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BurgerTime World Tour

The BurgerTime franchise is in a bit of a pickle.

Our fascination with food-based arcade games has been on a sharp decline since the early ’80s. Many of the abstract concepts that defined the era have since been consigned to smartphones. The iPhone market’s become what the arcade once was – a place for abstract, minimal concepts to flourish. In the meantime, downloadable services for consoles have afforded them a place to flounder.

There are a few outliers, such as Pac-Man Championship DX, but Chef Peter Pepper never got his slice of the pie. Namco even tried revitalizing the franchise themselves with BurgerTime Deluxe. No dice.

Some 29 years after BurgerTime’s release and developers have yet to match Data East’s secret recipe. They’re missing that key ingredient: arcade simplicity. All the same, BurgerTime: World Tour means well and gets some things right. It’s still generally a puzzle game about dropping burgers, if there was ever any question.

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Yet for every success, World Tour faces difficulties. The most pressing problem is that there’s a premise. The idea is Peter Pepper travels across four continents and must stack burgers in a series of sub-levels and boss battles.

There’s a spark of ingenuity at first: levels are cylindrical and interesting as a representation of 2D. Despite providing more space for movement and a larger scope, the areas feel even more limiting than the classic black screen with colored ladders. It becomes more difficult to get a sense for the level and the status of each burger with the revision. An indicator shows the closest burger but also relays the inefficiency of the design.

World Tour also has a jump button. The appeal of Peter Pepper’s frantic dance between flipping burgers, peppering enemies, and managing platforms is lost as a consequence. It’s a reminder that the original’s goodness is mostly a result of that simplicity. It’s the idea that the joystick’s the only crucial component. The only other thing is a button for the pepper-shaker, which makes its return along with new items like spatulas, rockets, energy drinks, and so on.

The audio quality’s a toss-up but bears mentioning, as the music’s likely the game’s most successful throwback while the sound effects – specifically for jumping – are immediately grating.

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There’s some multiplayer thrown in but BurgerTime’s never been a big competitive draw before now, beyond the score-based kind, and World Tour’s unlikely to change that. Players race to stack burgers and stuff. There’s not much of a community for it.

Much like a classic hamburger, the original BurgerTime’s all right for what it is and there’s little necessity for improvement. It can still be improved upon, but not without first undermining its simplicity and turning it into something else.

3 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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