Apparently, there is a race of giants who prefer their burgers made by a small tiny man who rubs his filthy little feet across every ingredient in their burger. Apparently it is also some kind of sick blood sport in which killer food pursues our unfortunate chef across perilous scaffolding while he struggles valiantly to assemble a delicious meal before meeting his impending doom. Maximus has nothing on this guy.
BurgerTime was originally released to the arcades in 1982 by Data East, and then ported to the NES in 1987. At its core, BurgerTime is a simple, yet slightly bizarre game in which you play the chef Peter Pepper. You are tasked with assembling massive hamburgers whose individual components are strewn across multiple different layers of a large structure. However, your are ruthlessly pursued by anthropomorphic pickles, eggs, and hot dogs, who will stop at nothing to prevent you from assembling your culinary masterpieces. Armed only with your trusty pepper shaker, you must brave the relentless dangers and assemble as many burgers as you can before succumbing to inevitable defeat.
BurgerTime takes place across 6 different levels that repeat endlessly. Each one presents a unique challenge, as the structures are arranged in different ways that require unique strategies. Each stage requires the same end goal be accomplished: completing all the burgers in the level. This is accomplished by running across each different layer, causing it to fall to the level below, resulting in a domino-esque cascade of ingredients towards the bottom of the level if another layer is caught in the avalanche. Any enemies caught in the cascade will be destroyed, providing both a critical strategy to the player and needed respite from the constant pursuit. Similarly, a major strategy for accumulating points relies on trapping an enemy on top of a burger ingredient right before you send it plummeting below – however this can put you in quite a dangerous spot.
The enemies come in 3 forms; eggs. hotdogs, and pickles, all equally ruthless in their thirst for you blood. Enemies can be stalled by blasting them with pepper, temporarily stunning them and rendering them harmless and allowing you to skirt past. You only have a limited number of pepper shots, however, so they must be used wisely. Fortunately, more can be accumulated by collecting the power-up foods that appear on the levels.
BurgerTime, as a whole, in genuinely challenging. The relentless assaults on you by the killer food items are overwhelming at times, and you often find yourself running low on pepper to stave off the enemies with. The enemy has a proclivity for pursuing you in such a way that you are constantly beset from all sides by danger. Even getting past the 2nd stage is quite challenging at first, and I hold great reverence for the people who hold the all time whole scores for BurgerTime. Contra has nothing on this game.
Gameplay: The gameplay is deceptively simple, but genuinely challenging overall. Unfortunately the difficulty is slightly too harsh to result in a long term, enjoyable experience.
Sound: The sound is incredibly simple, but surprisingly catchy overall. I will forever remember the BurgerTime main theme, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to win any Grammys.
Nostalgia X-Factor: I played BurgerTime on NES as a child at my cousin’s house, but not too much overall.
Worth Playing? BurgerTime is definitely worth a look. The immediate challenge of the game incites a desire to overcome and triumph, but the game’s steep difficulty results in a challenge that may be a little too rough to be entertaining long term.