The Fair Shake

Fast Food

So here I am. 33 years old. I’ve learned a few things in my few (or many, depending on your point of view) years on this planet. Look both ways before crossing the street. Odd numbered Star Trek movies, for the most part, are pretty lousy. OK fine, III is actually good if you look at it as part of a trilogy. Recently I learned that I can’t pound back four Coney Island style hot dogs in a row, late at night, along with two glass (!) bottles of Mountain Dew Throwback with half a bag of potato chips on the side. Well, I can, but I’ll awaken an hour after going to bed with severe stomach pains, as I lie curled in a fetal position crying for the demon in my stomach to exit my body. Ugh.

Hot dog, weiner, or gagger?

Hot dog, wiener, or gagger?

What does this have to do with The Fair Shake? Of course, there’s a game called Fast Food for the Atari 2600. I had played it sporadically during my ‘Atari renaissance’ years of the late 90’s when I learned what an emulator was. When complaining on Twitter about my stomach pains, and a lack of food related games in general, @ThunderSqueakAK mentioned Fast Food to me (Thanks!) After firing it up in the old woody console, I forgot how oddly enjoyable this game is. (WARNING *This game may or may not have been partly responsible for the Video Game Crash*) You are Mighty Mouth, a very suitable name for a set of chewing RollingStone’s lips. Mighty Mouth is hungry, and as a result of this hunger, has decided to hang around the local Snack Bar. Food flies across the screen at varying rates of speed. Mouth must eat it all in order to.. get this… GET FATTER! Pizza. Gulp. Hot Dogs. Gulp. Green Pickles. Gulp. Purple Pickles. Huh?

Those aren't points up top, they are cholesterol readings.

Those aren’t points up top, they are cholesterol readings.

Yeah. Almost every game has a nemesis for the player, either time itself, a princess stealing reptile, or perhaps even an opposing human. Fast Food has purple pickles. What the eff?. Eat six, and the game ends, with a large BURP. Literally. It says ‘BURP!’ on the screen. Anything else on the screen is edible, and Fast Food quickly becomes a game of reflexes as you alter your strategy from ‘eat the food’ to ‘dodge the purple pickles’, as the food movement speed increases as the game progresses. There’s no time limit, so long as you dodge purple pickles. The game is playable by two people, but not simultaneously. Unlike many other games, Fast Food is completely random. Every piece of junk food has a different point calorie value,  ranging from 1 (green pickles) to 20 points (cheeseburgers). Every few hundred points, you’ll reduce the purple pickle count by one, if you’ve eaten any. I say ‘few hundred’ because even the damn instruction manual leaves out this key detail.


Aren’t we all…… :tear:

The graphics are actually OK by Atari 2600 standards, but that’s not saying much. They certainly aren’t an Activision game, but they aren’t Dig Dug either. I wasn’t sure if I was eating slices of pizza or Doritos, but in the greater scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, I suppose. The character sprites are fairly identifiable  but I’ve never bought a box of fries with a big ‘F’ on it before. There’s no background, no outline of an actual snack bar. The entire background is black. Let’s just pretend that the power went out in the restaurant, and the managers decided to throw out all the food before it expires! There! I just finished the plot outline for this game as I wrote about it.


Better than PUKE!

Sound effects are comical, in the sense that they almost don’t match up with the on screen action. Seriously, watch the video, they seem almost a tick/beat/movement off compared to the screen. A few beeps and bloops accompany the ‘YOU’RE GETTING FATTER’ screen roll. Sadly, there isn’t an actual burp to accompany the end game. I did let out a hellacious burp the other night after those hot dogs, so maybe it balances out. At least your mouth responds quickly to joystick movements.. but if only you could move, oh, I don’t know, diagonally?

This game is almost like a Kaboom! clone, if Kaboom! were played horizontally, randomly, and a joystick was used. OK so it’s not really like Kaboom! But, it’s still a fun game for two people to play when they get tired of catching their laundry in Lost Luggage. My girlfriend and I kept one upping each other in single player games, where we peaked around 850 points before we went to play something else. The game isn’t that rare, so it’s pretty cheap to pick up, if you’re into the physical cartridge thing. Not every game needs to hold your attention for hours. Sometimes an ‘intermission game’, loaded with movie theater junk food, is OK to play. Grab a napkin, and some Pepto, and give Fast Food on the Atari 2600 the Fair Shake!