BurgerTime (Data East, 1982) is probably my favorite arcade game that I’m terrible at. I can survive pretty well in Pengo, Xevious, Dig Dug, and other ones I love , but BurgerTime kills me horribly. It’s still fantastic.
The goal of the game is to make burgers while avoiding deadly runny eggs, sausages and pickles. The player controls a chef who navigates mazes made of ladders and platforms in order to stomp on eight-foot wide burger ingredients, causing them to fall into a giant frying pan. A level ends when each possible burger is ready to serve.
This game encourages an unsanitary work environment in the kitchen. In addition to the fact that Peter Pepper is getting his boots all over the meat, cheese, and bread that he’s going to serve to customers, you receive bonus points for crushing enemies in between ingredients. I guess that part’s not TOO horrible, since the enemies are food themselves, but it’s still kind of gross.
Your main line of defense is a highly limited pepper shaker which can temporarily incapacitate enemies. The only way to get rid of them for a longer stretch of time is to squash them under falling ingredients or drop an ingredient while an enemy is standing on it. This is risky, since the enemy has to be right next to you in order to do it, but it nets you some delicious bonus points. You can restore your pepper by picking up french fries, coffee (what?) and ice cream (what??)
The initial stage is simple, but they quickly become difficult to navigate without screwing yourself over. The enemy foodstuffs are relentless, and not as easy to evade as, say, the ghosts in Pac-Man. This game will teach you to fear eggs and sausage for more reasons than just the indigestion you get from eating them.
I never make it very far in the arcade version, but it’s still a lot of fun. There’s a Game Boy version available for download on the 3DS Virtual Console that looks nice but is a much, much easier game than the arcade version. The Game Boy version adds a lot of power-ups that trivialize the difficulty of some stages. It also has a password system so that you can skip ahead four levels at a time. Unlike the hellish passwords of games like Metroid, the Game Boy Burger Time has nice, visual passwords like “pickle, pickle, pickle, egg.”
There’s a remake available on Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3: BurgerTime World Tour. This version also contains a series of new power-ups and replaces the charming graphics of the original with absolutely hideous character models and remarkably bland backgrounds. Yes, you CAN do worse than just having a black screen for your background. It’s a shame they didn’t go the Spelunker HD route and allow players to choose between retro graphics and horrible graphics. At least we’ll always have the arcade.