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July 2019

BurgerTime Party!

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Casual
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: G-Mode
Release Date: Fall 2019


Switch Preview - 'BurgerTime Party!'

by Thomas Wilde on June 25, 2019 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

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

This might sound weird, but BurgerTime Party! was one of my dark horse contenders for game of the year at E3 2019.

Part of it, admittedly, is that I have a long, nostalgic history with BurgerTime that I won't bore you with. I went into the E3 demo for BurgerTime Party! with a chip on my shoulder, expecting a quick cash run of a game that would stomp all over my childhood, and instead, I got a decent, reasonably faithful update and modernization of the classic arcade game. I might just be relieved that this wasn't a cynical disaster.

For those of you who were born too late to know what I'm talking about, BurgerTime is one of the lesser-known arcade classics of the '80s. As Peter Pepper, you dodge angry food like Mr. Egg, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Frankfurter on your way across a series of maps. Your goal is to complete all of the sandwiches on a vertically oriented map by running across their various ingredients, flattening them until they drop to the level below you, with bonus points involved if you can crush an enemy under a falling bun or patty. It was one of the more frenetic, surreal games in the heyday of the American arcade, but it never quite reached the pop culture heights of Pac-Man or Donkey Kong.

BurgerTime Party! updates the old BurgerTime visuals into something that looks like an old 1920s cartoon, with more than a little obvious inspiration from the recent success of Cuphead. (I wouldn't ordinarily say that, but seriously, Peter has nearly the same idle animation as Cuphead does.) The basic gameplay loop is the same; you're still Peter Pepper and you're still out to make sandwiches despite being chased by homicidal food. However, Party adds 50 single-player levels, 50 larger levels meant for co-op play for up to four players, and an asymmetric four-player versus mode where one player is Peter, and the others are all food trying to chase him down.

In single-player, BurgerTime Party! isn't particularly difficult, but beating the high scores can prove challenging. As Peter, you have up to three charges of pepper at a time, which you can use to stun any enemies caught in the cloud. You're pursued by Mr. Frankfurter, an entry-level hot dog enemy who comes straight for you; Mr. Egg, who moves randomly but still generally comes after you; the totally unpredictable Mr. Pickle; and newcomer Mr. Donut, who can launch a shoulder charge at you that lets him ignore pepper while he's moving.

Naturally, getting hit by any of the enemies causes you to lose a life. However, you can also get bonus points by crushing them under falling sandwich ingredients, although they quickly respawn. If you're really on the ball, you can send a piece of a sandwich down a level with an enemy on it, which stuns the enemy and makes the ingredient heavier, so it'll go down more than one level at a time. The key to big points, I found, was to lure enemies into traps where I completed a sandwich with an enemy along for the ride, which scored big bonuses.

The single-player mode also gradually introduces new hazards, such as levers that lower parts of the stage, crumbling platforms that you can only cross once, conveyor belts, and icy platforms that force you to keep moving in one direction once you step on them. It's all pretty easy, but getting anywhere near each stage's high score is the tricky part.

The cooperative levels in BurgerTime Party are more intense from the start, with many more enemies and much bigger maps to cover. Both players play as Peter Pepper (say that a few times fast), and you can save a partner from losing a life if you can get them back up from the ground after they've taken a hit. The stages are big and frantic enough that it's easy to get confused, and big chain reactions are easy to pull off, where suddenly the entire stage is full of falling lettuce and tomato and you've lost track of which Peter is you.

The multiplayer mode, conversely, is more of a mixed bag. It's definitely designed with at least three players in mind, if not more, because one on one, Peter Pepper is holding all the cards. In multiplayer, Peter can just stun and run a single player with his pepper clouds. The game is seemingly built around having more than one enemy to chase down Peter and hem him in, keeping him away from his goals and eventually cutting off his avenues of escape. Every enemy player in multiplayer mode gets Mr. Donut's shoulder charge, so Peter's pepper isn't the absolute win button that it initially seems like, but I still felt like multiplayer mode was at its worst when I was playing it head to head.

Ordinarily, I'd understand and even encourage cynicism about something like this. Any '80s arcade classic worth mentioning has, by this point, been revisited, updated, remixed, and remastered to within an inch of its life, usually with mixed to poor results. I was legitimately surprised by how much I enjoyed BurgerTime Party, which gives the Switch yet another decent couch co-op game in an already-crowded lineup.

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