As seen in: Alfred Chicken (Game Boy)
Distinguishing feature: Throngs of adoring fans.
Strengths: Beak; can turn into rocket ship.
Profile by Tomm Hulett | December 5, 2009
The mascot hall of fame is lined with a veritable pantheon of notables -- Bugs Bunny, Ronald McDonald, Toucan Sam -- but none of these compare in stature to the pure notoriety of one mascot that needs no further introduction: Alfred Chicken.
Alfred’s beginnings were humble. Coming from a broken home in a working-class London suburb, Alfred met his lifelong friend Billy at the boarding school they both attended. They shared a fascination with adventuring and video games, and by combining these interests they slowly grew in popularity. By the time they added Mr. Peckles to the group, every teenager in London knew about Alfred Chicken. Naturally, talent like Alfred’s couldn’t remain confined to a small regional fanbase, and so his adventures continued throughout Britain.
Then, one fateful day, Alfred, Billy, and Peckles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. In one night, Alfred Chicken rose from relative unknown to trans-Atlantic sensation. Even Alfred’s contemporaries, Sonic and Mario?, took notice. Copies of Alfred’s game flew off store shelves, and he could barely hear himself jumping and pecking over the adoring screams of his fans. “Alfred Pneumonia” spread like wildfire, and it became hard to turn around without seeing Alfred’s ridiculous face. Songs about Alfred rose to number one. Breakfast cereal based on his adventures flew off the shelf. Still, even amidst his unprecedented fame, Alfred never sold out to Hollywood for a cartoon show. He was no Pac-Man.
Alfred’s debut still stands as a monument to revolutionary game design. Unlike other mascots of the time, the sales of the original Alfred Chicken earned enough that Alfred never had to work again. Fans are content with the original adventure, though they do turn up in throngs to purchase remastered versions every so often. While Sparkster and Crash Bandicoot create game after game to this day just to keep their finances in the black, Alfred enjoys a life of leisure and humanitarian work. His “Alfred’s Eggs” charity earns millions each year for under-privileged children worldwide.
But what makes Alfred so special? What is that “x factor” that keeps him flapping a cut above the sea of lesser-known stars?
Many mascots can be defined by their power-ups; those special icons and pickups that grant any number of super powers. Alfred certainly has his share of items. Cans of Worms protect Alfred with a rotating annelid. Egg cups bestow extra lives. Invaluable Logs and Soda Cans do exactly what one would expect: They slow the Terrasawus in its upward ascent. Then there’s the Watering Can and the Radio, which both serve no doubt important functions. Lastly, Alfred depends on the power-up which has become so iconic as to appear on Hot Topic T-shirts, the Pot of Jam. This king of items allows Alfred to fire a projectile which bounces uselessly at angles around the screen.
Alfred Chicken’s power-ups stand out from the rest primarily for their intuitive nature and how well they tie in to the Wild World presented in the game. How do rings protect Sonic? Why does a mushroom increase Mario’s size? Even twenty years later, these questions don’t have adequate answers. Power players found Alfred Chicken a breath of fresh air—finally, a game that made sense! Need extra lives? Collect lightbulbs. See a birthday present? Grab it for brief invincibility. Alfred’s groundbreaking title sidestepped the abstract confusion usually associated with mascot platformers.
Then again, you can judge someone by the company they keep. Alfred’s most famous friend of course being Mr. Peckles, the enormous sunflower who refuses to speak except through a telephone two feet in front of him. A scientist of some renown, Peckles created all of Alfred’s technology, including the spaceship Alfred uses to battle the vile Meka Chickens—villains so evil that they’re more machine now than fowl. Only by defeating every Meka “Chicken” can Alfred rescue Billy and the eggs and reunite with his true love, the beautiful Floella.
This cast of characters proved almost as popular as Alfred himself, each one spawning a cottage industry of licensed shirts, solo albums, direct-to-DVD movies, and fast food sponsorships. Though bad blood still exists between the Meka Chickens and Billy, for the most part the entire cast has maintained close friendships with Alfred and Floella. Mr. Peckles tried to gather everyone up for a reunion tour at the turn of the millenium, but plans fell through when Alfred instead spent a year building homes for poverty-stricken families in Africa.
Maybe Alfred’s staying power has nothing to do with outside elements. It’s possible the skills and abilities that made Alfred a star came naturally. It’s clear to anyone looking at Alfred’s move set that he’s not your average mascot. First is Alfred’s floaty jump. He spends nearly three whole seconds in the air, and will continue to jump if players hold down the jump button, which isn’t obnoxious at all. When he lands, Alfred even has a cute little leg-bobbing animation. Being a chicken, Alfred can of course peck things. If he pecks the ground or a wall in front of him, his beak humorously bends backwards. Should Alfred peck in midair, he brings the pain down on his foes. Start this high enough, and Alfred will actually transform into a rocket ship! Lastly, by turning on televisions, Alfred will discover “Mr. Personality,” also known as “Just Alfred in a Top Hat.” By riding on the monotonous dialogue, Alfred-without-a-top-hat can reach unheard-of heights.
A poll in the late '90s revealed that more children between the ages of 6-11 recognized Alfred Chicken than Mickey Mouse. By this point it had become clear: We were living in Alfred’s world. And while it may be impossible to narrow down one specific thing responsible for this glorious chicken, it’s clear that the world is a better place for having him in it.