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The California Raisins: Grape Escape!
by: Dr. Boogie

Some of our readership here at I-Mockery is actually quite young. With that in mind, older folks, please bear with me as I pose this question: remember the California Raisins?

Sure you do! Still, let me just give a little backstory, just in case you aren't already waxing nostalgic as you gaze at your Raisins lunchbox: back in the late 80s, raisins weren't selling so well in California. The solution was as clear as the sweat upon the brow of the average raisin farmer: a cover band made up of anthropomorphic raisins. The idea was a huge hit for some reason, and the California Raisins became hugely popular, moreso than the raisins they were supposed to be promoting. There were toys, music compilations, TV shows, and unbeknownst to the general public, a video game.

Heck, why not make a video game based off their adventures? It worked for the Noid. Incidentally, the Noid's game was developed by Capcom, the same company that published the California Raisins game, or rather, the company that was going to publish the California Raisins game. You see, the game was actually canceled very near its completion for unknown reasons, possibly because the Raisins were starting to dry out. Whatever the reason, the game, even in its incomplete state, is still quite playable, and so here's your chance to get a rare glimpse at an unreleased game that was actually canceled after the point of no return.

The head raisins from the California Raisin Advisory Board (CALRAB) inform you that the California Raisins are "rumored" to have been kidnapped by a rival anthropomorphic band, the Wild Bunch. What's more, the Wild Bunch may also have taken all of the Raisins' music, or all their covers if you want to get technical. To get them back, you must find four golden notes to unlock the gates of the Bunch's recording studio, Sky High Records, and confront their... manager, let's say. Keep in mind, though, that this is all just a rumor, and it could be that you're just assaulting a perfectly innocent record producer while the Raisins are being devoured by a hungry child on the other side of town.

Now, you would think from all this that all four of the Raisins have been kidnapped. Not so. You control the Raisin with the sunglasses. Was his name "Specs"? I feel like his name was "Specs". Anyway, Specs is going to have to sort through an army of bad guys, but with what? My money was on musical notes that would fly out of his mouth and slam into this enemies, but the developers had other ideas...

Either the graphic designer was a part time rom hacker, or Specs is shooting grape juice from a straw. Does either one make much sense? Assuming it's the latter, the grape juice is a surprisingly effective weapon, given that the opposition is mostly fruits and vegetables.

Occasionally, you'll have to deal with a stray bird or something like that, but for the most part, consumables will be your primary foe. Even so, the game was quite difficult because of them. The enemies would come at you and respawn moments after being juiced to death, and many of them were surprisingly hard to avoid, let alone hit.

Combine this with the fact that health bonuses (a little sun with sunglasses) were sparse, and you've got trouble. There was also an "I" that you could grab to become temporarily invulnerable, but let's say, theoretically, that you wanted to be invulnerable for longer than four seconds. You would be SOL, my friend.

Things didn't get any easier when the time came to fight a boss:

Each of the boss' attacks would cost you two life bars instead of one, and so you'd most likely be dead after only two hits. Worse yet, the boss would typically get a quick hit on you as soon as the battle began. That is why I must yet again sing the praises of the "save state" command.

When you sufficiently covered a boss with your grape juice, said boss would surrender a golden note:

And that meant it was time to celebrate:

Oh yeahhh. Three more and you'll earn a free ticket to that recording studio in the sky!

Now, just make your way through the cloudy waiting room, and you'll face off against no less than the manager of the Wild Bunch, Grapes of Wrath!!!

He wears a toga and throws grapes at you. It doesn't sound like much, but then again, you're attacking him with a juice gun, so who are you to judge? Despite being stuck on a vine, he's a very tricky foe... until you realize that he has a huge blind spot from which you can spray your juice with reckless abandon, thus saving the Raisins and bringing them back just in time to fade into obscurity.

Take a close look at those credits. This game was made by four people. That's less than 1/10th the number of people that work on modern games, and that's for marketing alone. Don't get me started about the motion capture team.

Anyway, as you can see, the game was nearly finished. It still needed some tweaking to even out difficulty and the graphics needed to be cleaned up a little, but other than that, you could slap a label on this baby and put it on market. It's weird to think that it was canceled so late in development. Apparently, Capcom felt they wouldn't even recoup the cost of manufacturing and shipping the game. I can only imagine how much that must have further shriveled the prunes at CALRAB.

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Dr. Boogie

*** You too can play The California Raisins: Grape Escape! ***


Note: to play this game you'll need a NES emulator.

Want to see some more video game related content?
Then check out Dr. Boogie's feature on:

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