Once upon a time, though you may not believe it, sugary, marshmallow-filled breakfast cereals used to come with a toy hidden inside them. So did Cracker Jacks, before they replaced it with a crumby sticker. In those way back times, you could get all sorts of treasures simply by consuming your weight in teeth rotting goodies.
The truly vigilant consumer could receive all kinds of wonders. For instance, drink enough Kool-Aid back in 1983 and you could earn a video game. All you had to do was keep your proofs of purchase and mail them in and a short time later the video game would be delivered to your eager little hands. Naturally enough the game centered around Kool-Aid, a not-so-subtle way to get you to keep drinking it (as though you needed persuasion).
The game, released for the Atari 2600, was titled “Kool-Aid Man” and featured you as the jolly red pitcher of drinkable crack. Your enemies were little characters called the “Thirsties” who were attempting to drink up all the water in your swimming pool. To keep them from succeeding you had to quench their thirst with something else…and that something else was you. That’s right, you quenched their thirst by pouring out your own sugary liquid essence into them.
You couldn’t just run up and start pouring though. If you touched a Thirsty before he started drinking out of your pool, it would bounce you around the screen making you lose precious time. You had to wait until they dipped their straw into the water and started drinking.
There were power-ups in the game. They came in the form of the letters K, S, and W. Those stood for Kool-Aid powder, sugar, and water, the ingredients required to make a batch of Kool-Aid. Grab one of the ingredients and you’d temporarily become invincible and a little water would be added back to your pool.
The game was simple and addictive, like the beverage that spawned it. Looking back now, it’s hard not to view it as a simpler happy time. A time when drinking a bathtub’s worth of Kool-Aid earned you a reward, not just a lecture from your dentist and a future date with type-2 diabetes. Oh, the way things were…