Oh boy, this one really does take me back.
When I talk about moments that really got me into cereal—not just cereal as a food, but cereal as a culture, hobby, and lifestyle—my discovery of Chex Quest is always one of them.
It was one of those summer days when it’s hot enough to make the sky warble and the hot dogs melt right into their buns. I had sought refuge in my cool basement and was digging through a drawer of old CD-ROMs and floppy disks. I happened upon this disk:
Since most of the other CD-ROMs contained word processing software and Encarta encyclopedias, the technicolor cartoon art on Chex Quest magnetically held my eyes and imagination alike. I couldn’t wait to boot it up, and as soon as I did, I happily lost myself in a world of pixelated breakfast heroism.
Before we dive into the game itself, a brief history lesson is warranted. Back in 1996, Ralston wanted to boost sales of Chex cereal, so they hired a small team of game developers to create a game that could be packaged as a prize within 5.7 million boxes of Chex.
On a $500,00 budget, the team (Digital Café) created Chex Quest: a complete conversion of an already popular and far more violent computer game called Doom. Every giant gun, blood-covered wall, and grotesque demon texture was replaced with something kid-friendly (more on those later).
The game debuted inside Rice, Wheat, and Corn Chex varieties specifically, meaning ’90s party planners could theoretically have invited 2 friends over to play the game while eating Chex Mix.
And that would have been the party of the decade. The shocking amount of work that went into this free cereal box premium game is apparent from the opening cutscene, which gives an overview of the game’s story. Since it was the ’90s, everything looks like it’s made from bootleg LEGO bricks.
In short, there is a far-away planet called Bazoik, where a mining operation gone wrong has unearthed the hideous Flemoids: snot green monsters from another dimension. To save the day, the Intergalactic Federation of Cereals brings in Fred Chexter (originally known only as the Chex Warrior) to stop the Flemoids with a special weapon called a Zorcher.
Since this is a game for 8-year olds to waste Saturday afternoons on while eating wholesome cereal, Zorchers wholesomely send the Flemoids back to their dimension, instead of killing them.
Once you start the game, your first Mini Zorcher looks a lot like a Power Ranger taser. You also have a literal spoon you can dig into Flemoids with, but it’s about as effective as using milk to stop Cap’n Crunch from cutting your mouth.
Early on, blasting away at the Squidward-esque Flemoids is easy, but before long, a terrifying Flemoidus Cycloptis (yep, that’s its real name) appears to destroy everything you love.
Smart gamers will have picked up the upgraded Rapid Zorcher by this point to blow away the flying green egg with a rata-tat-tat, but my younger self was not so bright. Many “game overs” and slimy cyclops-filled nightmares were had.
Even though it only had 5 levels, Chex Quest had a ton of content. You could pick up a rocket launcher Propulsor Zorcher to wipe out SWAT team armor-wearing Flemoids. You could pick up bowls of fruit and “Complete Breakfasts” to refill health. You could upgrade your cruddy spoon to an electric, rotating spork to defend yourself while dodging hidden Flemoids in a dizzying arboretum labyrinth.
Heck, you could even find the super secret, room-clearing Large Area Zorching Device, which is hidden behind a vent in a room featuring granulated pictures of the developers themselves.
It all ends with a climactic battle against the Flembrane: an unholy wall of pure goo that has trapped cereal citizens within its Nickelodeon slime bowels. Successfully freeing them rewards players with another awesome cinematic.
You can imagine how mind-blowing this game was. Youthful cereal eaters were only expecting a bowl of crunchy, cross-hatched squares in the morning—not a full-blown interdimensional space opera.
Even better was the news that we could go online (with parental supervision, of course) to download Chex Quest 2, an entirely new adventure that follows Fred Dexter as he defends Chex City from more villainous Flemoid invaders, complete with a show-stopping sewer shootout that made me more distressed than a kid without responsibilities had any right to be.
Chex Quest developed such a cult following that in 2008, a member of the original development team named Charles Jacobi (pictured above in-game) released Chex Quest 3 for fans. 12 years later, all of us Chexheads got yet another thrilling adventure, complete with one of the best final bosses in video game history: Lord Snotfolus, a beast I’d love to have as an action figure, blacklight poster, or body pillow.
Bless you, Chuck Jacobi.
Today, the original game is still possible to find on eBay for a reasonable $10-$20, but since you’d probably need to steal one of those gray IBM bricks from your elementary school basement to run the game, you’re much better off just downloading Chex Quest 3 from Chuck’s website, as it contains a copy of the first two games, too.
Thanks for reading nearly 1,000 words about an old CD-ROM. For those of us exposed to Chex Quest during its prime, the game was more than just breakfast bric-a-brac. Besides being genuinely fun to play, it was a major milestone in cereal history.