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. It's equal in quality to commercial conversions that were produced for many platformers in the early- to mid-'80s, 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 Atari's classic arcade conversions of the early '80s. 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 didn't 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 you'll start out with five of them. Pepper can be increased by capturing the screen's bonus items, and you'll 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 game's third level.
Beef Drop's difficulty ramping is excellent. I hadn't played Burgertime since my cousins broke their ColecoVision in 1985, and I utilized the game's "child" mode until I re-familiarized myself with the game's unique environment. Most gamers will be content with Beef Drop's "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 third-party controller.
BD's graphics aren't quite arcade-perfect, but they're 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 it's 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.
BD's 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 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 Atari's 8-bit computer line in producing matchless conversions of the most exciting and challenging arcade classics of the '80s.
Available from the AtariAge store for the 8-bit; also available as an image for use with the AtariMax flashcart; 16K and joystick controllers required.