Retro Game of the Day! BurgerTime
BurgerTime, by Data East - released in 1982. Ah yes, this strange little gem. I have a weird fascination with this game - perhaps that might be putting it rather strongly-
Anyway, any game which is a contemporary of Pac-Man ad Donkey Kong cannot be all bad, right? BT always seemed strange to me in that, for some reason, it didn't "seem like a Japanese game" at all. I guess Hamburgers are just a very iconically American thing. Maybe they localized it, but somehow running over giant Ramen Noodles wouldn't have the same effect. Seriously - there has got to be some interesting story regarding this game's origins, but I am too lazy to dig deep enough to unearth all of that (I mean, there's more blogs to type - you know?)
Gameplay-wise, you control the actions of one mild-mannered chef "Peter Pepper," to clear a level you are tasked with Hamburger Assemblage. To do this, simply run over the whole of each comically oversized bun, patty, and condiment so that each falls down a level and lands atop each previously felled component. Yeah, it's a bit of a surreal metaphor, but that's how these things go. You are constantly being chase by living versions of other foodstuffs (Mr. Egg, Mr. Pickle, and the unbelievably evil Mr. Hot Dog). You've got to weapons with which to dispatch your enemies - crush them from above with a falling Hamburger Element, or temporarily freeze them with a shake of your precious Pepper (you don't have much - use it sparingly!) so you can run safely past while they shake it off, for a moment. Ahh. Pepper spray. Don't wanna get raped by Mr. Egg. I don't really need to be going there do I...
So, that's pretty much it. The round wraps up as you've finished out each burger, then a new board loads and you must do it again. It is of paramount importance to mention that though the gameplay is rock-simple, this is actually not an easy game. Your foes are rather relentless and it's hard to lose them - they gang up on you. They keep coming! You never have enough pepper to shake at them that makes it ever feel very fair. Also, in all versions of the game I have played, something has always felt a bit off about the controls. They are very stiff, what with all the ladders that must constantly be climbed up and down. It's not a lose, clean affair like it should be. I should note that they rectified this in future iterations of the game, but for some reason it was overdone and they made it too loose to the point where the game was not fun in the other direction.
Overall BurgerTime is a mixed bag. I love the wacky concept and characters, but something about the whole game has always felt fatalistic to me. The B/W GameBoy "Deluxe" version released several years later was probably the most enjoyable, they even got the controls fairly well-tightened up - but the core game still is somehow just not very gratifying. I think there is something to games like this however, though they may seem simple and half-baked there are some interesting concepts to mine. I'd love to see a creative revisit!