I won’t lie to you, there’s a very strong chance that I decided to write about today’s game because I was hungry while I was scrolling through the list of possible candidates. Mind you, that’s no less scientific than how I usually decide what to cover next. Here it is, then: Sachen’s 1991 Game Boy yo-yo-diet-em-up Crazy Burger!
At first glance, this burger does not seem to have earned the “crazy” moniker. It’s got buns, it’s got fillings, and while there is a small flag sticking out of it that makes this burger dangerous to eat near a golf course, it’s not like the burger is so crazy that it has cybernetic implants or is trying to convince you that the moon landings were faked. Then you look a big closer and you realise the burger is filled with what look like fat, white maggots. Well, guess I’m not hungry any more.
Bang, here’s the gameplay. Are you excited? You probably shouldn’t be, because this is an unlicensed Game Boy game from notorious garbage merchant Sachen, creators of such titles as Hell Fighter and Silent Assault. My hope is that the obvious simplicity of Crazy Burger, which seems to be a Pac-Man-esque maze chase, will prevent it from being too awful.
The basics, then: you play as the twig-limbed chap in the centre of the screenshot above. I rather like his simplistic design, you know. The reason for our hero’s very basic form will be revealed soon enough, but for now let’s figure out what’s going on. You can walk around, moving through the narrow corridors… and that’s where I got stuck. There are no obvious exits, no switches to flip, and I spent an embarrassingly long time just not getting it until I finally caved and went to look up what I was supposed to be doing.
Okay, now I’ve got it. Each stage contains a number of boxes. You have to collect all the boxes and then get rid of them by throwing them into the fire-pit pictured above. At the most basic level, this is all you do in Crazy Burger – you burn trash, presumably without a permit, amidst a labyrinth made from chairs, tables and small sections of brick wall with eggs perched delicately atop them. Forget the eggs, the eggs aren’t important. Focus on gathering the boxes, which is easier said than done: you can only carry up to three boxes at a time, and every box you’re carrying makes your character move more slowly. At first I had assumed the boxes were empty and you’re supposed to be tidying up, but having them slow you down means there must be something in them. My leading theory is that they contain damning evidence concerning our hero’s upcoming trial.
In my experience, it was best not to carry more than two boxes at once. Otherwise you become too slow to safely avoid… the food.
Oh god, there it is. While racing to collect that box at the bottom-left, our hero is trapped by a wandering soda cup and menacing french fries and man, those really sound like enemies from a Mother game. Anyway, the foods are a bit like Pac-Man’s ghosts, in that they wander around the maze trying to harm you. Unlike Pac-Man’s ghosts their movements are random, as far as I could tell, and you don’t die if you touch the food. Well, not right away.
What happens is that you start getting fat. This implies our hero ate the food, either because they can’t control their raging hunger or because the food forced itself down his throat. Neither scenario is all that pleasant to think about, but unfortunately I couldn’t avoid the food forever and now our hero is looking a little chunky. That’d be fine, but the bigger you are the slower you move, and it stacks with any boxes you’re carrying so a few poorly-chosen steps can mean that you immediately go from svelte and speedy to a lumbering lummox, dragging yourself through the stage with agonisingly slowness. You can survive “eating” four times, gradually becoming slower and more rotund with each meal consumed, and eating a fifth morsel will cause your body to give out entirely and you’ll lose a life. When you do start packing on the pounds, my advice is this: drop any boxes you’re carrying, because you can leave them on the floor where you’re standing and come back for them later. Then make your way to the Exercise Cube.
Don’t worry, the evil foodstuffs cannot penetrate the walls of the Exercise Cube, so get in there and pump some iron. Tap the button to lift the weights, do it for long enough and our hero will shed those extra pounds and get back to a running speed that’ll allow you to collect the boxes without a seven-foot hot dog inserting itself directly into our hero’s arteries. I’m impressed our hero can even lift the weights with those noodly arms, but I suppose if his only other options are a catastrophic heart attack or a horrifying, unthinkable future where boxes remain unburned then he’ll find the strength from somewhere.
That’s about it for the gameplay. Once you’ve burned all the boxes, you move on to the next stage (or “Place,” as the game calls them) and do it all again with a different maze layout and more food to avoid.
One thing I did learn is that you have to be careful when exercising. If you mash the weightlifting button too fast, the exertion becomes too much for our hero and his heart explodes. He dies, which is bad, but if this screenshot is anything to go by he also turns into a genie, so clouds and silver linings and all that.
It turns out that making the player out of featureless shapes was a clever idea, because it’s a lot easier to turn a rectangle into a circle than it is to completely re-sprite an actual character into a series of fatter and fatter forms. I do like the character’s porkiest form, it’s pretty charming and the fact that sweat flies from its brow when it's “running” engenders a certain feeling of camaraderie.
