Orion Burger

Developer:  Eidos Interactive
Publisher:  Sanctuary Woods
Year Released:  1996

Review by Gordon Aplin (August, 1997)
oburg.jpgA well known fast-food chain may cringe at the theme of this game. Orion Burger serves the junk food needs of the galaxy and to do this they have an insatiable appetite for fresh protein for their restaurants. In the past they have 'clear-cut' entire planets without regard for the indigenous inhabitants, but now an 'alien-rights' group known as the Planet Huggers have begun monitoring their activities and making life more difficult. Well, more difficult for Orion Burger, that is, but maybe less difficult, or at least more hopeful for the rest of the galaxy, because evidence of intelligent life forms may just save a planet from extinction. But first a representative specimen must undergo a series of tests to prove that intelligence exists. This is where you come in.

Bad day in Boonsville
The game begins with a long introductory sequence that shows Earth as the next planet due for harvesting by protein procurement agent Zlarg. Your character, Wilbur Wafflemeier, a pet shop assistant from Boonsville, is the unlikely specimen, the hero of the story, and he is zapped aboard the orbiting harvester for testing. Naturally, he fails the test and is to be returned to Earth at the precise time and place of his abduction with his memory wiped clean. In blissful ignorance he is destined to await his fate along with all the other unsuspecting potential fast-food fodder. However, all does not go to plan. A Planet Hugger stowaway has sabotaged the equipment and Wilbur is returned home to a slightly earlier time ... and with his memory intact. Thus, caught in a time loop, Wilbur can prepare himself for the various tests and take them again and again.

This is the essence of this third-person perspective, cartoon-style adventure game. You have a limited time to direct Wilbur around Boonsville and collect items that might assist you before you are abducted again to face each of the five sequential tests that Zlarg sets. During the tests you'll pick up clues as to what objects might be useful and other clues can be gathered in Boonsville. If you fail you are returned to the beginning of the day once more to start afresh and any items collected that are not used for that particular test are returned to where you found them.

Meanwhile, back in Boonsville
Although you must pass all the tests sequentially you don't have to repeat the successfully completed ones. Wilbur automatically does that for you by quickly regathering the necessary items used for completed tests and leaving you to concentrate on the task at hand. Also, if you think you have the items you need, you don't have to wait until you are abducted to take the test again. A click on the 'Abduct-o-tron' icon will take you back to it. Similarly, if a test is not going well, you can click on the same icon to return to Boonsville. Though you must do this before you fail the test or you will have to wait out the sometimes lengthy cut sequence.

In keeping with the comic theme, the tests are not logic puzzles, but are pure adventuring fun where you must use the correct item in the right location and overcome the various obstacles to your progress. You must return to the orbiting space ship to take the tests which are linked in some way to your home town; the manual offers a cryptic hint for each one. Meanwhile, back in Boonsville, you are facing another 'test' of sorts to figure out what items you need. Again, this aspect of the game is familiar adventuring fare. As you are reliving the same day certain things happen at the same time and you must observe carefully and think how these may assist you in your quest.

The tyranny of time
The game had a lot of potential and I quite enjoyed parts of it, but overall its major weakness was the 'novelty' of playing the same day over and over with only a limited time to explore and work out what you had to do. Part of the problem for me was that I was unable to discover a way to escape from longish sequences and conversations that I had previously played. The conversations are essential for gathering clues about items you might need, but there is no on-screen text available apart from Wilbur's questions and responses. Thankfully, the game timer stops when you are talking to another character so that you can take the time to listen carefully and try out all of the questions to get the information you need.

Orion Burger has bright, cartoon-type graphics, quite acceptable voice acting and gentle humour which, to me, seemed to be aimed at a younger, teenage audience. Once you understand what you need to do the puzzles are, on the whole, quite easy to solve and the game will not take you too long to finish. Though, I must admit, a couple of obstacles required fairly inventive solutions and these held me up for a while. I am sure I would have enjoyed these puzzles much more were it not for the constant pressure of the time factor. Fortunately, you are able to save your game which helps to alleviate the need for constant back tracking, though you do need to be careful here as you also 'save' the elapsed time. Sometimes it is easier just to fail the test and start the day again.

The interface is simple point and click with three icons for the usual actions, 'look', 'take' and 'use', which you can scroll through by clicking the right mouse button. If you can talk to a character the cursor automatically changes to indicate this. Wilbur has a fairly jaunty walk, but it can still take him some time to traverse a screen. Fortunately, for this game, Boonsville is not a big place and there are relatively few locations to explore. Though I would still prefer a bigger game world and no time restriction.

Orion Burger presents quite a novel idea that almost works, but the repetition and time limit tend to spoil the fun. At least, they did for me. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1997. All rights reserved.

System requirements: (minimum)
486 DX-33, 8 MB Ram, 2x CD ROM.