So I just got back from five days with my sis and her kids, and had the glorious experience of introducing her youngest, a 6yo boy, to an arcade classic.

Well, not right off the bat... first we played Burgertime Party, but that got him interested in the other games in the series (three of which are on the Switch now--Burger Time, Super Burger Time, and now Burger Time Party), which when a game can get a kid interested in its predecessors, that's a win in my book.

It's funny how it seems for most people, the Burgertime series began and ended with the original 1982 arcade game. That itself is a game I never discovered until 2012, and it immediately became a favorite. If I had to say why, I think its because the gameplay style has an element of strategy/puzzling that makes you think of the best way to take advantage of the game mechanics and treat the level layout itself as a resource. It's always satisfying to trick an enemy into walking into a burger and make it drop, and its not even done when you're already on your way to the next one. The only major issue Burgertime 1982 has is the controls, where you think you should be able to grab or get off a ladder but then you don't because you're just a pixel or two off. Even after all these years its still something that occasionally gets me killed.

So onto Burgertime Party, which I've read is a Switch-exclusive.

The game begins with an introductory story (in the form of a sort-of animated comic, but lacking any words at all) briefly explaining that Peter Pepper is still fighting sentient foodstuffs by way of walking over giant hamburgers (and in some levels, hot dogs, which can make you stop and think when you realize the most common enemy is a hot dog...), and the rest of the game's visual style is sort of cartoony as well, though I imagine some people will think it looks like a flash game. The music is a similar sort of circus-y thing like the original Burgertime's theme (that theme itself is here, in remixed form).

The characters are small and the levels all fit on the screen. I never had a problem of getting lost--its easy to find yourself or the enemies. Sometimes there are background elements you can interact with, like levers that cause platforms to shift, but the game will always make an indicator appear over you when you're near these.

By the way, Burgertime Party is entirely 2D. It does NOT have the rotating stage gimmick that Burgertime World Tour had. I never played World Tour, but I've heard that a lot of people had issues with that gimmick.


So, onto the gameplay... well, on its face, it's Burger Time, the game that exists to make you hungry. However, there are some changes.

What changes you get, however, depend on which mode you select: "Solo Burger," "Main Burger," "Battle Burger" and "Challenge Burger"... rubble rubble.

I'm gonna start by describing "Challenge Burger" because it's the mode that plays the most like the original 1982 Burger Time... in fact the very first option it gives you is to play remakes of the 1982 game's levels! In this mode you just go through levels one after another, making burgers and trying to rack up points. So far so Burgertime.

But here's where the gameplay differs: First, each enemy now has a specific AI pattern they follow that is different from how they behaved in the 1982 game (at least from what I've seen). Mr. Hot Dog always makes a straight beeline towards you. Mr. Egg is always kinda-sorta trying to come at you but he'll always take whatever ladder he comes across. Mr. Pickle kinda just does whatever until you're nearby, then he starts trying to chase you. Some levels also feature a new enemy, Mr. Donut, who behaves sort of like Mr. Egg but if he sees you standing on the same platform as him, he'll rev up and dash at you. Secondly, there are now power ups--besides the standard pepper refills, there's also a shake that makes you super-fast and invincible so that just touching enemies stuns them, chicken nuggets that temporarily stuns all the enemies, coffee that slows all the enemies down, french fries that cause all the burger pieces to drop one level, and even one-ups.

Also, the enemies now spawn out of trash cans placed in parts of the levels, and you always see and hear them shake when an enemy is about to come out.

Some changes are more like minor tweaks: the pepper has slightly longer range and its possible for enemies to walk into it just as the whiff is about to disappear. Also if you drop a piece of burger with an enemy on it (whether they were stunned or not) they will be stunned when the piece finishes its descent... in some cases giving you a chance to drop them again if you're fast enough. Finally, dying doesn't reset the level, it just keeps going and you respawn in the place you died after ten seconds or such, with a few moments of invulnerability. If that sounds like it breaks the game... it doesn't.


But that's "Challenge Burger" rubble rubble. The main campaigns are "Solo Burger" and "Main Burger," which make more radical changes to the formula. Each stage--selectable from a menu--stands on its own: You always start with three lives and three uses of pepper. Some levels just challenge you to complete the burger and dodge enemies, others are more like puzzles... and they ALL become like puzzles once you become obsessed with earning Gold Star rankings.

The major thing you'll notice is that in Solo and Main, Pepper is unlimited... sort of. After you use it, a meter starts filling and when it fills completely, you gain back a use of pepper. The meter is just slow enough that often its more worthwhile to try to trap the enemies rather than overusing your pepper. There ARE still "pepper refill" pick-ups (these are now the only type of pickup that appear, in fact) but you'll often collect these more for points rather than for pepper.

These levels also introduce a bunch of new obstacles (some of which appear in Challenge Burger maps, but not in any of the 1982 levels), like conveyer belts, floors or ladders that crumble five or so seconds after you touch them, then reappear after a few seconds, levers that make some platforms come out and others retract, ice floors (which can actually be useful as you can move super-fast on them), ice LADDERs (climbing up is slow, climbing down is fast), and grill floors that occasionally light, killing anything standing upon them... and probably more that are slipping my mind at the moment.

Now if your only goal is to make a mound of mondo munchables, these levels are easy.... but I quickly found myself obsessed with the challenge of earning a Gold Star on each level. Each level awards you a star based on how many points you earn, and the amount needed to qualify for "Gold" is different for each level (the lowest star, bronze, is actually required to beat levels, but its threshold is so low that you often reach it just by finishing the level normally). There's at least three levels where you get a gold star just for finishing the level, but most of the time, you have to find a way to not only finish it but make a high score in doing so.

I should note something about this: you get bonus points if a burger part falls with enemies on it... but NOT any points for crushing enemies. In fact, in some levels crushing enemies will severely hamper (if not ruin entirely) your chance for a gold star, since now the enemy has to respawn... and in some levels, once an enemy has been killed, they're dead for good. Which, very often the secret to getting a gold star is to have as many enemies as possible on the highest-up burger piece when it drops, so even one dead enemy can ruin your chances.

And so all the sudden, its become a puzzle, and you sit there deeply analyzing the mechanics and doing things like "I'll spray them with pepper here so it'll hit these guys but not these guys and then by the time they're un-stunned both groups will have bunched up..." its a puzzle, and you're hooked, you can't stop, you must score points...

Though like I said, the threshold for a gold star is different for each level. Some levels will be happy if you just manage to drop a burger with six enemies on it, even if that only finishes half the level. Other times you have to do a perfect "every enemy on every top bun, no exceptions" performance.

The worst, though, is levels where getting a Gold Star actually depends on getting the scoring item. These appear once you've made a certain amount of points (usually just as soon as you've done a drop), but they can appear pretty much on any platform in the level, including places you will never be able to reach them in time, or where going for them forces you to drop a burger and finish the level. So basically, sometimes Gold Stars come down to random chance. Thankfully, I can only remember two levels where this happened (one of them is the second-to-last level of Solo Burger).


So what's the difference between "Solo Burger" and "Main Burger," besides different levels? Well... Main Burger allows cooperative multiplayer. Yeah, co-op in Burgertime.

Played by yourself, I can't remember if Main played any differently than Solo. I THINK some other power-ups can appear but don't quote me on that (truthfully I've been going through Solo before tackling Main).

With a friend, though... well, it actually works pretty well. A change collab (which is also possible in Challenge Burger mode, by the way) brings to the table is that if you get caught by an enemy, your friend has ten seconds to come over and save you, in which case you won't lose a life. You can also scoot around for these ten seconds before you die for real, though you move much slower and can't drop burgers or get power-ups in this state.

Now unfortunately there is one design decision I think is just an outright bad call: you can't walk through the other player. Walking into another player will push them slowly. I've often had times where I was trying to walk past my nephew to get to a ladder but this wound up pushing him into danger or we just blocked each other's path, leading to unnecessary death and ruined strategies. They really should have just let the players walk through each other.


Finally, "Battle Burger" is a pretty fun concept, similar to Pac Man Vs. ... One player is the chef, the other players are all enemies (I actually think you can have more than one chef, but I only had one player to test it with and the game said there had to be *at least* one chef and one enemy). The chefs have to make the burgers while the enemies all try to stop him. In this mode, the chef only gets one use of pepper, but its on a recharge like in Solo and Main (I think it charges slightly faster), while enemies get a temporary speed boost which also has a cooldown after use. Power-ups unique to this mode also randomly appear all over the level. I couldn't even figure out what they all do... there's shoes that make you run faster, but the rest I have no clue. Also, unlike in other modes, in Battle Burger ANYONE--chef and enemies alike--can pick-up powerups.

My only major gripe with this mode is there's a 99-second time limit (the enemies automatically win if the burgers aren't made in that limit), which I wish you could extend or else turn off. That, and there's unfortunately only five Battle Burger levels. I kinda hope more levels become purchasable in the near future (at the time of posting, there was NO DLC for this game).


Now, overall, I had a blast with Burgertime Party, and I'm gonna go try to get gold stars after I post this.

However, I do have my small issues:

One is more just a "huh?" than a genuine gripe... despite being a 2D game, you can't move with the D-pad, you must use the analog stick. To be honest you quickly get used to it (and the control is nowhere near as stiff as the original Burgertime), but it was a choice I found odd at first.

Two, the button for using levers and such is the same as the pepper button. I never found this to be an issue, but its something I could see becoming a problem.

My major gripe is the afformentioned "sometimes getting a gold star requires you to grab the scoring item, essentially making it luck-based" thing. This seems like a design oversight... in one level, I reached the EXACT amount of points the screen claimed would earn me a gold star, but didn't earn it, and it turned out I needed to *exceed* the indicated number, not meet it exactly. I find it kinda strange that the goal would be more along the lines of "go one point over this," but whatever, didn't stop me from doing it, and it only hampers a few levels.


So yeah. Burgertime Party. It's a game I'm shocked isn't more well-known. It's just as good as the original Burgertime, maybe even better depending on your tastes, and its definitely some of the most fun I'm having with my Switch (right next to Puyo Puyo Tetris, another game which can score you in individual missions...)

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm suddenly feeling a little hungry....