I'm lovin' it
By David SherwinOctober 11, 2004
Now you know who you have to beat!
Of course, the best(?) strategy is to go to the top and knock those buns down.
Last April 1, rumours began to circulate
amongst Atari fans that a long-lost prototype of the 1982 arcade smash
Burgertime had surfaced for the Atari 5200. Many dismissed these
comments out-of-hand, noting the date of this particular "discovery",
but were forced to reevaluate their initial position when they
discovered the "gag" to be a fully playable game demo. Ultimately, Ken
Siders was unmasked as the coding prankster, and he has kept 5200
enthusiasts buzzing for months with regular updates that has tweaked
this port even closer to the original game. Christened Beef Drop
to avoid legal tangles and pitfalls associated with its playalike
predecessor, Beef Drop has now also been converted to the 8-bit
Beef Drop is, simply, an excellent port of an excellent arcade
game made more impressive by the fact that Siders coded this one
completely from scratch. Itís equal in quality to commercial conversions
that were produced for many platformers in the early- to mid-í80s, and
an absolute blast to play. I spent hours of quality time with Chef Pete
and his gang the day my copy arrived on cartridge for the 8-bit
computers (with many thanks to Steve Tucker), and can assert that it
truly ranks with some of Atariís classic arcade conversions of the early
Ď80s. Beef Drop is, without question, a game to which players
will return -- and enjoy -- for years to come.
For all of its novel theme, Burgertime was a standard platformer
and didnít seek to improve or greatly modify this particular gaming
genre. The goal of Beef Drop, like its famous predecessor, is to
"build" sandwiches by running over each of their component parts while
avoiding enemy characters (here Mr. Dill, Mr. Yolk, and Frank the hot
dog). Pepper pots enable players to neutralize enemies for short periods
of time, and youíll start out with five of them. Pepper can be increased
by capturing the screenís bonus items, and youíll also get one
additional pot for every screen that you clear. Game level is indicated
by a small food-oriented graphic on the bottom right hand of the screen.
Although Beef Drop is uniform in its gameplay through all levels,
some new elements are gradually added to provide additional incentive
for continued play. Hot dog sandwiches appear in the higher levels, and
I note that Mr. Dill does not make his appearance until the gameís third
Beef DropĎs difficulty ramping is excellent. I hadnít played
Burgertime since my cousins broke their ColecoVision in 1985, and I
utilized the gameís "child" mode until I re-familiarized myself with the
gameís unique environment. Most gamers will be content with Beef DropĎs
"normal" mode, but platform fanatics can try their hand at the "expert"
level too. I lasted all of three levels of the "expert" level before
suffering an untimely death at the hands of Mr. Yolk and his compadres.
Gaming controls are very sensitive and responsive, but I was still very
thankful for my Wico joystick when the action became fast and furious at
the higher levels of play. I suspect that Beef Drop will
challenge most 5200 enthusiasts who decide to play this game with their
fragile Atari-issued joysticks, and recommend the purchase of, at the
very least, a reconditioned joystick to those who do not own a superior
BDís graphics arenít quite arcade-perfect, but theyíre close
enough to satisfy all but the most finicky fans of the arcade original.
All of the condiment characters of the original game show up here, and
they look and act much like the sprites that so delighted gamers in
other console versions of the game. Siders has done an excellent job
imparting Frank with his trademark wiggle, and itís hard not to smile at
the antics of Mr. Dill and Mr. Yolk as they wobble around the screen. I
was also delighted to see that all of the whimsical bonuses here match
those found in the arcade.
BDís title screen is worth mentioning as one of the better
examples to be seen on the 5200 or in older 8-bit games, and the
"character introduction" is a nice touch and reminiscent of the title
screens of such classic arcade ports as Pac-Man and Millipede.
BD does suffer from some in-game flicker in the higher difficulty
modes when large numbers of enemies are present on the screen at one
time. This is, however, understandable given hardware limitations, as
the game was coded to fit the minimal specifications of the 5200. Any
present flicker is more of an annoyance than an actual gaming obstacle,
and should not effect gameplay in any substantial way.
Sound and Music
Sound effects are clear and distinct and fairly close in tone to the
arcade originals. Individual tones indicate upcoming enemies and
bonuses, and are therefore of some use to gameplay.
In-game music is limited to a simple, catchy tune that is repeated
through gameplay. Players will either be delighted or extremely annoyed
by it, but those few in the latter group are well advised to use the
"volume" control on their monitors.
A simple tune also heralds the completion of each gaming level, but it
was strangely off-key and garbled in the demo version that I played. I
am sure that this glitch will be corrected in upcoming versions of BD.
BD is pretty much a note-perfect port of a particularly amusing
arcade game, and will find favour with most classic gaming enthusiasts.
Kudos to Ken Siders, who spent months of his life assembling all of the
right gaming ingredients to produce an instant classic and fill a very
large hole in the 8-bit library. Like the recently-released Castle
Crisis, Beef Drop is an excellent illustration that few older
consoles could truly best Atariís 8-bit computer line in producing
matchless conversions of the most exciting and challenging arcade
classics of the Ď80s.
Available from the AtariAge store for the 8-bit; also available as an
image for use with the AtariMax flashcart; 16K and joystick controllers