Review: BurgerTime Party!

8 Oct 2019

Let me preface this review by saying that I’m definitely old enough to remember the early arcade days, when gaming meant going out to an arcade, bowling alley, or other sort of fun center and popping quarters into arcade cabinets. Yes, they still exist, but in the US, arcades are a shadow of their former glory. Short games challenging you to go for a high score have largely given way to long, epic adventures and competitive multiplayer games that aren’t meant to be finished, or finished in one sitting at least.

So, having played the original BurgerTime arcade cabinet (and the NES version) back in the day, I can say with fair certainty that BurgerTime Party!, brought to the US by our friends at XSEED Games for the Nintendo Switch ($19.99), is going to be a decent nostalgia trip, as it aims to be an updated recreation of the original experience, with new features. So, let’s make some burgers, then.

Makin’ Burgers

Okay, so this is going to be brief. Now, the original game was a simple arcade game in the vein of single-screen arcade games like PAC-MAN or Donkey Kong, and essentially had no story whatsoever, even to set the stage. And that’s fine, games like this don’t need a story; they’re simple, and all about getting a high score.

BurgerTime Party! does put in a tiny bit of story, in the form of a cartoon cinematic intro. Chef Pepper is opening a new burger joint, and he’s cooking some burgers. He comes across some old ingredients, including what looks like an old hot dog, and tosses them in the trash behind them.

Then, the kitchen really gets out of hand as those discarded ingredients (who are known as Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Egg, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Donut) come alive, and apparently they’re really ticked off that they were tossed in the trash, and they are ready for revenge on Chef Pepper. Then the game begins. It wasn’t really necessary and it only serves to set the stage, but it was entertaining, so it’s all good.

Let’s Party!

BurgerTime Party! is a simple game. You have a 2-D playfield with platforms and ladders, sort of like Donkey Kong, and on various platforms are the different parts of making a hamburger: Top and bottom buns, meat, and lettuce. You also have the four previously mentioned enemies, whom walk around in different patterns, trying to kill you.

Walking over the burger parts makes them fall down to lower platforms, and the goal of the game is to get all of the burgers down to the bottom. If enemies are caught under falling parts, they get squished, and if enemies are standing on parts when you drop them, they get dropped as well. Chef Pepper can’t jump, but he is armed with pepper spray, which will stun enemies and allow him to walk past. This can also be used to aid in dropping them to score more points.

Burger Time Party! doesn’t change this at all, and it’s true across all of the modes, but sometimes there are different ingredients and sometimes you even make hot dogs. It’s a simple concept, like other classic arcade games – make the burgers, avoid the enemies, get a high score – and it still holds up well today.

The controls, they’re simple, as any arcade game like this should be, with a button to use the pepper spray, and movement with the stick. Now, I played the NES version of BurgerTime more than the arcade, so I’m more used to using a D-pad to play. However, this game forces you to use the analog stick, and the D-pad does nothing. This could be because single joy-cons don’t have a D-pad, but it still should have been an option. Chef Pepper’s movements are entirely digital; he doesn’t move faster if you push the stick more, for instance, so while this is minor, not being able to play with the D-pad seems silly to me. It’s perfectly playable with the stick, but the D-pad would be so much better.

The modern game has various modes, and they’re all very similar, with the exception of the new versus mode. The most notable new feature is (outside of Solo Burger mode) optional four-player co-op, but unfortunately, I didn’t have friends around to try this mode out.

Solo Burger is basically a puzzle mode, with a range of unusually-designed stages. None were particularly difficult to complete, however, you do get a one to three star rating, and the real puzzle is figuring out how to get the maximum possible score. It did not take long to clear all of the stages, but it probably would take a fair bit longer to three-star everything, as it definitely requires things like carefully manipulating the different behaviors of the four different enemies (Much like PAC-MAN’s four ghosts) and such.

Main Burger mode is the same as Solo, except it uses larger stages and allows for up to four players. Complete each stage and try for the three star rating. Not much to say there. I completed all the stages solo, and while I didn’t get the best score every time, I’m not sure how much having other players with me would have mattered. It definitely isn’t required for completion. While fun, I actually found these stages easier than Solo mode, so on the whole, the difficulty of these main modes is not that high for basic completion.

The game also features a brand new versus mode. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try this, but it does offer an interesting concept: Players break into two teams, the chefs vs the food enemies, and it plays much like the regular game, with the chefs trying to make the burgers within a time limit, and the enemies trying to run the chefs out of lives before that. It’s almost a shame I couldn’t play this, because I like the concept of being able to control the enemies. It’s really too bad there is no online multiplayer.

Lastly, there’s the Ranking mode, and once you finish the stage modes, this becomes the core of the game. Ranking mode is exactly like the original game, where you complete as many stages as you can in one go and get that coveted high score, with online leaderboards. Within here you also find Classic mode, which uses the same stages and rules as the original Burger Time, also with the high score leaderboard. I definitely spent a lot of time on Classic mode, and I’m definitely not as good at the game as I remember!

But I had a good time, and the challenge level here is might higher. Separate high scores appear to be kept for different player numbers, which is a good thing, as the game is easier with more players.

A Touch of Flair

Burger Time Party! looks quite nice. Perhaps not quite top of the line, but it has a good professional hand-drawn cartoon art style to it, that is actually very reminiscent of the art on the original arcade cabinet, with one exception: Chef Pepper is now a young guy instead of an old man (Perhaps to better appeal to younger audiences?). It’s kind of reminiscent of how DuckTales Remastered updated the graphics from the original game, going from 8-bit pixels to a slick hand-drawn style while still being basically the same game.

The characters have great, smooth animations at a good framerate, and the game in general looks on par with how I would expect an updated recreation of an old 8-bit game to look. That being said, it doesn’t look like anything that couldn’t have been done years ago. That’s not really a bad thing in fairness, though. You don’t have to make a game with fancy 3D models and particle effects and other modern graphics tech to create a good game.

The sound though, is just okay. the effects do their job and sound appropriate, but don’t stand out. The music is fairly generic, with the exception of that modernized version of the original game’s intro music sting. It also doesn’t have quite as much energy to it as I feel like a game like this should have. The music has a very laid back feel to it, when the game itself is more frantic. In essence, it’s not bad, but it could have been better.

Bagging Your Order

BurgerTime Party! was definitely a nostalgia trip for me. If you’re an older gamer and miss the old arcades, this is definitely a good game to pick up. It has a few flaws with the control and sound, but it is a solid time-killer when you’re bored of whatever else you’re playing, and potentially offers a solid couch co-op experience, although I think the price is a tad steep for the amount of content.

If you’re a younger gamer, you may well look at a game like this and wonder what the point is, just getting high scores and such. But this game hearkens back to the old days, where seeing your name on the high score list on the arcade machine and bragging to your friends was a big deal. I say give it a try anyway. With today’s super elaborate games and complex mechanics, sometimes a little simplicity can be very refreshing. BurgerTime might not be the most famous ’80s arcade game, but I think it’s underrated and deserves a second look today.

~ Final Score: 7/10 ~

Review copy provided by XSEED Games for Nintendo Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Logo image provided by XSEED Games.