Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Now That Is A Tasty Burger: A Look Back At BurgerTime

In 1982, an inventive twist on the "maze game" genre made wildly popular by Namco's Pac Man was released in arcades around the world by Data East. BurgerTime introduced the world to Peter Pepper and his rather interesting means of preparing hamburgers. the game played like a cross between the aforementioned Pac Man and Nintendo's Donkey Kong. I make that comparison because of the way you have to avoid enemies on a ladder filled playfield. The major difference between Donkey Kong and BurgerTime is that Peter Pepper has a much harder time avoiding the enemies that chase him around, and his primary weapon, a pepper shaker, is only useful a few times per game unless a bonus item is picked up during a maze.

Advancing in this game is easy in theory, but tough in practice. You go through each screen making the individual ingredients fall until the burgers are completely assembled at the bottom of the screen, but you have to avoid the enemies that all tend to move around the playfield attempting to take you out. When all of the Burgers are completed, the screen is cleared, and you move to the next level. There are a total of six screens in BurgerTime. After the sixth, the game goes back to the first screen, but the enemies are faster and there are more burgers to make.

Over the years, a few spinoffs and sequels were released, but none of them matched the success of the original game. One of the most notable spinoff titles was the Intellivision exclusive Diner, which was developed by the same person who worked of the Intellivision port of BurgerTime. Another notable game in the series is Super BurgerTime. It features 2 player co op gameplay and a number of powerups.

We live in a society that frowns upon obesity, yet we celebrate fast food. By this logic, a game like BurgerTime probably wouldn't be very popular today. It does two things that are heavily disliked in portions of today's society: it celebrates a really good burger, and it doesn't hold your hand. Much like many games of the early 80s, BurgerTime kicks your in the butt until you give up or come back for more. It's also one of those classic arcade games that gets lost in the shuffle when gamers discuss the all time great quarter munchers. It's one of the great gems from a Publisher that while no longer in business, has a long healthy lineage of incredible games to it's credit.

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