Cooking Up Nostalgia with the Video Game BurgerTime

If you came across a game about making burgers, you might expect it to imitate the real-life process – just like the simulation cooking games you can download on your devices. But with BurgerTime, you get a chef running away from ingredients while stomping on buns so they could fall down and build the burger.

Though it had a silly concept, BurgerTime gained popularity and earned a place alongside other top 80s arcade game titles. While it may not be as widely recognized as its other popular arcade contemporaries, it’s not too hard to see why it did well back in its heyday.

Want to know more about this quirky game? Read on to see what it’s about.

Introduction

BurgerTime is a classic arcade video game released in 1982 by Data East. In this game, the player acts as Chef Peter Pepper, whose mission is to make hamburgers. He assembles it by walking over the ingredients – which include hamburger patties, lettuce, tomatoes, and buns – and making them fall to the bottom of the screen to create complete burgers.

While doing so, you will need to navigate through a maze of platforms and ladders while avoiding food-themed enemies like hot dogs, fried eggs, and pickles who are chasing you.

This game gained popularity in arcades and was licensed for distribution in the United States by Bally Midway. The only difference between the Data East and Midway versions is the manufacturer’s name displayed on the screen and the cabinet artwork.

The game was initially titled “Hamburger,” but it was changed to “BurgerTime” to avoid trademark issues outside of Japan. It also became the title used for Japanese versions and sequels.

BurgerTime was eventually ported to home gaming consoles, starting with the Intellivision in 1983. Data East went bankrupt in 2003, and G-Mode now owns the rights to the BurgerTime franchise, which includes games like BurgerTime DeluxeSuper BurgerTime, and Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory.

Gameplay

In the original arcade version of BurgerTime, the controls typically consisted of a joystick for movement and a button to make Chef Peter Pepper drop ingredients. Here are the elements of the game:

1. The Maze

The game takes place in a vertical, multi-level maze made up of platforms and ladders. These platforms have various levels and are arranged in a way that resembles a giant hamburger assembly line. The maze is filled with burger ingredients such as hamburger patties, lettuce, tomatoes, and buns scattered across the platforms.

2. Controlling Chef Peter Pepper

You control Chef Peter Pepper, who is located at the top of the screen. Your goal is to guide Chef Peter Pepper to assemble burgers by walking over the ingredients, causing them to fall down one level each time he steps on them. You navigate Chef Peter Pepper across the platforms and ladders to do this.

3. Assembling Burgers

To create a burger, you must make the ingredients fall in the correct order, with the bottom bun at the very bottom, followed by the patty, lettuce, tomato, and top bun. If you step on a bun, patty, lettuce, or tomato, they will drop down one level at a time until they reach the bottom and form a complete burger.

4. Dealing with Enemies

As you’re trying to assemble burgers, food-themed enemies like Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Egg are chasing you. You must avoid these enemies because they can harm Chef Peter Pepper on contact. If an enemy catches him, you lose one of your lives.

Chef Peter Pepper can defeat these enemies by strategically dropping burger ingredients onto them, causing them to be temporarily stunned and disappear. However, the enemies will eventually respawn, so the player must keep moving and assembling burgers to progress.

5. Bonus Items

Throughout the levels, there are bonus items like ice cream cones and coffee cups that appear sporadically. Collecting these items grants you extra points.

6. Progression

As you advance through the levels, the maze becomes more complex with additional platforms and ingredients, and the enemies become faster and more challenging to avoid. The game’s difficulty increases as you progress, making it progressively more challenging to complete each level.

The game has six increasingly challenging boards with more burgers, ingredients, enemies, and complex layouts. If you complete all six, the cycle starts again. You lose a life if you touch an unstunned enemy, and the game ends when you run out of lives.

7. Scoring

You earn points for various actions in the game, such as assembling burgers, defeating enemies, and collecting bonus items. The goal is to achieve a high score by efficiently making burgers while avoiding or defeating enemies.

8. Lives and Game Over

You start the game with a certain number of lives and lose a life each time an enemy catches Chef Peter Pepper. If you run out of lives, the game is over. Your goal is to achieve the highest score possible before this happens.

BurgerTime offers a mix of strategy and fast-paced action, as you must plan your movements to create burgers while evading and, when necessary, stunning the pursuing enemies. The game’s simplicity and addictive gameplay made it a beloved classic in the arcade era.

Ingredients and Obstacles

pixelated illustration of food items

In BurgerTime, you need to assemble ingredients to make a burger, pathways to go through, and obstacles to avoid. Here are the main ingredients and obstacles you encounter in the game:

Ingredients:

  1. Hamburger Patties: These are the main components of the burgers you must assemble. Hamburger patties must be stepped on to make them fall to the next level, eventually reaching the bottom bun to complete a burger.
  2. Lettuce: Lettuce leaves are one of the burger toppings. They function like hamburger patties, falling to the lower levels when Chef Peter Pepper walks over them. Lettuce is typically placed above the patty in a burger.
  3. Tomatoes: Just like patties and lettuce, they must be walked over to make them fall to lower levels. Tomatoes are usually placed above the lettuce in a burger.
  4. Buns: Buns are the top and bottom parts of the burger. They are located at the very top and bottom of the maze. When ingredients fall to the bottom level, they stack up to create a complete burger.

