I have a problem. My living room, which I’ve recently renovated with new crown molding, fresh paint, a stained glass-filled coat closet door, and LED lighting, should look like an adult’s room. But it also has four Arcade1Up cabinets: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pac Man, Street Fighter 2, and now the limited edition $400 BurgerTime machine. Who am I kidding, my living room is fantastic. And so is BurgerTime—mostly.
If you’ve never played BurgerTime, you’re missing out on one of the great arcade games of yesteryear. But just because the cabinet is themed after BurgerTime doesn’t mean that’s all you get to play. It has three additional games: Karate Champs, Bad Dudes, and Caveman Ninja.
As Usual, a Mostly Easy Build That Looks Beautiful
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on what it takes to build an Arcade1UP Machine. If you’ve read the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Arcade review, you should know what to expect. Arcade1Up does a great job designing its cabinets so nearly anyone can build it.
If you can build a TV stand or dresser from Ikea, then you can build an Arcade1UP machine. You won’t need any power tools or an engineering degree. I will say that due to BurgerTime’s unique profile, it was a little more difficult to line everything up than other Arcade1Up cabinets I’ve built. But I got through without much trouble.
What sets this machine apart is the look. With most Arcade1Up cabinets, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. For awhile, Arcade1Up was doing little more than slapping a new set of vinyl stickers on, loading up different games, improving the hardware, and calling it a day.
BurgerTime eschews that methodology. Rather than follow the typical arcade machine profile, Arcade1Up shaped the side of this cabinet with curves and ridges to more closely match the original arcade. It includes a custom riser and an LED-lit marquee. It looks amazing.
Arcade1UP Keeps Improving with Every Iteration
And that, in a way, is the story of Arcade1Up. Original Arcade1Up hardware wasn’t great. The joysticks were too loose, the displays were mediocre, and the sound was just bad. With each new generation, Arcade1Up has worked hard to improve every aspect of the machines it makes, and that shows.
The colors on the display pop, even at an angle, the joysticks feel solid, and the speaker doesn’t leave me wishing for more. Unlike the TMNT cabinet, you only get one speaker with BurgerTime, but that’s fine. All the included games feature mono tracks anyway. It’s a good-sized speaker and sounds nice.
This machine isn’t a perfect copy of the original BurgerTime, though. The screen is more vertical orientated than the original (which sat at a steep angle), and it has four joysticks instead of two. That’s necessary for Karate Champ’s unique control system, but it does lead to my one complaint. Check out the control deck’s artwork:
See how it suggests that the second player will use the fourth stick for control in BurgerTime? That’s not accurate. The second player uses the third stick. And again, thanks to these extra joysticks not required for BurgerTime (or Bad Dudes or Caveman Ninja), the game buttons end up in an odd configuration.
Still, those issues aside, Arcade1Up has been hard at work, and a lot of that came from listening to fans. Check out the Arcade1Up subreddit, and you’ll find threads dedicated to adding better joysticks and buttons, lit marquees, and customizing risers for the older machines. The fact that Arcade1Up saw what fans wanted and incorporated those changes into its arcades shows how the company is maturing with each new iteration.
BurgerTime Is Great, and Karate Champs Is Pretty Good Too
You get four games on the BurgerTime Arcade: BurgerTime (of course), Karate Champs, Bad Dudes, and Caveman Ninja. I’ve only played BurgerTime in passing (a port on NES as I recall), but I was familiar with the concept. You control a chef named Peter Pepper and navigate around a Donkey Kong-like stage. You’ll find ingredients to burgers on different levels, and running over them drops the ingredients down.
The goal is to drop all the ingredients down to put together all the burgers on the current stage. But you’ll be chased by bad guys (a walking hot dog, pickle, and egg). If they touch you, you die. You can throw pepper at them to stun them, but you have limited uses.
BurgerTime is hard. I’ve played it more than any other game on this system, and the furthest I’ve made it is level three. More tellingly, I can’t beat the top score on the default high score list. But for all its difficulties, it’s tons of fun and it’s the game my wife, son, and I enjoy the most.
Karate Champ is radically different from the other games on this cabinet. You use two joysticks to control a single character. One controls movement, the other attacks. And you use them in combination to vary those attacks. Down on the left stick and up on the right stick throws a reverse punch. Down on both sticks is a front foot sweep. Every combination does something different.
You fight against the second player or a computer-controlled character in a series of karate bouts, trying to score hits. You can block (by throwing the same move your opponent does) and dodge, but it’s a giant game of strategy. In a lot of ways, it’s like a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock. You’re trying to guess what move they’re going for and how best to counter it or attack first.
