If you’re a regular reader—or if you’ve ever just encountered me at a party after one too many Yoo-hoos or Crystal Pepsis—you know I love Chex Quest. I’ve written a tribute to it before, an original CD copy is among my prized possessions, and I’ve often half-jokingly considered getting Lord Snotfolus tattooed across my shoulder blades.
And now the game is being given new life with Chex Quest HD—an Unreal Engine 4 remake currently in development—and I’m giddier than an 8-year old with 50 free hours of America Online and a whole Saturday afternoon to spend them on. Pour yourself a bowl of Chex (or just some Muddy Buddies and milk: we won’t tell) and check out the world premiere of the game in motion above.
Wait, What the Heck Quest?
For those who have been living under a rock, boulder, or Fruity Pebble for the past twenty-some years, here’s a quick overview of the game’s relevance: back in 1996, Ralston (who owned Chex, Cookie Crisp, and other cereal brands before selling them to General Mills and becoming, of all things, a pet food producer) wanted to boost sales of their cross-hatched squares, so they enlisted the help of game developers Digital Café to make a completely breakfast-themed and kid-friendly conversion of the bloody sirst person shooter Doom.
The resulting Doom WAD—which featured the heroic Fred Chexter using non-violent Zorcher weapons to send the invasive nauseatingly green Flemoids back to their home dimension—was released as a free CD packaged inside Chex boxes, and it became such an instant success that Digital Café released a downloadable sequel the next year.
With a cult following of modders and nostalgia-holics (myself included), Chex Quest even got a three-quel in 2008. Chex Quest 3 was a veritable labor of love by original Chex Quest art director Charles “Chuck” “Chukker” Jacobi, and it was a testament to the staying power of perhaps the only gaming franchise to ever get its start in grocery store aisles. To this day, you can download all three games for free on Jacobi’s site.
Now in honor of Chex Quest’s recent 20th anniversary, Jacobi is at it again, with a full high definition remaster of the first game. The second I heard about the project, I reached out to Chuck for an interview, and he was kind enough to oblige. he even provided Cerealously with this exclusive first look at the game’s teaser trailer. In addition to giving me more goosebumps than a middle school book fair, this teaser was bittersweet for me. As this site wouldn’t exist without Chex Quest’s nostalgic spark, it really feels like I’ve come full circle as a weirdly niche blogger.
See Mom: those long weekends on the family’s basement computer are finally paying off.
Chattin’ About Chex with Charles Jacobi
Dan G., Cerealously: I want to start not with a question, but just a word of thanks. Without Chex Quest’s oddball concept and lighthearted take on the FPS genre, I probably wouldn’t be running this blog. The happy cereal nostalgia that fuels Cerealously was inspired in part by many happy Saturdays spent Zorching Flemoids!
Charles Jacobi: Thanks! I greatly appreciate that and am glad you have had as much playing these games as I had making them.
DG: What has made you stand by Chex Quest for so long, out of the whole Digital Café team? Have any of the other original developers expressed interest in working with the game again?
CJ: I know the other original developers are proud of what we created as well, even if they are not as interested in revisting it years later. Two other original developers did help out when I created Chex Quest 3 in 2008. Andrew Benson contributed some new music and Scott Holman provided technical assistance. Andrew is also returning to help out with the remake.
DG: Chex Quest’s fandom has been called “unusually devoted,” and I love that descriptor. How do you interpret or view the game’s continued significance to an extremely niche few? Do you think the game has staying relevance in today’s shifting video game and cereal climate?
CJ: Frequently when I talk to fans of the series, their interest is largely due to the fact that Chex Quest was their first person shooter video game experience of any kind. Doom being notoriously violent and filled with demonic themes kept a number of parents from allowing 6-10 year-olds from playing it. So they played Chex Quest instead, which also had the perk of being a free game. The ability to mod the game (using Doom’s tools) to create new missions and features like multiplayer helped keep the Chex Quest fan community active when the ad campaign became a distant memory. As far being relevant, I’d like to think at least a little…but ultimately the gaming community will let us know if we wasted our time or not.
DG: What’s the most outlandish (good or bad) Chex Quest fan tribute you’ve ever encountered?
CJ: Somebody forwarded to me the image of the guy doing Chex Warrior cosplay. It has to be that.
