Atari 2600

Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 8

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Any psychiatrist worth his salt will tell you that there are a handful of very common recurrent dreams - dreams that a vast portion of the population has, symbolizing equally common fears and stress factors. The "running but not getting anywhere" dream, signifying the fear of not being able to reach a goal. The "train going through the tunnel", signifying our basest need for sexual contact. And the ever-popular "being chased by giant hot dogs, eggs, and pickles while dressed as a chef", signifying that we are indeed very silly people.

Such is the basic plot of this classic. You are Peter Pepper, armed with only your reflexes and a few doses of enemy-freezing pepper, you have to construct hamburgers by moving along the various platforms and ladders of a giant construct. By walking over any piece of the burger, that piece drops down to the next level, knocking any subsequent burger pieces below it a level lower as well. At the bottom is the burger "in the works", and when each of these burgers is complete, your stage is complete. Naturally, you're being chased by various food nasties. The Atari 2600 version of the Data East coin-op includes Mr. Hot Dog and Mr. Egg (straight from the arcade), with exclusive characters Mr. Breadstick and Mr. Cheese, presumably replacing Mr. Pickle from the original.

At its core, it's a maze game, but the strategies and scoring of BurgerTime are quite unique. You see, you can score points by either smashing a food baddie beneath a hamburger piece or for more points, you can drop a hamburger piece while one of these foul foods is aboard - dangerous since they have to get very close to you to make this happen, but with this risk comes the reward! There are also big points for nabbing the pepper refills, which come in the form of Ice cream, French fries, and coffee which periodically and briefly appear in the middle of the playfield, usually at the worst possible time.

The 2600 version of the game is rather impressive in that it manages to present a really detailed playfield, with lots of levels and ladders to walk across. Peter Pepper is well-represented, as are the pepper refill items and Mr. Hot Dog. The representations of Mr. Egg (a rotating white square), Mr. Cheese (a rotating orange square) and Mr. Breadstick (a thin vertical line) aren't quite as impressive visually, but consider this - all of this is happening on the notoriously flickery-when-busy Atari 2600... and there's not a bit of flicker in this game!

The gameplay is very close to the arcade's "feel". One major complaint is that after killing off one of the cruel comestibles, they will re-appear fairly deep into the playfield, and that includes right on top of you. This takes a little getting used to and adds a level of danger that doesn't exist in the arcade, where the baddies appear slightly off-screen and make their way over. As a result, you'll find that the 2600 version of the game is more difficult than the coin-op.

Also consider that the game has five screens, more than we're used to seeing and three more than the best-selling version of Donkey Kong on this system. It may not look very impressive at first, but taking the complexity of the game and the number of the elements that have been preserved from the arcade and you may need to reconsider.

The game is quite easy to find and is well worth the effort to do so. If you want to see how vintage arcade games were translated to a vintage system, this is the perfect example of a great port that maintains the arcade feel and the style of the home console. Just remember that a bit of time with BurgerTime could mean some unpleasant dreams, the likes of which your psychiatrist, mother, girlfriend, and restaurateur would be ashamed.

Bonus Material

Game Info from the DP Online Database:

Designed by Ron Surratt and Pat Lewis DuLong. Based on the 1982 Data East coin-op. PAL version by Dave Akers. While this was a decent conversion given the limitations of the VCS, there were still many bugs in the finished product. Later production runs included a choice of difficulty levels. For a complete list of M-Network games, click HERE.

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Easter Eggs courtesy of Scott Stilphen (check HERE for the Easter Eggs main page):

  • 2 versions exist! Later production runs added a choice of difficulty levels using the TV Type switch (B/W = easy, COLOR = hard) and fixed the first bug listed below.
  • None of the enemies can move beyond the right or left-most ladders (on the first screen), which means the hot dog and bread stick can't touch you if you're standing by the right screen edge.
  • BUG (original version): Cheese and eggs are tall enough that they can sometimes catch the chef when walking on the plank below him. {BSR}
  • BUG: If an enemy touches you while you drop a burger piece out from under him at the same time, the game will crash. {Scott Stilphen}
  • BUG: After you drop the last bun, you can still get killed while it's falling.
  • BUG: Sometimes a falling bun or patty won't kill a nasty that's on a ladder below it.
  • BUG: When the chef is on the bottom step and peppers down, a second headless chef will appear at the top of the screen (picture #1). {BSR}
  • BUG: If you're too close to the right edge of the screen when you pepper, it will wrap-around to the left side.
  • BUG: If you get killed while a bonus treat is displayed, the graphic for the treat may change to a hot dog (picture #2).
  • BUG: If the game is turned on with the pause mode on (Left Difficulty A), it will lock up. Putting the switch to B will then start it.
  • BUG: A slight graphics glitch appears on the chef's hat when using the left-most ladders.
  • FRYING: May result in 100 free chefs! Fry until your chef appears to the left of the top ledge. The rest of the ledges will all be the same length. You won't be able to move your first guy, and you'll get killed. Only problem with this trick is that you won't be able to make any hamburgers.


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Last updated: Saturday, December 13, 2008 07:54 PM