Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Classic Video Game Review - Atari 2600 - Burgertime


Makes You Want To Run Like Hell - Burgertime Meets Stephen King

Burgertime 3/10

In the Eighties, most of the video games we had were just three types games, you had the maze games like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Berzerk, then there were the shooter games like Zaxxon, Sinistar and Asteroids and you had the stationary shooters, where your ship was at the bottom of the screen, shooting at enemies like Space Invaders, Satan's Hollow or Galaga or Galaxian.  Burgertime fit into the maze category. You play as Chef Peter Pepper, your job is to make hamburgers and avoid getting mobbed by Hot Dogs, Eggs and Pickles. Why those three as your enemies, nobody knows.

The stand-up arcade version of this game has great graphics, the gameplay is fun and as you progress in levels, it gets more difficult to make the burgers. There are a total of six levels in the game, progressing past the sixth level means that you will basically start over on level one. The creators of these games really didn't have a vision and probably got bored designing games, so their focus wasn't on creating an immersive experience like today, but shortened games that were hard to play so that we would keep feeding quarters into the machines.

Most of the popular games got ported over to the home consoles. Atari 2600 being the most popular of the home entertainment systems, the developers of the individual companies (Mattel, Bally Midway in this instance) would spend months recreating the experience for people that would rather sit at home, spend money on a cartridge and play it at their leisure.

Unlike the stand-up arcade machine, the home consoles had limitations to graphics, sound and play ability. Most controllers only came with one button joysticks (Atari), the consoles, as I said previous, were limited with memory and the graphics itself were all on one single board. The cartridge held the programming and when it was plugged into the console, magic happened to allow us to play these games.

Unfortunately, for games like Burgertime, the port wasn't very good. The lack of detail in every object, from the Chef to the enemies is awful. The hamburgers are just weird amorphous blobs, until you run over them and are able to create the hamburgers themselves. It almost seems that the developers didn't care, and why should they, they created these games and people ate them up as if they were candy. The developers couldn't keep up with the port demands of famous games, so they took short cuts to get them out the door as fast as possible. The end result is, the kids bought the crappy games and the developers went bankrupt at some point, after spending all their money on toys and being rich. Like Scrooge McDuck. Except, ya know, they ran out of money.

Burgertime for the Atari 2600 is bad. It's so bad that it's fun to play. Just to see the weird Hot Dog, Pickle and Egg... things, come after you. The Egg and Pickle are just floppy squares that seem to float along the maze, flipping around their own axis, while the Hot Dog is a weird ghost like thing. Even the Chef doesn't look right. The whole game just feels awkward.

Bally Midway and the rest of the developers, who enjoyed the success of their labors have pretty much been relegated to "Gosh, those were good times" status. Some of them are still around in name only, to capitalize on their past, but for the most part have been forgotten to time. It's a shame too. There was a time when we wanted to go to the arcade. The dark rooms with the bright lights coming out of the monitors, the sound effects that assaulted our ears at every turn, jump and punch.

There is an effort to preserve these things, but damn, it's hard to want to preserve games from the Eighties, when they look like Burgertime. I loved my childhood, I loved that I got to grow up as a child in that decade, however, even some games (E.T. I'm looking at you, as well as Raiders Of The Lost Ark) need to be forgotten.

Initial release date: 1982
Series: Oretachi G─ôsen Zoku
Genre: Platform game
Platforms: Arcade game, Nintendo Entertainment System, More
Developers: Data East, Mattel
Publishers: Data East, Midway Games, Mattel, Texas Instruments

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