Half the fun – okay, more like ninety percent – of Crazy Burger comes from trying to figure out what the hell the backgrounds are supposed to represent. They’re a strange mix of the obvious, like the chairs from earlier, and segments that are so abstract as to be unrecognisable. For instance, here we’ve got the fast food restaurant that the food spawns from, and that’s obviously what it’s supposed to be thanks to the famous Monochrome Arches sticking out of the top... but it’s set amidst a forest of indecipherable cylindrical lumps and I have no idea what those are supposed to be. Tree stumps? Extremely weathered litter bins? I don’t have a clue, and I don’t have time to investigate the matter because I’m being chased by a vicious boiled sweet that wants revenge for the thousands of mint humbugs I have consumed over the years. Joke’s on you, pal, my repeated trips to the dentist were penance enough.
“’Scale’? Who gives a crap about scale?! The hotel’s doors are as tall as the neighbouring bungalows where I live, are you saying I live in an incomprehensible nega-zone where the laws of physical reality hold no dominion? Look, if it bothers you that much I’ll throw in a few more walls with eggs on top, okay?”
What? The gameplay? Yeah, sure, Crazy Burger has some of that.
Oh, you wanted more information, VGJunk said to the non-existent person he’s talking to right now. Okay then. Crazy Burger’s gameplay is okay, I suppose. I didn’t hate it, although I did hate bits of it. The core concept of avoiding enemies in a maze is fine, and the gathering of boxes is also fine. The whole “eat and grow fat” part is more of a mixed bag. I do honestly like the concept of gaining and losing weight, and of having to visit the Exercise Cube. It’s a fun gimmick that you don’t see all that often (it kinda cropped up later in Data East’s Diet Go Go) and seeing your character gradually go from On The Waterfront Marlon Brando to Island of Dr. Moreau Marlon Brando is neat. There’s a surprising amount of character there, packed into something made from geometric shapes.
The weight gain is also one of Crazy Burger’s biggest failings, though, mostly because of the slowing down of your movement speed. Crazy Burger’s not exactly a fast-paced game to start with, and once you get past the early, easier stages you spend so much of your play time burdened by both boxes and girth that the slowness of your character stops being an inherent challenge of the gameplay and becomes, well, boring. It’s not much fun trying to avoid the deadly food when your character runs like me twenty minutes after my Christmas dinner, and repeatedly dragging yourself back to the Exercise Cube feels like watching a glacier getting out of bed on a Monday morning.
The killer foodstuffs themselves are another issue. Their movements are completely random, as far as I could tell. They might be slightly biased to moving towards the player, that could easily be me seeing things that aren’t there. This means that the food will often occupy the narrow corridors between you and the boxes, wandering around aimlessly and getting in your way without any means of luring them somewhere else. There is a drink bottle on each stage that acts like a Power Pellet and lets you eat the food with no weight-gain, but it doesn’t last long enough for you to clear out the stage and the food respawns anyway. Too much waiting around for a roaming chicken drumstick that may or may not decide to shift its calorific arse can bring the game to a screeching halt, and later stages especially can become tedious.
Speaking of screeching, would you be surprised to learn that every second of Crazy Burger’s gameplay is accompanied by a twenty-second loop of the same god-awful music over and over again, a brain-scrapingly painful tune composed by someone whose relationship to melody and tone could be described as “antagonistic and hateful?”
At least you don’t have to hear the music for that long even if you do decide to play through all of Crazy Burger, because there are only fifteen stages. Once they’re done, we can sit back and enjoy the rather confusing ending.
Here’s the text in full. Perhaps you can make more sense of it than I did.
For the sacrifice of great hamburger burger town finally returns to tranguil. Hamburger stores close down for lack of raw material. And now people can walk on the street fearlessly, they don’t have to worry about the attack of mad hamburgers. However, the fat are still fat. The only thing changed is that no one in burger town dares to eat fast food any more.
So… those weren’t metaphorical killer hamburgers, then? Deadly foods really were patrolling the streets and slaughtering anyone who opposed them. And I guess the boxes I was burning were full of… fast food ingredients? No wonder the food was so angry, I was essentially murdering their children. It feels like Sachen were trying to make a point about the rampant consumption of quick and easy but harmful foods, only their point was poorly thought out and doesn’t make much sense. You know, just like Sachen’s games.
It’s a little sad to be saying this, but I think Crazy Burger might be the “best” Sachen game I’ve played. It’s amazingly mediocre, split almost down the middle between its good ideas like the weight mechanic and weird setting and its bad ones, such as the music and the fact that game can get incredibly slow. For an unlicensed Game Boy title that I think might have only ever been released as part of a four-in-one multicart, though, it’s a goddamn masterpiece. Now, I’m off to find the menu for my local takeaway place and see if they can deliver me a burger the size of a small house.
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