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Monday, May 26, 2014

NES Replay: BurgerTime

Developer: Data East
Publisher: Data East
Released: May 1987

Kurt Vonnegut, the late, great famous author, told a story about his brief time at Sports Illustrated. His first day at the magazine, he was assigned to write a story about a horse that jumped a fence and tried to run away. He stared at the paper for about a half an hour before finally typing, "The horse jumped over the fucking fence," then left.

That's how I felt while I was trying to write about BurgerTime. "The cook walked over the fucking burger."

In BurgerTime, you play a little cook that has to walk over pieces of a hamburger, which drops them down to the lower levels of the screen. Completed burgers earn you points. Meanwhile, food items are following you around the level and trying to kill you, and attacking or killing them only stops them for a second or two before they respawn. It's like Guy Fieri's fever dreams come to life.


BurgerTime is fun, kind of. It feels like the difficulty is ramped up a touch compared to the arcade original, but it's still an entertaining time, a completely competent game with no major demerits or outstanding bright spots. It's like the gaming equivalent of a Chevy Lumina: Not flashy, and won't brag that you have one, but it gets you where you need to go.

So let's talk about Data East. So far, some of the stinkiest stinkers in the NES' lineup have been games by Data East, like Tag Team Wrestling and Karate Champ. However, in their early years, starting from 1976 to about 1982, they had some pretty cool games. BurgerTime was originally released in 1982, and after that they kind of lost their way. Even their good games, like Caveman Ninja and Al Unser Jr's Turbo Racing, were never great.

How come? In 1981, a few of Data East's people broke off and formed Technōs. It appears like all of the good developers split off and made Technōs, while the ones who knew how to run a business stayed at Data East. Technōs ended up developing Double Dragon, Renegade, and River City Ransom and collaborating with Nintendo on Nintendo World Cup, but they closed in 1996 due to bankruptcy. Data East lasted all the way to 2003, but they never had another hit like BurgerTime and pretty much were able coast off of that initial success.

There's really not much more to say about BurgerTime, unfortunately. It's good, but nothing remarkable.

Final Rating: