Pixel Memory is a semi-regular feature where we will talk about an old game that we think deserves a little more coverage.
Planet earth is fucked and only Ronald McDonald and two kids he’s seemingly abducted without parental consent can save it. Or so Virgin Games’ Global Gladiators would have you believe. And so, armed with a gun that looks like it’s squirting Big Mac sauce, you’re off to save the environment. It’s your classic videogames premise, right?
Originally developed by David Perry and released on Sega’s 90’s console triptych (though only the Mega Drive version didn’t look like utter shit), Global Gladiators paints a grim picture of the future. It isn’t disclosed just how long after the apocalypse that these events take place, but from the opening cutscene we can assume the following:
– Ronald McDonald had been tipped off by his political contacts that pollution and poor recycling habits were about to cause an extinction level event
– in preparation he began leaving propaganda lying around in his restaurants, with the aim of attracting two young boys whom he could mould in his image as Eco warriors
–Ronald propositions the boys mid-Happy Meal, places them under the power of strong psychotropic drugs and whisks them away to a top secret bunker to begin their
grooming training. They are taught to care not for the lives they have left behind, for within days everyone will be dead.
– with humanity wiped out and newly populated by blobs of slime with eyes, genetically mutated squirrels wearing hard hats, anthropomorphic dustbins and, of course, ice bats, you set out to kill it all, rid the planet of toxic waste and reclaim the world so McDonalds can rebuild civilization.
Global Gladiators, despite being one of the most heavy handed and gaudy corporate tie-ins ever to grace consoles, is a surprisingly competent platformer. Even now, 22 years after it’s release, what you’d expect to be a poorly designed, badly executed money-grab is actually a reasonably solid and enjoyable experience. David Perry knew his way around an early 90’s platformer, and this title is no exception; levels are sprawling and reasonably interesting (overlooking the abundance of leap-of-faith jumps) and the deeply cynical objective of collecting enough McDonald’s logo’s to be able to complete the level is at least well supported by the game remembering your progress within the level if you die. And you will die. A lot. There’s only one boss in the whole game, right at the end, and he (because reasons) takes the form of a giant wall of ice with a face. So there’s that.
But, the biggest storyline hammer-blow is yet to come.
The boys awake. Back in the restaurant where it all began. Humanity is seemingly restored. Everything seems normal. “Was that for real?” one of the boys asks, tears forming in his eyes, years of struggle against horrific foes hanging in the balance. Ronald grins, shrugs his shoulders. “Maybe!!” he yells. He doesn’t give a shit.
What happened in that bunker? We will never know.