When you think of classic arcade games, you immediately gravitate towards those born from a simpler time, when quarters and colorful bezels ruled the landscape and getting your name on the leaderboard was everything. Only in retrospect can we truly see how these earlier attempts at gameplay were more focused on basic ideas and concepts, the extraneous bloat that would soon overwhelm the experience still years – and many technological advances – years away.
In this age of remakes we often see attempts to merge the classic with the modern, often with mixed results that elevate the original concept or are spectacular trainwrecks for the effort. A great example of the former are the Pac-Man Championship Edition series, a groovy attempt to merge the core Pac-Man concept with hyper, super colorful visuals and sound to create a hugely successful experience. I spent hours upon hours with those because it felt genuinely fresh, yet so familiar.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have BurgerTime Party!, which feels identical to the original BurgerTime arcade game from Data East from 1982 while highlighting the wrong, least exciting bits of the original.
There’s nothing wrong with BurgerTime. It’s a fine game from a bygone era when arcade games meant racking up high scores and bragging rights. Peter Pepper must walk over ingredients of a burger, causing it to fall down to a lower platform with the ultimate goal of creating the best burger he can. You – the player – must do this all while being chased by hot dogs, eggs and pickles. Thankfully, you have your pepper to sneeze into their faces stunlocking them so you can sneak by to step on even more food in a scenario that would send the FDA into a frenzy. That’s what you do in the original, and that’s what you do in BurgerTime Party!.
Only this time around the graphics, as you’d expect, are much more vibrant and lively. Beyond the visual upgrade, however, there’s nothing new, exciting or innovative. In some ways, it borrows so heavily off the original it even feels just as fast (or in this case, slow) and never makes any real effort to inject the life from the otherwise great visuals into the gameplay. Not only is controlling Peter a drag, but the time it takes to proceed from one level to the next, or just restarting a level, takes just a few seconds longer than it needs to when all you want to do is stomp a few pickles and make some burgers.
There are four modes: Solo Burger, Main Burger, Battle Burger and Challenge Burger. For the most part these are just BurgerTime with slight alterations. Main Burger is for 1-4 players with shared lives and slightly bigger stages, but in reality it’s just the same as the Solo Burger mode which is for just one person at a time in a slightly more puzzle-focused attempt at gameplay. Solo Burger is also the only mode unlocked at the start, and you’ll need to play alone for a bit before you’re able to add any friends or family to the mix. Battle Burger is a chance for players to play as either humans or food, and lastly there’s the Challenge Burger mode for those who want an experience closer to the original in that it just keeps going and while ranking your score.
The challenge of completing a level is rarely due to the actual game itself, but more the seemingly arbitrary score associated with each level’s bronze, silver and gold rankings. The score needed to achieve in order to receive a gold medal can, at times, seem so astronomically and pointlessly high. At the start I was getting good scores for my attempts, but soon after was only netting bronze after bronze. At one point, I reached 12,000 points for a bronze when gold was at 31,000. Sure, there are ways to farm points by killing enemy sausages and racking up big scores, but to achieve one that high you’d have to farm a bit than you probably should for such a small stage.
We’ve seen this attempt to artificially “extend” gameplay with difficulty spikes in mobile titles, presumably to urge players to buy their way to the top. It stinks in those games and it stinks here.
BurgerTime Party! also tries it’s hardest to inject some party elements into the gameplay by introducing its Battle Burger and multiplayer modes, but other than the versus aspect, the core mechanics of dropping burgers and hotdogs is unchanging and never-ending. Occasionally, there are ice ladders, breakaway floors, and other obstacles sprinkled throughout, but those are just wrinkles in what is, by design, a naturally flat experience.
Despite pleading with players to “share videos and screens” with the hashtag #BurgerTime right on the main menu, I don’t see BurgerTime Party! picking up any traction with either fans of the original or newcomers to the series. It takes what should have been a simple premise, adds updated visuals, and somehow misses what made the arcade classic so endearing. This is really a shame as those new visuals are indeed colorful and fun to look at, but the actual gameplay falls flatter than a discount patty. Even if you crave the simplicity of a vanilla BurgerTime experience there are plenty other, tastier classic arcade puzzle games worth exploring instead.