It was not long ago that I came across what seems like an ancient piece of writing that I inscribed so many years ago. Pressure Cooker, was my first review for The Atari Times and while we are soon quickly approaching nine years since the article was published, it was only recently re-published to the front page of the Atari Times.
Frankly, a lot has changed in nine years since I first played this game. In fact, I was so proud of the accomplishment of having someone want a piece of my writing, that I never actually cashed the two dollar cheque that was issued out in my name. The long time editor of the Atari Times should be able to attest to that.
When I look back at the humble review, the obvious faults of my (still today) youthful approach to writing are evident. My revisit of this not-quite-as-classic Activision game is not my attempt to re-write history, but rather to take another look at the universe of Pressure Cooker in as best an analysis as I can muster.
Pressure Cooker is one of the few video games that trains young children to prepare for a job that they may one day take up. In this service based economy, some young teenagers may be preparing to take the career of the short-order cook to heart. Pressure Cooker provides ample preparation for the hectic pace of the business. Any trip to a busy fast food joint will quickly reveal the sheer speed and reflexes required to accomplish what seems to be a menial minimum wage job. It is only recently that I am truly capable of understanding the name of the game, Pressure Cooker, a game about a cook, under pressure. Ha-ha. My own speed of comprehending this humour took only a decade.
In the game itself, our hero the cook, bearing the same uncanny resemblance to Nintendo's Mario as ever, hastily scurries about the kitchen space (which by any standard is luxurious) and prepares the pre-ordered selection of hamburger sandwiches quickly demanding to be fulfilled by impatient customers.
The mechanism which issues both the prepared patties and the condiments is even to this day an advanced piece of technology. The hamburgers are not only cooked, but placed on their bottom bun piece in record time. The flame broiled method guarantees these burgers are delicious. Those who may visit a local White Castle in the United States knows what I mean when comparing the difference between something like burger king to the "steamed hams" machinery of a "slider" hamburger.
While it is easy to sing high praise of this hamburger machine so early in its description, the method in which toppings are applied would shock any chef. Using a high underhanded pitch, the toppings of lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, onions, and the top bun are tossed directly into the path of Pressure Cooker Employee: 95,011.
Surely our man the cook is of high experience as his abilities to catch anything coming his way with the grace to be able to place the ordered condiment upon burgers, without damage no less, is all amazingly enough a critical part of the game. You, as the player, must be able to catch these toppings, quickly discern which hamburger is worthy of the particular order, deal with the absurdly psuedo-random method in which the topping sorter throws those slices of suffering your way.
Well sir, this is flavour country, and your complaints that the game sent you six slices of delicious processed cheese in a row falls upon deaf ears. Your job is to catch that slice of onion, plop it on that burger and toss it into its proper chute. This brings us to another question, what is the significance of the colour scheme in the lower screen? A cheeseburger with tomato goes down the blue chute, only for a plain hamburger to follow it. What method of madness is our cook forced to bear? The disgrace of airborne cheese, the confusion of randomized toppings, and the absurdly confusing colour system in which orders are processed!
It can only be assumed that the columns correspond to unseen cashiers who clearly must deal with a cash system that randomises its keypad every 15 seconds. Surely this would have been our sequel had Pressure Cooker managed to sell more than the 26 copies it did.
Games like Cooking Mama show us that cooking can be fun, Pressure Cooker only shows us the truth, no matter how hard you try, you're destined to failure. And also that even the master Chefs of Cordon Bleu may find themselves slaving away to a machine designed to make you give up. Some call it the restaurant business. I don't think I could disagree.
Still the best 50 cents I've ever spent on video games.