'Soda Drinker Pro' may pop your emotional bubble
"Soda Drinker Pro" is a strange game.
At its core, this first-person soda simulation is quite simple: Hold one button to raise a soda to your mouth, press and hold another to sip that soda down.
What makes the game truly curious is … just about everything else.
Players will find themselves guzzling soda in the "creepy" woods at night, in a mouth, on a giant carrot, in a castle — in space, even.
It's goofy, but builds up jolly anticipation for what's next. It's difficult to guess what the next level will look like, but also what it will sound like.
The soundtrack to the game is straight out of a fever dream suffered after crashing from a sugar high, with developer Will Brierly's voice echoing throughout each stage.
What he says is specific to each level, adding a lot of laughs and will have players asking, "What the heck?"
In a hospital room, the developer may urge a doctor to prescribe more soda. In a hot tub, Brierly's sensual, godlike whisper calls for the consumption of warm soda. It's bizarre, sometimes unsettling, but a strong incentive to push through the umpteenth fizzy pop.
Aside from quaffing soda, players can explore each level for Bonus Sodas (accompanied by a loud, booming "Bonus Soda" proclamation reminiscent of an overly amped arcade cabinet).
An extra ounce
But that's not all. Well, that's really it for "Soda Drinker Pro."
Another part of the game, however, is the semi-secret "Vivian Clark."
A totally separate game, abstract and surreal (and really, all-out bonkers), "Vivian Clark" details the adventure of a raindrop. Players become the next item or creature or star-man it touches. Its story links back to "Soda Drinker Pro" in an interconnected-universe kind of way.
The fact that both would link up makes sense when you look to the developer's inspiration.
"Vivian Clark" was inspired by two sources. One is movie "The Point," specifically a part where Harry Nilsson's "Think About Your Troubles" plays over a scene in which two tears move from one host to another. TV show "Mr. Show" also influenced it heavily by way of connected sketches that form one large joke. "Soda Drinker Pro" and "Vivian Clark" strive to form such layers.
For the most part, it succeeds — but only if you're willing to give the game a deeper look below its goofy surface. Brierly hopes an emotional stirring is felt by those who do venture forth through both game worlds.
"The first time I beat the game and showed the ending to a couple people, they actually cried," Brierly said. "When you beat 'Vivian Clark' it ties together the two worlds, and makes it all make sense, and (it's) totally not what anyone expects. But it was exactly what I was going for, and I hope other people cry. It's not a sad ending, but it will hopefully get you."
That's setting his sights high, but Brierly and his brother have worked on a soda-drinking simulator for six years, with three years of "nonstop iteration."
Luckily the soda simulation journey has been a happy whirlwind for Brierly.
"The whole thing's been cool. People are willing to try this thing. I was just looking at an article a couple minutes ago where it's us and 'Dark Souls 3' in the same headline … that's crazy," he laughed.
"In the end I'm making a game that I want to play," he said. "I like so many games. But with 'Soda Drinker' and 'Vivian Clark,' it's kind of like these are the ways that I want to have fun, and I didn't find a game that was like that. So I was like, 'I'll just make it.'"
Don't fear the goofball premise of "Soda Drinker Pro;" its zaniness is carbonated to just the right level, and will leave those who give it a sip happily fulfilled.
4 stars out of 4.
Post-Bulletin: Why does the world need a soda game? Why now?
Will Brierly: What I’ve seen statistically is that soda drinking across the country, and maybe worldwide, has been going down. Less people are drinking soda. That’s OK. but I feel that people still love it, but don’t want to drink constantly. With "Soda Drinker" you can totally do that, and there’s no guilt whatsoever. And not everyone, including myself, has access to drink a soda in a meat locker, or in a sewer, or inside a stomach. I just wouldn’t fit inside a stomach. Maybe a whale stomach, but I don’t have a whale.
How do you think the release of "Soda Drinker Pro" will disrupt the gaming landscape?
Hopefully… maybe there’s more soda in the gaming world, potentially. I guess we’ll have to see.
Best place to drink a soda?
In a canoe on a quiet pond. It would be nice maybe with a turtle looking at you while you’re drinking it. That’s a nice way to drink a soda. Or maybe in a machine shop while you’re working on some sort of thing that you’re building. Neither of those are in the game but they might be in sequels.
Where does gaming technology need to go in order to help you provide the best soda-drinking simulation?
I think it’s headed in the right direction. The fact that Microsoft picked up the game shows that they’re moving in the right direction for the soda simulation community. And same with Steam. With all the new VR tech coming out — Oculus, (HTC) Vive, PlayStation VR, and (Microsoft) HoloLens — the simulations are only going to get more realistic and intense.
What’s the meaning behind this piece of art that you’ve crafted?
Feeling good. I hope it makes people open to the opportunity of seeing things in a different way and seeing that there might be more than what’s on the surface. There’s so many ways that we can have fun. I just hope people have fun.
'Soda Drinker Pro'
Platform: PC, Xbox One