The Game: Chef Peter Pepper is back, and he’s been served up a second helping of inedible trouble. Roaming the vast, maze-like expanses of Ray’s Diner, the chef has to round up the scattered ingredients of dinner before he finds himself on the menu. For every four screen he clears, Peter Pepper gets a chance to catch more ingredients in a bonus round (but must avoid the flashing ingredients at all costs). The chef is also still armed with his trusty pepper shaker to stun his enemies briefly, and he can still replenish his short supply of pepper when bonus items appear. (INTV Corp., 1987)
Memories: A loose collective of “survivors” of Mattel Electronic’s Intellivision division, INTV Corp. slowly but surely got off the ground to offer new titles to Intellivision owners by mail-order, even as the NES was taking over the world. INTV’s library of new titles wasn’t a huge one, but it was at the very least a respectable selection, including arcade games such as Dig Dug and Pole Position whoses licenses had once been exclusive to the now-all-but-dormant Atari. INTV Corp. had access to the back catalog of started-but-not-finished (and finished-but-shelved-indefinitely) titles that had been swallowed in the fall of Mattel Electronics, and it was from one of these unfinished games that Diner got its start…but you might be surprised to find out where Diner really came from.
The pseudo-3-D platform/climbing game that eventually saw release as Diner started life as a second Masters Of The Universe game. back in the day when both He-Man and Intellivision were somewhat hotter properties than they were in 1987. Mattel Electronics had, in fact, done some preliminary work on a Burgertime sequel, tentatively called Pizzatime, which was contracted out to a developer in France but was never finished. INTV Corp., trying to capitalize on Burgertime‘s success among the Intellivision user base, hired the original programmer behind the unreleased Masters sequel to retrofit it into a Burgertime sequel.
The result was, considering the much-smaller-than-the-NES-crowd audience for new Intellivision games in 1987, a resounding success in terms of sales; in terms of game play, however, it’s a slightly different story. As tasty as a Burgertime follow-up may sound on paper, in practice Diner falls victim to some common ailments of most pseudo-3-D platform games of the ’80s (a genre which can be traced back to Congo Bongo). There are places where it seems like, with the added dimension of depth (or at least the illusion thereof), one should be able to sneak past enemies, but instead it registers as a collision and the player always winds up losing that coin toss. There’s also a tendency to rule against the player in encounters in which Chef Peter Pepper fires his pepper spray on the fly while trying to sneak past an enemy – it seems like the player winds up dying in these instances too.
If you can get past these problems, or at least keep them in mind and adapt your strategies accordingly, Diner can be a lot of fun, but it’s not in danger of reaching the same level of fun that Burgertime offered. It’s more of a dessert, but not really a second helping.