Dude, the Eighties Called, and They Want Their Coin-Op Platformer Back
MonkeyPaw Games have made it their mission to bring back retro gaming experiences, shine them up, insert a bit of that new car smell, and evoke some old-time feelings players have long been missing. Their debut title, BurgerTime World Tour, hearkens back to the experience of standing around a classic arcade machine, feeding coins into the slot and executing repetitive platforming in bite-sized, small-scale stages. But where the simplistic gameplay will appeal to some players’ fondness of nostalgia, the game seems to have shed its sense of fun along with all the complicated trappings of the modern era.
It would be a rather futile attempt to try to communicate the game’s perfunctory plot at this point. From what I can gather, Peter Pepper is a renowned chef whose repertoire consists of one item – burgers. They’re all he knows how to make, but he makes them good. He travels the world, making burgers (and, I assume, wowing the populace and picking up burger groupies) wherever he goes, making the land a better place one meal at a time. Along the way, he’ll have to bring down several dastardly chefs by making – you guessed it – some burgers!
It Ain’t Easy Being Greezy
The entirety of the game – all of it! – revolves around short, usually circular stages, in which you must navigate up ladders, across wooden platforms, and down ramps to assemble the processed beef delicacies. The burgers have been split apart into their individual layers and stacked, one layer at a time, on ascending floors of the level. Walk over a burger component (say, the cheese or lettuce) to make it drop to the next-lowest tier, until you’ve eventually stomped all pieces down to the waiting plate, capping the burger off with the crown of the bun. Each stage has a set number of burgers that have to be built in order to advance to the next challenge.
Based on the premise of the gameplay, one might think that the charm of this title lies in puzzling out and finding the correct ingredients for each burger in the correct order. Unfortunately, while there are several different burger types with (slightly) varying ingredients, there is never a question of how to composite them together: make your way as far up as you can, then trample each piece to the floor below in a chain-effect cascade ’til they’re all assembled. It doesn’t even matter what kind of burgers you’re making; outside of one instance during a boss battle, I was never encouraged to learn the different burger types as they made absolutely no difference to the gameplay.
The game’s only challenge comes from the platforming required to make it through the later stages and avoid the enemies. There were a total of forty stages, split into four internationally themed worlds, with a boss at the end of each world. Sadly, I was about halfway through the game before the platforming became somewhat challenging; the initial twenty levels felt monotonous and horribly drab. With very few exceptions, even the final levels won’t require more than a handful of attempts to best, and the whole affair can be finished within a day or two – provided you can repeat the same process enough times.
Haters Are My Motivators
In addition to having to navigate the traps and platforming pitfalls, Peter Pepper has to prove his mettle against some of the food kingdoms’ most dogged villains. Red peppers, Habaneros, pickles, carrots, fried eggs and more will constantly seek to end your culinary crusade. The antagonists are reminiscent of characters straight out of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, being otherwise inanimate objects with evil grins painted on their faces. There’s a modicum of humor in the grunts and snarls of your edible adversaries, and each of them has its own unique strategies that must be employed to best it: the red peppers will follow you up and down ladders, while the fried egg will stay on whatever floor it’s currently on and charge you blindly at breakneck speed, and the Limburger cheese exudes a pungent odor that will stagger even the hardiest of heroes.
While the enemy types offer a little bit of variety, their charm quickly wears off. A handful are around right from the start, and an additional one is unlocked each time you advance to a whole new world, making for a final tally of six different kinds of enemies. Boss fights aren’t much better, as they are essentially just extra levels that require the same burger assembling as before, but with a few added obstacles. To make the whole affair feel cheaper still, the same boss battles from worlds one and two are re-skinned and re-used for worlds three and four.
In a strange twist of irony, oftentimes you are indeed your own worst enemy. The platforming will frequently call for precision jumps between multiple moving platforms, and navigating up and down through the levels with pissed off peppers in hot pursuit (get it, “hot”?) means you’ll need to sometimes change direction and find a new route on the fly. The controls feel a little too loose to accommodate twitch movements, and I often overshot my mark or missed my handhold on a ladder while trying to make a speedy getaway.
Stopping to Smell the Roses
On the presentation front, BurgerTime World Tour definitely keeps it retro; too much so in the case of its musical score. Especially during the pre-game menus and post-level stat screens, the musical theme quickly begins to grate on your ears. There is no spoken dialog, only a few inaudible moans to accompany the continuous rinse-and-repeat gameplay.
Colors are kept bright and cheerful, and obstacles and enemies alike are easy to discern. My one complaint would be that it is impossible to move the camera in any way, sometimes causing cheap deaths due to being herded into inescapable corners by your enemies that you didn’t see coming in time. There are no animations or cutscenes, other than a loading screen of Peter Pepper on an airplane, which leads to a cutaway newspaper insert revealing the world’s villain that you need to defeat. However, I think it’s exactly the look the developers were going for, and in a simple game going for a retro feel, it’s not out of place in the least.
The Final Verdict
BurgerTime World Tour has some noble ambitions that many of us elder gamers can no doubt get behind – provide a throwback experience using current-gen technology. But some elements of the experience are perhaps overly simplistic, such as the audio design and a control scheme in need of fine-tuning.
Some of these smaller complaints can more easily be ignored in a downloadable title, but the heart of the game, the gameplay, is sadly unsatisfying. The first half of is easily waded through in a single sitting with minimal effort, and assembling the game’s titular sandwiches feels random and repetitive.
There is, in fact, a multiplayer mode pitting players head-to-head in a timed race against other would-be chefs to see who can combine the most burgers before the clock counts down, but there doesn’t seem to be any community interest in playing this game on-line (I had to wait up to ten minutes in the game lobby to find a single player to join me (and this was after the game had been out for a while already).
BurgerTime World Tour is hard to recommend, especially given its $9.99 price tag – we’ve seen cheaper games give more thrills and replay value recently. If MonkeyPaw want to reinvigorate the arcade experience, they’ll need to dig deep for a game that has that elusive hook next time.