Some clever clogs at Digital Cafe were contracted to create a video game to be packaged within boxes of Chex in 1996. Instead of making some generic, butt-ugly edutainment title, they decided to take the DOOM engine and repackage it into a kid-friendly first-person shooter. It was so popular (under 6 million CDs were put out!), it even got itself a sequel a year later. A fan-made third installation was created solely by Charles Jacobi – Art Director and Lead Artist of the former development team – and released in 2008. Flash forward to 2019, and it looks like all three games (or mods, to be exact) have now been officially released by cereal manufacturers General Mills, citing the third fan-made chapter as officially canon. What may surprise you is that it’s a cult-classic title with a dedicated fanbase, and with good reason, despite its shortcomings.
A race of snot-like aliens called the Flemoids are cropping up in all sorts of places, from the mines of planet Bazoik to Chex City, covering the areas in gooey slime. The Chex Warrior, a galactic trooper who wears a gigantic piece of cereal as armour because he’s a nutcase, sets off to save the day. Mercifully, the horrifying opening cutscene that was packaged onto the original CD is nowhere to be seen. That stuff is nightmare material.
Chex Quest 3 is a reskinned version of DOOM, albeit with new visuals, sounds and music. You won’t find a drop of blood or any scary-looking guns here, naturally. Instead, you need to use Zorch technology to teleport the bad dudes back to their home planet. Everything is very colourful and appealing to look at, especially the textures, though it’s a little difficult to distinguish certain enemies based on appearances alone. The music is nice, but the sound effects are a cacophony of irritating alien noises and stock sound effects. At least the whole thing has been ported to ZDOOM, an up-to-date source port that support modern PC’s and offers plenty of customization features.
While palsy in size – 5 levels across 3 chapters with no secret missions – what’s on offer is a leisurely and casual experience. Seasoned DOOM fans should crank it up to the highest difficulty as it’s not nearly as tough as the original games. The core gameplay is mostly the same, albeit with some minor tweaks. Collecting items, weapons and keys is still the bread and butter formula that we all know and love. Some of the enemies and weapons are a bit different than their original counterparts, like the numerous, melee-centric Flemoids. The rocket launcher (“Zorch Prepulsor”) dealing no blast damage to the player.
A kids’ game can’t have awkward level design, right? What’s on offer here will no doubt impress. These missions are quite detailed, with maps set in both urban and futuristic locations like a Chex Museum (why?) and a space station. Secret areas are plentiful, rooms are spacious, and there’s a nice sense of flow to them. There are a few niggly moments, like a mandatory hedge maze to wander around in order to reach the goal, not to mention a cramped and downright ugly mine level that rounds off the first episode. The third chapter have more detailed missions in comparison. Rest easy, as the majority of the maps on offer are not too difficult to navigate through.
Kids these days won’t bother giving Chex Quest a whirl. A shame, really, since it’s debatably be one of the greatest cereal pack-ins of all time. Not like there’s much competition, mind you. It’s got nice visuals, a decent soundtrack, and some solid level design, all the while being built upon the foundations of a classic first-person shooter. It’s nothing revolutionary in terms of gameplay, and isn’t that big or challenging to play, but it has charm. Since both the official games and the third, fan-made chapter have been slapped together in one updated game engine, this is easily the best way to play what is essentially a kid-friendly, cereal-centric first-person shooter that’s actually decent stuff.