Enemies, Pathways and Weapons:

  1. Enemies (Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle, Mr. Egg, etc.): These are the primary obstacles in the game. They are food-themed characters that chase after Chef Peter Pepper as he tries to assemble burgers. Touching an enemy costs you a life. However, you can temporarily disable enemies by dropping ingredients on them.
  2. Pepper Shaker: Chef Peter Pepper carries a pepper shaker, which can be used to drop pepper onto enemies. When pepper is dropped on an enemy, they are stunned and temporarily removed from the screen.
  3. Ladders: Ladders allow Chef Peter Pepper to move between different maze levels. You can use them to avoid enemies and navigate to where you need to assemble burgers.
  4. Conveyor Belts: Some levels feature conveyor belts that move Chef Peter Pepper in one direction. These can be both helpful and challenging, depending on your strategy.
  5. Platforms and Stairs: These are the pathways you traverse to move around the maze. Platforms can be used to create paths for ingredients to fall through, helping you assemble burgers.

As you progress through the game, the maze’s layout becomes more complex, and the placement of ingredients and enemies becomes trickier. You’ll need to develop strategies to efficiently assemble burgers while avoiding and dealing with the pursuing enemies.

Reception

BurgerTime quickly became a beloved classic in the early arcade era. Its unique gameplay and concept set it apart from the early 80s arcade scene, in which space shooters and maze chase games dominated.

Critics had praised the game for its ingenuity and engaging gameplay. Electronic Games, a leading gaming magazine of the era, lauded its original gameplay mechanics and challenging levels, ranking it highly among contemporary arcade games. Similarly, Computer and Video Games Magazine praised its graphics, controls, and the unique appeal of its platform-style gameplay, which was a deviation from the norm.

In Japan, Hamburger (the original title) ranked as the 11th highest-grossing arcade video game of the year. After its North American debut at the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) show in November 1982, BurgerTime received positive reviews. Video Games magazine listed it as the fourth-best game at the show, praising its music, challenging mazes, and comical characters. The game’s quirky charm and engaging gameplay were well-received, with some reviewers comparing it favorably to classics like Donkey Kong.

BurgerTime also received a Certificate of Merit at the 5th annual Arkie Awards, specifically in the category of “1984 Videogame of the Year (Less than 16K ROM).”

Sequels

There are several sequels and spin-offs to the original BurgerTime:

  1. Arcade Spin-offs: BurgerTime had arcade spin-offs called Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory from 1984 and a sequel named Super BurgerTime in 1990. In Super BurgerTime, you play as Peter Pepper Jr., and it allows two players to team up simultaneously. While it retains the essence of the original, it introduces numerous new features and has a different graphical style.
  2. Console-Only Sequel – Diner: After INTV Corp. acquired the Intellivision console from Mattel in 1984, a console-only sequel titled Dineremerged. In Diner, Peter Pepper must kick food balls off platforms and down ramps, aiming to land them on a large plate at the screen’s bottom. The challenge lies in avoiding or squashing enemy food items attempting to obstruct him.
  3. BurgerTime Deluxe: This version hit the Game Boy in 1991, offering gameplay similar to the original arcade game. It stayed true to the classic.
  4. The Flintstones CrossoverThe Flintstones: BurgerTime in Bedrockwas released on Game Boy Color in 2000, merging the world of The Flintstones with the BurgerTime concept.
  5. BurgerTime Delight: In 2007, Namco released BurgerTime Delightfor mobile devices. This version included new graphics, characters, and power-ups. There were both arcade and enhanced mode levels, with added challenges like falling ice and rising fire from the grill. Besides the classic pepper, a salt shaker was introduced, stunning all enemies on the screen when collected.
  6. BurgerTime World Tour: It was a 3D update of the game released in 2011 for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network and in 2012 for WiiWare. However, it was delisted from Xbox Live Arcade in April 2014.
  7. BurgerTime Party!: G-Mode and XSEED Games launched a re-imagined version of the game titled BurgerTime Party! for the Nintendo Switch in 2019. This release introduced new modes and redesigned elements.

Re-releases

The arcade version of BurgerTime has been made available in various collections over the years. It can be found in collections like Arcade’s Greatest Hits: Midway Collection 2 for the PlayStation and Data East Arcade Classics for the Wii.

In late 2019 and early 2020, it was even released in an arcade cabinet designed for home use by the manufacturer Arcade1Up. This cabinet includes BurgerTime and other Data East titles like Karate ChampCaveman Ninja, and Bad Dudes. Interestingly, despite featuring multiple games, the cabinet’s artwork focuses solely on BurgerTime.

For those who enjoy retro gaming on modern platforms, the NES and Famicom Disk System versions were made available on the Wii Virtual Console. The Game Boy version, BurgerTime Deluxe, also became accessible on the 3DS Virtual Console in 2011. If you have a Nintendo Entertainment System, you can find the NES version included in the Data East All-Star Collection released in 2017.

More recently, in July 2020, the 1982 arcade version of BurgerTime became part of the Arcade Archives series, available for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

Additionally, a revamped version of the game is in the works exclusively for the Intellivision Amico gaming system.

Legacy

BurgerTime was a popular arcade game in the early 1980s and was later ported to various home gaming platforms, including the Atari 2600, Intellivision, and others. It remains a nostalgic favorite among retro gaming enthusiasts and has seen re-releases on modern gaming systems as well.

The game is remembered for its simple yet addictive gameplay and colorful, whimsical graphics. It is a classic example of the golden age of arcade gaming and has left a lasting impact on the history of video games.