On his album, Shut Up You Fucking Baby! David Cross talks about some of the trials and tribulations of doing the early morning shock jock circuit to promote his shows. During one of them, he was asked if he had heard of the band Harlow from VH1’s Bands on the Run (back in 2002). He had and was excited to be able to meet them before a show to get what he described as “top ten fucking smashed.” Drinking before the show, he noted how cool the band was and that he was excited to hear them play. He describes the show as follows: “About ten to fifteen seconds into the second song, I have a revelation, like, ‘Wait a second… I hate Harlow!'”
The above pretty safely encapsulates my experience with BurgerTime World Tour. I got excited when we got this game. “This is BurgerTime! I played BurgerTime a lot! It’s old! It’s retro! It’s coming back!” Then I got into it a bit and remembered, “Wait a second… I didn’t like BurgerTime very much!” Then I played more and saw that the classic BurgerTime gameplay was changed from what it used to be. Believe it or not, it changed the core gameplay for the worse.
BurgerTime World Tour
Systems: Xbox Live Arcade (reviewed), PlayStation Network, WiiWare, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Frozen Codebase
Publisher: Monkey Paw Games/Konami
Release Date: November 2, 2011 (360), November 15, 2011 (PSN)
The core mission of BurgerTime has not changed. Players take the role of Peter Pepper, who literally walks on top of burger parts that fall down onto a plate to assemble a burger. Peter has to fend off various anthrophomorphic foods, such as walking hot dogs, eggs, and pickles, who try to take him out. Peter can defend himself with pepper, which temporarily stuns enemies. They can also be either squished under falling burger pieces or taken down with them, which helps the pieces fall faster. Before playing, players can switch out Peter with their Microsoft avatar, but for the sake of consistency, I will only refer to Peter from this point forward. Besides, they didn’t quite get facial expressions for the avatars done right, so playing as one makes me feel like I’m in the Uncanny Valley.
Since this is a new game and not a straight remake, there are some additions to the formula. The biggest is that Peter can now jump over enemies, which is a more significant addition than the younger generation would believe. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because one of the issues with the old, quarter-munching BurgerTime was that, if Peter got stuck and was out of pepper, he was effectively dead. Now, he can jump over everyone in the game with only the pickle counteracting that. But it’s a curse because the design of the game has veered away from what BurgerTime was—basically, an interactive maze—and has turned into a puzzle-platformer. Now, the emphasis is less on strategically moving through a set maze around enemies and focuses more on making jumps, with the burgers being almost secondary, laughably so at times. There are portions where you have to make difficult jumps, get to a certain area, and then run over the top buns to finish the otherwise already assembled burgers, six at a time in some cases. This means that some stages are disturbingly linear, with the levels guiding you with walls or power-ups to where they want you to be. This is problematic enough for fans of the series, but what makes things worse is that this isn’t very good at the platforming part of that equation. Peter is exceptionally sensitive to contact; anything that even comes close to him costs the player a life, whether that’s an enemy or an obstacle.
Things are not assisted by the view of the world, which is circular to enable bigger worlds and theoretically to allow players to see the rest of the stage. This is a good idea in theory that doesn’t execute in practice. It makes the stages hard to manage, unnecessarily large, and the ability to see through the stage can be distracting. The game’s pedestrian graphics don’t help anything in this regard, either.
One improvement is that the enemies now all have distinct personalities and movement idiosyncrasies compared to the old ’80’s game where they just wandered around the map. For example, the hot dog can climb ladders, the pickle jumps, and there’s a spicy enemy that explodes if you hit it with pepper. The exception is Chaz, who is either a carrot or a poorly drawn beet. He drills down from higher levels to attack Peter. That’s fine when you can see them coming, but not so much when the next level is high enough to where you’ve got someone coming down that you weren’t expecting. Combine this with the sensitive hit boxes, and it leads to the later stages being more frustrating than they have to be. To the game’s credit, most stages also have checkpoints, but these only seem to point out the game’s linear nature as they’re positioned in spots where they should be, such as after a long stretch of platform jumping.
To combat the newfound obstacles, Peter is given more powerups than he’s had in the past. He still has his pepper, which comes in more ready supply than it had previously. It works the same way as before: a quick shot stuns enemies. He’s also given other items that can either knock out enemies; freeze them; or, in some cases, shoot Peter higher up into the level. Unless they’re absolutely necessary—like the aforementioned rocket, or the times you’re given a speed booster that makes you invincible right before a spike trap—most of these are sideshows to get out of an exceptionally tight spot.
At the end of each “world” is a boss fight based around that world’s theme. These involve taking the boss out by avoiding the attacks of the boss and other enemies while making burgers, which usually overload the boss in some way. These are long, tedious, drawn out affairs with no checkpoints; and since the map is usually zoomed out, it’s often hard to see what’s going on with so many things flying around. The idea behind them is to give a satisfying end to the worlds, but in my case, I was just relieved.
There’s online multiplayer for anyone who wants it, but good luck finding a random person to play with. I was online two days after the game’s release, and since that time, I literally could not find one person to play against. Since I couldn’t make Monkey Paw’s game night, I haven’t been able to try this online yet. Normally, I wouldn’t hold that against the game, but when you’re selling online multiplayer as part of the package, and people literally cannot find anyone to play against almost from the day of release, that’s a strike.
I’ve already stated that the graphics aren’t very good, and while they’re not supposed to be—this is a retro remake, after all—they sometimes get in the way of gameplay. Some enemies blend into their environments in certain stages, and there’s a fog when looking into the background that obscures the rest of the map. When it comes to sounds, the side effects are whimsical, with horns, splats, and other various sounds making the game sound like a Saturday morning cartoon. However, there’s no variety among in-game music, which gets old very fast. There are a few nods to the old BurgerTime, but that’s about it.
Ultimately, BurgerTime World Tour earns itself the dreaded label: “for fans only.” Even those fans need to be cautioned that their favourite game has been changed irreparably by modifications that make it something it never was. There’s some entertainment to be had, and the game isn’t offensively bad, but the problems with BurgerTime outweigh the positives. It hurts to say that, because it’s obvious that the developers made the game with a lot of love.
* Good value for the price
* Strong nostalgia factor
* Poor gameplay
* Subpar graphics
* Useless online mode
* Cheap deaths
FINAL SCORE: D+
Disclosure: The reviewer was provided with a code of the game by Monkey Paw Games. As of this writing, the reviewer reached stage 3-8, all on normal mode.