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BurgerTime Party!

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Casual
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: G-Mode
Release Date: Oct. 8, 2019


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Switch Review - 'BurgerTime Party!'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 26, 2019 @ 2:30 a.m. PST

Chef Peter Pepper and his food enemies return with a new look and tons of new gameplay in the 1982 arcade classic.

Updating a classic arcade game in this day and age is a tricky proposition. Make the right changes, and the new version can be a fresh update to a classic formula for new players while still providing familiar mechanics to old fans. Stuff the game with unnecessary mechanics or change things up too much, and players will see the endeavor as unnecessary, although it can also push new players to seek out the original title to see what the fuss was all about. After a failed shot at doing this in the last console generation, the Burger Time series is making another comeback with BurgerTime Party on the Nintendo Switch. While the base game remains engaging, everything else doesn't work that well.

This isn't really a game that needs one, but there is a story. You play the role of Peter Pepper, a burger chef who runs a successful burger joint. Recently, he started advertising a new burger creation, but his hours in the kitchen haven't come up with anything he considers worth of customers' taste buds. Unfortunately, those discarded ingredients feel slighted and have come to life to exact their revenge on Peter. Since you're not much of a fighter, your best bet is to keep making those burgers while ensuring you aren't getting clobbered by the newly sentient foods that are chasing you.

BurgerTime Party's base mechanics have the simple appeal of old 1980s arcade games, and the title is set on a single screen map. Your job is to create burgers by running over their components, causing each piece to fall to the floor below it. If one piece lands on another, the piece on the bottom also descends, causing a domino effect of hamburger pieces that finally stops when one ingredient reaches an empty floor or the proper burger tray, whichever comes first. Enemies run after you, and while you can't directly eliminate them, you can periodically use your black pepper shaker to make each one freeze in their tracks. If you're lucky, you can also run over a piece with them present or have a hamburger piece fall on top of them to eliminate them from the field for a time and yield bonus points.

BurgerTime Party adds a few new mechanics that deepen the gameplay and add some puzzle elements to the levels. For starters, your pepper is still finite, but it recharges over time, so you don't have to hope that some pepper spawns in and you aren't vulnerable most of the time. Other power-ups exist, including a drink for temporary invincibility, chicken nuggets to freeze all enemies on-screen for a spell, and chili pepper to burn enemies with your flame breath. For the hazards, some levels may contain ice that you can slip on or burners that periodically turn on to roast you. There also happen to be oil-covered ladders and floors to slow you down, conveyor belts to do the same in one direction only, or brittle floors and ladders that slow down your overall progress since long falls can't kill you. Some levels have switches for extending or retracting floors and walls, and there are also air ducts to let you reach completely different parts of a stage.

Combined, these elements make for intriguing levels in the solo mode. A good portion of the levels give you a chance to think on your feet, and even though all of the mode's 50 stages are still single-screen affairs, you can tell that the new mechanics gave the designers ample room to create some interesting stages. What's also interesting is the progression system, where you can open up blocks of five levels at a time, but the next block can only be unlocked if you reach a score threshold of at least one star. For most of the levels, this is an easy task, but for a few levels, you have to plan out how to reach the high minimum, either by trying to make every falling piece contain an enemy for more points or by running over every ingredient individually rather than letting them cascade, sacrificing efficiency for points in the process.

The end result is enjoyable, but the problem is that you aren't going to see much inventiveness until late in the back half of the mode, as there are a good 15 levels dedicated to tutorials alone. It only takes one or two levels to understand enough to get you going, so it's excessive to have so many levels dedicated to teaching you all of the minutiae. If the tutorial levels were simply condensed in favor of more challenging levels, this would have fared better.

While solo mode is usually where a game's heart is, BurgerTime Party is different because multiplayer is the real focus. There are no tutorial levels in the pool of 50, but the difficulty ramps up gradually, with the more devious levels starting at a little over the halfway mark. Four players can play at the same time, and when each person falls, they have 10 seconds for another player to come over and revive them before they expire and take away one mark from the collective life pool. That can seem rather harsh for a game where one hit is all it takes to knock out someone, but there is solace in knowing that the life pool of three always resets per stage.

Where co-op falls hard is the fact that friendly fire is always on. Throw pepper on a colleague, and they'll also be stunned while still being vulnerable to enemies. Run over an ingredient while another person is on it, and they'll also fall with that piece, reaching a stunned state when they hit the bottom. There's also collision with each person, so it is possible to block one's way or push someone into danger. When you consider how tough some of the levels can be, this sort of thing creates a discord that's more frustrating than laughable, as it is in something like Overcooked. It also doesn't help that a good chunk of the levels are simply too large, as the camera is backed away far enough to make everyone look tiny.

The other modes begin to vary in terms of appeal. Battle mode has teams of two going up against each other, and that can be fun for only for a level or so. The endless mode is more appealing, since it has separate lives for each player instead of a collective pool, but only if you have a party of fellow high score chasers. The original arcade levels are present, and it's more of an incentive if you're taking this on solo. Finally, there are leaderboards for all of the modes, giving the game more longevity if you're the competitive type.

The presentation is fine in some respects. Graphically, the levels are brightly colored, and the enemy designs are quite good, with the bouncy animation style and big eyes reminding you of the classic cartoons that inspired Cuphead. Peter Pepper looks unappealing, and the differences between the versions in multiplayer can be minute enough that it can be difficult to quickly find your location amidst the chaos. Sound-wise, some of the music is ramped up in terms of volume and number of instruments used, but the redone classic tunes remain the highlight. The sound effects are fine, and the absence of voices is good, since they would detract rather than add to the overall presentation.

BurgerTime Party is a title that feels overstuffed. The mechanics are still good if you aren't thinking about the oddity of making burgers by walking over the ingredients, but this only works well when playing solo. Going multiplayer, as the game's title would suggest, makes the experience less enjoyable due to the aforementioned odd design choices. The base co-op experience is enough to prevent the other modes from being looked at, given their diminished overall appeal. It is a game best played in short bursts because tedium sets in when you're playing for longer. This can only be recommended to those who want nothing more than a short arcade-like burst of enjoyment before moving on to meatier fare.

Score: 6.0/10

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