Out back of the Hardcore Gamer office you’ll find our Graveyard, where countless long-dead classics lie. We come here to pay our respects, to reminisce, and to wonder aloud what a passing mad doctor might be able do with all these corpses and some high-definition lightning.
Years ago, a group of cultists tried to summon the dark lord of chaos to bring about the end of the world. Unfortunately for them, one of their fat members stopped at Burger King on the way to their ritual and ended up getting Whopper grease all over the sacrificial lamb. The dark lord of chaos was not summoned, but in his place was the physical manifestation of fear itself, and he spent his days running back and forth between neighborhoods and surprising his innocent victims with subpar fast food. Many refer to him as The Burger King. Others refer to him as the dead eyed horror creature that won’t leave their front lawn. Still others don’t call him anything, because when they opened their mouth to try and scream the only noise that would come out was the Burger King jingle.
And because advertising executives confused “find a way to sell more burgers” with “ensure the children of the world stop sleeping,” this unholy creature became the official mascot for Burger King for nearly a full decade. While this in and of itself seems like a mistake egregious enough to not only get the entire advertising department fired, but banned from moving in with a mile of a park, for some reason this didn’t happen and Burger King continued to churn out terrifying commercial after terrifying commercial. Eventually, even the advertisers themselves began to wonder why they hadn’t been fired yet and came to suspect they had been trapped in some sort of limbo for releasing this monstrosity upon unsuspecting masses. In a desperate attempt to get fired and escape, they pitched their bosses the idea of releasing a series of three video games staring the King. Either because Burger King had completely given up on making food at this point or because everyone was afraid of saying no to the man in the King costume, these three game were developed and sold at Burger King. And, in a complete and utter shock to gamers everywhere, it turned out that Burger King is as bad at making video games as they are at making burgers, and they are to this day the only thing you can put inside your Xbox 360 to give it indigestion.
I hesitate to pick a favorite out of these three, because that feels like picking out your favorite venereal disease, but if I had to pick a least unfavorite out of the group I’d probably go with Big Bumpin’, a mini-game based experience that doesn’t have enough ideas to be truly terrible. When the game starts, carnival music begins to play and the camera slowly pans down to show the dead-eyed visage of the Burger King himself. Hands on his hips, he slowly starts to laugh, and waves you forward to the ticket booth he’s operating. Relax. Take some deep breaths. You’re not in hell. You’re at a carnival being run and operated by the Burger King. Hell would be a preferable alternative.
If you manage to make your way past this nightmare fuel, you are rewarded with a handful of different minigames in which you can operate a bumper car. You choose your favorite Burger King character, including the King himself, Whopper Jr., Subservient Chicken (the Dominant Chicken clad in a full leather bodysuit for some reason didn’t make the cut) and, inexplicably, Brooke Burke. I don’t remember her ever being in a Burger King commercial, but I’m sure she jumped at the opportunity to be featured in a game with an anthropomorphized hamburger. There’s also a couple of random Burger King employees and some biker that apparently really, really likes bumper cars if the already killer line-up wasn’t enough for you.
The main problem with Big Bumpin’, other than the fact that it is a Burger King game, is the lack of variety in the minigames. You only have five different ones to play through, and the loading screens last longer than some of them. The only one that is really worth playing more than once is the bumper car hockey, and that is only if you can swallow your pride and ask some friends to play it with you. The A.I. is a bit of a mess, chasing after meaningless power-ups the second that they appear or endlessly following each other around in circles in what looks like the most depressing conga line. The game itself isn’t awful, but with only five different minigames you end up getting bored rather quickly. There just isn’t enough content here to even dislike the game, and it feels like you are playing the rejects from the latest Mario Party title.
