Pepsiman: Tooth-rotting PlayStation Fun

Last Updated on June 10, 2023

Remember Pepsiman, the cola-based 3D videogame hero? Of course you don’t, as he never left Japan. Here’s what you missed…

Big corporations throwing their brands into the gaming space has happened for decades with varying degrees of success. McDonald’s did it with titles like Treasure Land Adventure on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, and Chupa Chups did it with Zool. More recently, KFC even made a dating sim.

Even if you’ve played a few of these games, one that likely escaped your grasp is Pepsiman. An obscure PlayStation title that was released exclusively in Japan. Curiously, everything in the game is in English, from the text to the cutscenes. It makes reviewing Pepsiman easier, but it begs why it never had an international release.

My superpower? Athleticism and limitless Pepsi!

Pepsiman is a 3D Autoscroller where you play as Pepsiman, the morph suit-wearing ‘hero,’ and navigate various locales while trying to avoid obstacles. You can’t stop, so hazards need to be avoided by jumping, sliding, or dodging to the sides.

In many ways, Pepsiman is like Temple Run before Temple Run existed. The big difference is you have complete freedom of movement left and right instead of being limited to lanes.

I started playing under the impression that Pepsiman would be a low-effort cash grab, but I was pleasantly surprised. For a PS1 game, the graphics are fine. Some obstacles are clearly just 2d models that turn when you get close, but that’s pretty common on the console. Pepsiman looks like a guy in a blue and silver morph suit with a smooth run animation, so they nailed the presentation.

The soundtrack is bizarre. The tunes are unremarkable, but each song has a voice chanting “Pepsiman!, Pepsiman!” through parts of it. It’s like a fever dream but feels oddly appropriate for the title.

Each of the four levels in Pepsiman is broken up into three smaller ‘Scenes.’ At the end of each level, you’re treated to some of the most bizarre cutscenes I’ve ever seen in a video game.

I love this guy! – Image by GamingRetro

I don’t know what to call them, they aren’t adverts, but this man is there to congratulate you after every level. In one cutscene, he just sits there laughing while huffing down crisps. In another, he eyes the camera and says, “Pepsi for pizza!” I’m at a loss for words, but throughout my playthrough, I always looked forward to seeing this guy after a job well done.

Vandalism for a good cause

The intro scene does a great job of introducing the mechanics. Pepsiman‘s controls feel responsive, and it doesn’t take long before I’m gallivanting through people’s houses on my quest to refill the vending machine up the road. I’m quickly forced to slide under trucks and jump over holes in the street. With all the carnage Pepsiman leaves in his wake, I could make a strong argument for him being the villain, not the hero.

Image by GamingRetro

The 2nd scene has a skateboard section, and I appreciate the attempt to mix up the gameplay where there’s little room to do so. I had my first death here as I mistook this wall (pictured) for a ramp. Many of Pepsiman’s problems could easily be avoided if he stuck to the sidewalk, but it’s more fun this way.

Scene 3 has Pepsiman running toward the screen to escape a giant Pepsi can rolling down the road. With the camera flipped like this, the game is much more challenging as you only have a split second to react to obstacles. I died a few times here, but it was fine once I’d memorized a few of the hazards. Perhaps I should blame my reflexes, but the margin for error was pretty unforgiving. This formula of 2 auto-scrolling scenes followed by one in reverse is present in every level in the game.

Stumbling before the finish line

For Level 2, the first scene mostly takes place on a construction site, and it’s here that I ran into my first real issue. If I hit certain obstacles, it would make others unavoidable later on, as if there was a global timer. It wasn’t a massive issue, as checkpoints are (mercifully) very frequent, but it was a little frustrating.

Besides a few unfortunate deaths, everything was going smoothly. That all came to an abrupt halt when I reached the 2nd scene in a subway. One of the obstacles in this stage is an oncoming train; try as I may, I couldn’t outrun it. I was convinced there was a button I missed, so I went to the options menu, and nope, there were only two buttons; Slide and Jump. I retried the stage and got stuck in exactly the same place, and in my frustration, I started mashing buttons. Out of nowhere, Pepsiman started to sprint.

This train became the bane of my existence – Image by GamingRetro

Pressing Up and Sliding together makes Pepsiman perform a short dash. It’s essential to beat the stage, and it’s not mentioned in-game anywhere. After the Train sequence, several rooftop jumps also required this move. If I didn’t learn how to dash, this is where my playthrough would have ended. Arguably, it’s a sign of the times, as on the original PlayStation, I would have had a manual to read. Still, I would have appreciated this information as a prompt on the options screen.

With that out of the way, Pepsiman plays much the same for the remaining levels. Dashing when it’s not intended seems to throw the timing of obstacles off, so after a few unavoidable deaths, I stopped running altogether. As I mentioned earlier, it feels like there’s a global timer, and if it goes out of sync, you’re not beating the stage.

A short and sweet autoscrolling adventure

There are only four stages, but this is not a bad thing. When I reached the final level, it felt like Pepsiman had shown me everything it could do with autoscrolling mechanics. The difficulty had steadily been ramping up until this point, and it prepared me for the unforgiving gauntlet before the finish line.

Image by GamingRetro

The final locale is a City made of Pepsi. It’s like running through a terrifying dystopian future, but with so many obstacles you don’t have time to think about it. After a brutal last scene where my reflexes felt like they had been stretched to breaking point, I was treated to one last visit with my friend, and the credits rolled.


Pepsiman is a difficult title to review. It’s not a terrible game, but it has significant flaws, and dodgy timing issues combined with frustrating design choices make it hard to recommend. On a positive note, Pepsiman is ridiculous enough that it’s entertaining from start to finish.

I always wanted to see the next legendary cutscene, and they were like rewards for slogging through each level. These were enough for me to happily play through to the end, and I’ll absolutely be cracking open a fresh can and going for seconds in the future.

Weekly newsletterGet the latest retro gaming news in your inbox

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply