BurgerTime never gets its just desserts. This '80s arcade classic from Data East was a big hit back in the glory days of the quarter gobbler, but the game never seems to hit many top 10 lists and has been all but ignored in the rush to port everything from Pac-Man to Time Pilot to contemporary consoles. But burger-tromping (and likely health department-violating) chef Peter Pepper finally makes his return in BurgerTime: World Tour as an Xbox Live Arcade effort from developer MonkeyPaw Games. Unfortunately, once you get past the nostalgia evoked by battling sinister foodstuffs and listening to the memorable musical score from 1982, the game turns into a frustrating muddle.
At first, however, this new BurgerTime comes off a bit like the old BurgerTime. You take on the role of mustachioed chef Peter Pepper (or your Xbox avatar) in a surreal world. Burgers are put together by running around floating scaffolding and stomping on patties, cheese, tomatoes, buns, and other fixings that were probably damn delicious before Pete got his size-10 loafers all over them. Every time you run across one of these items, it falls a floor down and is one step closer to its final destination on a big plate at the bottom of the level. Of course, making burgers in this rather athletic fashion isn't as easy as it sounds. Enemy foods like eggs, hot dogs, and pickles aren't too happy about Peter's love of red meat, so you have to dodge them, crush them by dropping ingredients on them, or send them on a ride down when you run over the burger fixing of your choice. With one touch from baddies, you die, so it's fortunate that you can stun them with the blasts of pepper that were your one weapon back in 1982. Or you can take advantage of new features like the ability to jump and employ power-ups that include a whirlwind spatula attack and rockets that boost you to upper levels without the use of ladders.
The above recipe could have made for a welcome BurgerTime update, but developer MonkeyPaw Games pushed things a little too far and turned the game into a complete reenvisioning of the original. The biggest issue here is 3D level design and an odd camera perspective. Instead of playing against a flat Donkey Kong-style arrangement of ladders and girders as in the original game, you express your love of artery-clogging treats in kind of a theater-in-the-round setting where the camera revolves around the whole map. This concept is totally unnecessary and confusing, so much so that the developers had to add an arrow pointing you to the next burger to be stomped. Even with this navigational tool, the circular perspective and busy level design lead to a lot of frustration. You get lost a lot and inevitably run straight into unseen enemies coming around the curvature of the maps. Giant scowling hot dogs just shouldn't be able to sneak up on you as they do.
Controls and collision detection are also off. Peter slides around on burger patties and tomatoes like a sports car on black ice, and he can even careen off of plain-old platforms. Because the game requires a lot of precisely timed jumps around collapsing and flipping floors, the lack of fine control leads to many untimely deaths. Even when you don't die, it's too easy to miss jumping targets and wind up falling down to the start of levels like you were on a bad streak in a game of Snakes and Ladders.
For what it's worth, there is a lot of content here. There are dozens of levels in the game spread out among campaigns set on the city streets of New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Mexico. Everything looks pretty good, too, although the cartoony attractiveness of the settings is offset by all of the detail. The backgrounds are as cluttered up as an episode of Hoarders. So it's easy to lose sight of enemies and even run into a corner with a pack of hot dogs in hot pursuit because you didn't notice a wall. Sound effects are updated with a nod to the old game, with a remastered version of the original score that's pretty catchy, along with cute additions like growling eggs. The challenge factor is high right from the beginning, with lots of fast-paced levels strewn with enemies, condiment-blasting cannons, giant impaling screws, loads of soaring platforms, and huge burgers you can stack. So you'll likely need a good six or seven hours to plow through the entire single-player experience, which is pretty good value for an 800-point ($10) XBLA game. Split-screen and online multiplayer let you duke it out with rival chefs in timed burger battles, but neither is very playable. It's difficult to get into a quick match because almost nobody is playing, and split-screen local play scrunches the maps so much that it's hard to see what's happening.
Stick with the original. BurgerTime: World Tour has its heart in the right place and evokes fond memories of a nearly 30-year-old classic arcade game, but the 3D perspective, control problems, and too many ill-advised additions to the basic formula make this one hard burger to get down.