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Diner (INTV)

DoctorSpuds

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I’m gonna level with you right now, I don’t like Burgertime, I think it’s a slow monotonous game with very little payoff, every version I play whether it be the arcade, Intellivision, Colecovision, Atari (any of them), or even the NES I wind up feeling the same way. I like the overall concept of creating giant burgers while being pursued by evil foodstuffs but it just feels too constricted and slow. I don’t really expect anybody to agree with me but I feel that I should get my opinions out there before I review the unofficial sequel to Burgertime, Diner. INTV took the basic premise of Burgertime and dialed it up to 11 on the ‘weird-but-in-a-good-way’ scale; let’s see just how weird it gets, starting with the graphics.

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We appear to be trapped in a series of MC Esher paintings. The environments you run around in are strange barely cohesive three dimensional wonderlands crawling with rotten sentient bananas, hot dogs, and mugs of root beer. Thankfully the programmers were merciful in making the color pallets easy on the eyes even if the shading sometimes doesn’t make sense. Despite how graphically complex the game is there isn’t really all that much to talk about, so let’s just move on to the sounds.

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The Intellivision’s rich and bass-y sounds are used to their fullest in Diner. The opening tune is cheerful and imparts a strong sense of childlike happiness, like you just popped a quarter into your favorite arcade machine. You’re also given some excellent background music that thankfully stays in the background and doesn’t distract from the rest of the sounds that you’ll hear while playing. There isn’t a bad piece of music or an out of place sound anywhere in this game, frankly it’s astounding.

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Diner takes the Burgertime formula and gives it a third dimension. Instead of assembling giant hamburgers you must now roll balls of food down to the bottom of the screen whilst avoiding evil rotten foods that are trying to do you in! Much like in the original you can destroy your pursuers by crushing them, in this case rolling them up with one of the food balls. The levels you have to maneuver around are just as crazy as in the original, but you are given that extra dimension to more easily avoid your pursuers, but don’t think that makes the game easy, not by a long shot. It is quite easy to get cornered by one or two enemies which will force you to use one of your limited supply of pepper to temporarily disable them. You can replenish your pepper stock by collecting white food items that appear sporadically. This game is not without its flaws though, there are little kernels of bullshit that sometimes seep to the surface. When kicking a food ball it will rarely follow the layout of the level and many times the balls seem to veer away from enemies, neglecting the layout of the level. As far as I can tell the ball movements are scripted though, which just confuses me even more. Enemy spawning is also a small issue, they will always reappear in the exact same place, even if you’re standing right there which has claimed too many lives and ruined many good runs. The collision detection is extremely finicky, I can never tell where I and the enemies reside spatially or if I can even overlap with their sprites, sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t, but this also has the added effect of making close shaves even more exciting. Finally, the bonus level, this might be the only game where you can game over on the bonus level, don’t touch those flashing food balls you’ll lose a life.

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Despite my complaints Diner is still a solid game and, in my opinion, far more enjoyable than Burgertime. If you want a copy of Diner it won’t be without cost, since this is one of the late-release INTV games you can expect to pay a pretty penny for just a loose copy. There are currently no loose Diner cartridges listen on Ebay but one that sold recently went for 22 dollars and one with the manual went for over 30 dollars, there are a few boxed copies listed for between 60 and 100 dollars which just seems like a bit too much. Unless you can find a copy for 20 dollars or less Diner will have to go to the Collector’s Zone, it’s just too darn expensive.

 

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Thanks for the review!  I've always enjoyed BurgerTime, and I consider Diner to be a worthy sequel.  It's remarkable that Diner turned out as well as it did given its unusual development path.  INTV made effective use of the unfinished game code they acquired from Mattel: they contracted with the original programmers to complete and release games that had been started at Mattel, and in the case of Diner, they repurposed code that was originally intended for an entirely different game.  As has been documented elsewhere, Diner was started at Mattel by Ray Kaestner as a sequel to "Masters of the Universe."  As it happens, Kaestner also developed Intellivision BurgerTime, so for INTV, he put the BurgerTime characters into his unfinished "Masters" sequel.  Diner was the result.

 

(A few years ago, Intellivision Productions sold autographed 10" prints of the original Diner box artwork, created by the late Keith Robinson.  I framed my copy, and it will always have a prominent place in my game room.)

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