.