The most normal and expected of all the titles is Pocketbike Racer, a kart type racing game because every mascot ever eventually branches out and lands themselves a gig on a kart racer. Like Big Bumpin’, Pocketbike Racer flirts at times with the notion of being halfway decent before realizing it’s a Burger King game and flailing around in confusion until you turn it off. The game controls well enough, and there is this mildly clever implementation of power-ups that requires you to drive through different sized gates to build up your item meter. Smaller, more difficult gates build up the meter faster, and small chunks of the meter can be used for boosts while larger portions can be used for more powerful items. For some bizarre reason, Pocketbike Racer actually had this insane idea of rewarding skill and not just randomly assigning the worst racers with the best items, a distinction that makes this at least slightly more entertaining than the last couple Mario Kart abominations.
But after the developers had that good idea, the single brain cell they shared between them exploded from exertion and the rest of the design document was made by mashing their head against the keyboard. Beyond the basic race, there are a couple of other game modes that aren’t worth even playing once, including a “hardcore” mode, which removes the items, gates, and any semblance of fun. The game also only features five different tracks, because apparently the developers had some sort of secret connection to the number five. None of the tracks are long enough to be memorable, with the absolute nadir being the track that is a short race around a Burger King parking lot. There is no situation where a drive around a Burger King parking lot elicits feelings of excitement or joy or anything else other than a deep and pervasive shame. There are a couple of decent ideas here, but the somewhat solid mechanics are wasted by the fact that there is nothing worthwhile to use them on.
While the other games in this trifecta were just forgettable, Sneak King is aggressively and shockingly terrible. It is essentially a stealth game, but instead of sneaking around an enemy compound and surprising your target with death, you sneak around a suburban neighborhood and surprise your targets with fast food and diarrhea. You play as the King himself, and you must hide inside leaf piles and garbage cans so you can jump out and surprise people with food they never ordered. Your victims…er, customers…walk around in set paths and won’t eat the food if they see you coming. I know this was meant to essentially be a promotional tool for Burger King, but it says something about the quality of their food if the only way you can get people to eat it is if you pop out of a garbage can and force them to. Even the marketing department found it unbelievable that people would willingly consume a Whopper, so if your targets see you coming, they fold their arms and shout about how they’d rather starve than eat your garbage horse meat burger. The game even features, and this is not a joke, what is essentially sexual predator vision, where the camera zooms inside your mask and you can see the world through the two creepy eyeholes in your mask. This comes complete with the King’s heavy, guttural breathing and it looks and feels like it belongs in the next Friday the 13th movie.
Even if we ignore the fact that the basic premise behind this game is absolutely terrifying, the overall gameplay is simply terrible and combines all the worst elements of stealth games into one horrendous package. You need to avoid pedestrians so you can surprise them with food, which is surprisingly simple because no one can see more than five feet in front of them, probably as a result of the meat coma they are all stumbling through. The camera also seems to have no idea what it’s doing, flying around randomly in a desperate attempt to find something interesting to look at. It is a minor annoyance at most times, but when you hide in certain locations, the camera seems to loose its mind entirely, rapidly vacillating back and forth at something you don’t want to see and completely obscuring your target. The game also basically forces you to replay the same mission over and over, because if you’ve delivered a breakfast sandwich in a construction yard you’ve essentially delivered a Whopper in a neighborhood. The first time wasn’t even fun, and the only entertainment value you can glean from this is forcing the King to hide in a garbage can and leaving him there.
The only thing that makes us happy about this whole dark period of gaming history is that this didn’t start a trend. There was no Subway game where you had to run Jared around and stop him from getting fat again and McDonald’s never made a game where you tried to give an entire kindergarten classroom diabetes. Burger King stood alone in this madness, because surely nothing would help food sales better than a handful of crappy video games featuring a character everyone hated. Burger King should perhaps focus on making edible food before they start branching out to video games. If Nintendo started packaging hamubrger paties with their games, you wouldn’t be surprised if ingesting them caused your insides to wind up on the outside. Similarly, you shouldn’t have been surprised that a food company releasing a video game caused the same results. Stay away from the Burger King games. They are only slightly better for your digestive track than their food.