For the arcade game fan who plays arcade games at home, "MAMExpose" presents you with the many joys - and pitfalls - of emulation, specifically those found while using our favorite program in the universe: MAME.

by Rob "Flack" O'Hara

Peter Pepper, no relation to Peter Piper (of pickled pepper picking fame), has a problem with his food -- it's constantly trying to kill him. While Burgertime and its two sequels (Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory and Super Burgertime) share a common theme (the assembly of food while fending off fiendish foods), each of them are quite unique in their gameplay.

Data East (1982)

It all started with the 1982 classic videogame Burgertime, created by Data East and licensed to Bally Midway. Assembling giant hamburgers shouldn't be that difficult for a chef of Peter Pepper's calibur, but unfortunately he has three enemies out to stop him from doing just that: Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Egg. Peter Pepper's only defense are his five pepper attacks; not pepper spray mind you, but simple sprinkles from a spice shaker. Chef's only other ally are the giant hamburgers he's creating. As you walk across the buns, lettuce, tomatoes and meat patties, they'll drop down a level. If you drop one with an enemy standing on it, they'll fall with it. Trap one underneath and they'll be squished as well. Unfortunately, none of these disposal methods are permanent -- as quickly as you dispose of these edible enemies, more will enter the screen to replace them. The goal of Burgertime is to assemble all four on-screen hamburgers. Doing so will advance you to the next level.

Those of you with 8-way controllers will quickly discover that the entire Burgertime series was designed with a 4-way joystick in mind. Like all the ladder games of that day, you'll find that diagonal directions on modern controllers tend to get Peter Pepper stuck when trying to get on to or off of a ladder. While not unique to Burgertime, in a game where getting on to and off of ladders quickly is the key to survival, it becomes quickly noticable.

According to experts, the key to racking up a huge score is disposing of all your enemies at once, just like Pac-Man. By using pepper or simply running around in circles, you can get all the pickles, hot dogs and eggs close enough behind you to drop them all at the same time. Of course you'll have to do that more than a couple of times to beat Twin Galaxies' official high score of 8,601,300 by Bryan Wagner.

Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory
Nihon Bussan/AV Japan (1984)

In the less-than-popular sequel Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory, our friendly chef is back at it again. Presumably having been fired from the giant hamburger assembly factory, our chef has now found work constructing ice cream cones -- and while they're still over ten feet tall, they're no where near the scale of the hamburgers Peter was accustomed to assembling. Once again, the fifth food group (foods that wish you bolidy harm) have tracked Peter to his new job. This time around, donuts, walking strawberries, a jug of milk and even a cooking scale are after the chef! Peter left his pepper shaker behind at the last job, but this time around he's learned how to jump so I suppose that's a fair trade.

Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory is an interesting game. While playing it, you can see how the platform/ladder game genre was evolving at that time. Essentially, this game plays much like the Snow Brothers -- the scoops of ice cream can be knocked into opponents, bowling them over as they roll toward the giant cones. Like Donkey Kong, expect to die frequently by jumping and hitting your head on an enemy located on the platform directly above you.

One cannot discuss Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory without mentioned DECO, Data East's cassette system. DECO was designed to be the Neo Geo MVS system of its time. Instead of replacing machines, arcade owners could simply by the latest games on cassette and load them up into their Data East DECO cabinets. Unfortunately, the system never really caught on. In the long run, the tapes proved to be unreliable, and with the dropping cost of PCBs, the DECO system never caught on. Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory was only offered as a DECO cassette, which means there were no dedicated cabinets for it, and the only chance you ever had of playing one in a real arcade was if an arcade owner upgraded his old Burgertime cabinet to the Ice Cream Factory game. Needless to say, I've never seen this game in an actual arcade machine. MAME reproduces this game perfectly, down to the cassette loading delay. To bypass this in MAME, press F10 to speed the game up to maximum speed. Once the game has loaded, press F10 again to return the game to its normal speed.

Super Burgertime
Nihon Bussan/AV Japan (1990)

Peter Pepper made his final arcade starring role in 1990's Super Burgertime. At first glance, Super Burgertime seems to be simply a graphical update of the original. There are still ladders, hamburgers, homicidal eggs and of course Peter Pepper the chef, but once you begin playing Super Burgertime you'll discover an entirely new realm of gameplay. The chef has maintained his ability to jump from the Ice Cream Factory, a skill you'll need to build the hamburgers. No longer do they simply drop by walking over them -- you'll have to hop on each ingredient to knock them down. In Super Burgertime, the chef has expanded his arsenal of weapons. He still has access to his pepper shaker, but different weapons such as frying pans appear for the taking throughout the game. Master chefs who can make their way through the first four levels will be met by a boss, a new concept to the Burgertime series.

Opinions of Super Burgertime are either hot or cold. It tends to be liked by those who are new to the series, and disliked by fans of the original. Super Burgertime isn't a classic, and without its ties to the Burgertime franchise it would most likely have been long forgotten. That being said, it's still a decent platformer, and it s fun to play if only to see the evolution of platformers over the years (especially in the graphics and sound departments).

Since Super Burgertime was only released in Japan and Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory was only released on the not-too-common DECO system, chances are you'll never run across either of these two games in the wild. Fortunately through MAME, you can now experience the only trilogy of games dedicated to both assembling and running away from food at the same time.

You've played plenty of bad games on game consoles, but what about bad arcade games? In the next MAMExpose, we'll look at a few titles that aren't worth a second look, let alone a second quarter.

A new "MAMExpose" can be found here bi-monthly!

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Last updated: Sunday, December 04, 2005 08:44 AM