Eggers can’t be cheesers.
BurgerTime as an arcade game is closing in on being 40 years old. While there have been a lot of attempts at replicating the amusement of the original over the past few decades, nothing has come close to surpassing the genuine article’s purity of maneuvering erstwhile chef Peter Pepper through onslaughts of demonic pickles and hot dogs trying to create delectable burgers. Several hours into XSEED and G-Mode’s series refresh BurgerTime Party, it doesn’t quite recapture the magic of the arcade original, but through a fresh coat of paint and some engaging co-op and competitive multiplayer, this new entry makes for an acceptable meal of a game.
The first thing BurgerTime Party does well is recontextualize the game in a more bite-sized manner. Stages are more like single-screen puzzles, tasking players with figuring out the most efficient way to drop the burgers into place while also scoring the most points possible. Weirdly, expediency is not the best route. While the first handful of stages in the starting single-player mode are all simple training courses, soon the difficulty starts to ramp up, at least as far as the high score thresholds go. It’s relatively easy to bumble your way into clearing a stage, but the real challenge comes in setting up enemies to chase you onto a burger patty and then sending the patty down the stage, slaughtering the vile living food and getting massive bonus points. The way these stages are structured encourages replays for high scores, but they’re also flexible enough that if you just want to reach the end of the stages and move on, that works as well.
The more adventurous modes unlock after a little bit of time in the single-player-only mode, rightfully called Solo Burger. The core co-op mode is called Main Burger, which structurally is similar to Solo Burger, just with much bigger stages to accommodate up to four players. It’s totally playable with a single player, but it’s a lot more fun working with a friend or three to solve the score challenges. Between these two modes are more than 100 stages that get devilishly hard by the end. It’s a little weird how the modes are split up, but at the same time, having the variety of smaller one-player stages as well as larger multiplayer ones is great.
Battle Burger is the most interesting mode, as BurgerTime goes a little asymmetrical. Up to three players can play the role of Peter Pepper while up to three can try to thwart them as hot dogs, eggs, or pickles (though it’s limited to local multiplayer only with up to four players total). It’s not quite a facsimile of a typical stage—for one thing, players have special powers to work with that are tied to rechargeable meters—but it makes for a surprisingly enjoyable competitive mode. A quick way to summarize Battle Burger is it’s BurgerTime’s take on Pac-Man Vs. It doesn’t retain the depth of the brilliant Pac-Man side game, but overall, this mode is smartly crafted. It is disappointing that Battle Burger and Main Burger are both local-only experiences. While the charm of the multiplayer is grand, these modes vary from less compelling to unplayable when by yourself.
It’s nestled behind some unlocks, but Challenge Burger is the final mode, offering something closer to the original arcade game complete with online leaderboards. I’m happy it’s there, but maybe it speaks more to the quality of the rest of the package that I wasn’t as drawn to this mode.
Lastly, while I came away from BurgerTime Party impressed more often than not, the visuals are aesthically unappealing. The character artwork tries to carry forth personality, but it just comes off as more generic than anything else. Likewise, the animation is more jerky. Ultimately this beats the heck out of 2011’s BurgerTime World Tour’s attempts at 3D graphics, but Party seems like a game that might have been better off paying more homage visually to its forebears. The music and sound effects often evoke the original arcade game in endearing ways, but the graphics lean too far in a direction that divorces them from any similar nods.
Presentation aside, BurgerTime Party is a sharp reimagining of a classic arcade game. Overall, the original gameplay is focused into more guided and shorter puzzles, but through clever competitive multiplayer, enjoyable co-op, and high score challenges, this comes out the other end of the meat grinder as a solid revival of a series that has too often been served raw or overcooked. BurgerTime Party might not be a flawlessly grilled adventure, but it winds up being something around the ballpark of medium rare.