Bad Dudes is a game I wish I hadn’t played. That’s because I have fond memories of the game on NES, and revisiting the game shattered those memories. You play two Bad Dudes trying to save the President—you see Ninjas kidnapped him. Yeah, if I thought about it long I would have known it wasn’t a good game. It’s a side scroller, and you punch and kick stuff. It’s honestly boring and I don’t last for more than a few minutes.
Caveman Ninja is an unfortunate edition. You play a couple of cavemen trying to rescue kidnapped women from a stolen tribe. Technically speaking, it’s the prettiest looking game of the bunch thanks to its SNES level graphics, but in the modern era Me Too movement, it feels outdated. My wife expressed displeasure at the opening sequence in which the rival tribe drags women away by their hair, complete with a fat woman joke.
It’s almost a shame, cause the game plays interestingly enough. You run, jump, and attack rival cavemen before fighting a dinosaur boss like a giant T-Rex. Data East published all four games, so the inclusion of Bad Dudes and Caveman Ninja feels like a licensing decision more than a deliberate choice.
Both Bad Dudes and Caveman Ninja both suffer from a minor problem due to screen orientation issues. While the original developers designed BurgerTime and Karate Champs for portrait displays, developers chose horizontal positioning Bad Dudes and Caveman Ninja. Arcade1Up’s solution is to put the screen in a portrait position and add black bars to Bad Dudes and Caveman Ninja. It means you use less of the monitor for those two games.
But it isn’t a terrible outcome; I barely notice it after a few minutes of play. I think Arcade1Up made the decision all things considered.
So, Should You Buy It?
Let’s get down to brass tacks—is this system worth $400? That’s no small amount of change, to be sure. In theory, you could build one of these on your own with the right tools, some melamine, joysticks, a display, speakers, and a Raspberry Pi.
But do you want to? I have the tools and skills, but I don’t have the inclination. I’d rather spend a little extra and have the most challenging work done for me—designing the cabinet and cutting the melamine to shape.
I imagine there are three kinds of people who would buy a retro arcade machine. The nostalgia person who loves a particular game or loves arcades in general. The collector person who wants to own a personal arcade emporium. And the modder, the person who always wanted to build an all-in-one arcade system that plays thousands of games.
If you adore BurgerTime or Karate Champs, you should jump on the BurgerTime cabinet. The games hold up, and this arcade looks beautiful. And, it’s a challenging prospect to play Karate Champs without a four-joy stick machine. Fans of Bad Dudes and Caveman Ninja may have their nostalgia glasses shattered, but you’ll enjoy the other games.
And, if you’re a collector, you should stop reading and go buy it right now. Because this is a limited edition cabinet. Once they’re all gone, Arcade1UP won’t make anymore. That isn’t to say there won’t be another system with BurgerTime on it. But this exact machine with the special Peter Pepper profile won’t happen again.
If you have to own every retro arcade, then I shouldn’t even need to answer the question. Buy the thing! It’ll be the best-looking addition in your emporium.
Modders, however, should probably pick another machine. That’s because the button layout on this arcade cabinet is very odd, thanks to the inclusion of Karate Champs. You’re going to have a hard time getting everything into a more workable setup. For modding, I’d recommend either the Street Fighter 2 or the Mortal Kombat cabinets, whichever you can get cheaper.
If you don’t fit those categories, and you’re sitting on the fence, you may want to think about it for a while. If you have the room, perhaps get a different cheaper cabinet first and decide if owning an arcade cabinet does make sense to you. It’s a risky proposition because the BurgerTime arcade is limited edition and will go away eventually. But there’s no sense in spending $400 on a system you won’t use.
I’ll say this though—I love BurgerTime. So does my family. It’s silly and completely unnecessary, but it’s just so fun and looks good. I’m honestly surprised how often I find my wife playing another round of BurgerTime. She wants to beat my scores so badly. And, I’ve had tons of fun playing two-player mode with my seven-year-old. And that’s what matters in the end—it’s fun to play. And now I’m going to indulge myself in another game.
This is a limited edition machine, and right now pre-orders are live for an April ship date. If you want it, jump on it before all the supply sells out.
Here’s What We Like
- BurgerTime and Karate Champ are fun
- Includes custom riser and lit marquee
- Beautiful profile and unique look
And What We Don't
- Odd joystick layout
- Horizontal games require black bars
- Kind of expensive