DG: You mentioned in a previous interview that Fred Chexter’s design was inspired by Buzz Lightyear. Did you intentionally include other homages in the later games?
CJ: In CQ2, the cinema and museum levels are full of nods to famous real world art pieces. There are also a number of images, names and contextual nods to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, which is where Digital Cafe was located.
DG: Are there any little known facts or development memories about the original Chex Quest trilogy you’d like to share? If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good trivia nugget.
CJ: When I was outlining the progression of the five levels of Chex Quest 3, I knew the beginning and end right from the start. However I was stumped on how to get the Chex Warrior from the space station to the meteor spaceship. I didn’t want to re-tread location ideas from Chex Quest 2, which was also a cereal world invasion of sorts. I eventually took inspiration from recent events in my own life. A few years before I was engaged to my wife during our trip to Italy. Villa Chex is filled with winks and nods toward our time there, including the architecture, vineyard and our Chex-ed up engagement photo.
Provincial Park then was my take on Yosemite and Evergreen Lodge, a place we love and where we were married. Here’s some cereal trivia for your readers: “Provincial Park” is named following the Canadian national park naming convention as opposed to everything else in the series which is more American-inspired. The sign at the beginning of the level reads “Shreddies Provincial Park.” Shreddies is a Canadian breakfast cereal brand that visually looks a lot like Chex here in the US.
DG: Chex Quest HD is a remaster of the first game. If it’s received well, do you see the other games getting remasters, as well?
CJ: I would only pursue this if they could be at least partially financed. It has been a bit taxing on my family to have my free time sucked away for over a year on this project. I wouldn’t voluntarily do that again anytime soon. I also have a long list of other projects I want to return to.
DG: What have been the biggest challenges in adapting Chex Quest for a modern game engine?
CJ: The biggest challenge has been creating the large volume of content needed for the game, particularly art and animation. Creating rooms and tunnels in a Doom wad is a simple matter of painting a couple of tiny textures and a few clicks in Doombuilder. Building even a basic room in Unreal requires many hours of modeling, texturing and lighting. What’s ironic is that the area that is the most behind is environment art, which is actually my professional specialty. I just find that after spending a full day at work building out levels, I want to give that part of my brain a rest and prefer working on blueprints, characters or animation for Chex Quest HD.
DG: Do you intend to include any gameplay, soundtrack, or quality of life tweaks in the new game? I know Chex Quest 3 added a jump mechanic.
CJ: The remake is not adding much in the way of modern FPS mechanics as the goal is to remain simple and true to the original. It’s important that the game be easy to grasp because it’s supposed to be primarily for children. The soundtrack is getting remastered by Andrew Benson, the composer of the original midi tunes.
DG: How about new easter eggs? Should we be looking for a new LAZ developer portrait room?
CJ: There are going to be quite a few easter eggs in the remake. There will be lots of nods towards some of our favorite sci-fi franchises from film, television, and games in the secret areas. In particular we really enjoyed the 2016 Doom reboot, so be on the lookout for things where we took inspiration from that game.
DG: You’ve mentioned that copyright probably prevents the development of a true Chex Quest 4, but just for fun, how would you imagine the storyline or gameplay evolving for a fourth game?
CJ: I’ve been asked this a number of times, but it’s something that honestly doesn’t interest me that much. CQ3 hopefully ended with a feeling of finality for most players, as that was my goal. I wouldn’t have any problem pursuing a 4th installment if that was something General Mills wanted to invest in however. I am just not likely to pursue it as a hobby project.
DG: Just one last question: if you had the chance to make a fully licensed video game for any other cereal brand, which would you choose? And what would the premise be?
CJ: How about Count Chocula done up as a playful Castlevania knock-off?
Finally, thanks for showing such interest in our project and giving me a chance to talk about it! Anyone who wishes to follow the development of the game is encouraged to visit our Facebook site (Facebook.com/ChexQuestHD).
My sincerest thanks go to Chuck for enduring the fanboyism of a decidedly un-endearing cereal geek like me. There have been a number of “advergames” released over the decades, some successful (hello, Pepsiman) and some better left buried in a Burger King dumpster (if you catch my drift). Chex Quest is one of the few that remains addictive and entertaining to this day.
Speaking of which, I think my Phasing Zorcher trigger finger is itching again.