Years ago, I remember getting an adventure game called “The Riddle of Master Lu” and on the disc somewhere was a demo for another Sanctuary Woods game called “Orion Burger.” It had always piqued my interest, and I found out years later that the game had completely disappeared into obscurity, never finding a market and not even finding it’s way onto Amazon or eBay (unless I wanted the German version.) Fortunately, through the magic of BitTorrent and piracy, I finally found some time to go back and try it out.
The game has an awesome premise. Aliens are harvesting species to extinction all over the galaxy to supply their fast food franchise with burger meat. They eventually arrive at Earth, but before they can harvest us, they need to make sure we aren’t an advanced race. So they beam up a guy named Wilbur from a backwater town and put him through a series of intelligence tests, which he fails miserably. But as fate would have it, there’s a glitch when they beam him back to Earth and he arrives one hour before he gets abducted. So for the rest of the game, you’re reliving the same hour over and over again, getting abducted and getting sent back until you’ve finally passed all the tests (ala Groundhog Day.)
The pros? Well, the graphics and animation for one are very much on par in terms of quality with “The Curse of Monkey Island.” I especially liked how the big fat alien boss has a little wheel on the front of his belt so he can flop over onto his gut and paddle himself around the ship. There’s some sometimes brilliant puzzles that use the flow of time to your advantage. And whenever you pass a test, but fail another, Wilbur (in Speedy Gonzales fashion) will automatically resolve all the puzzles you needed to continue with the game.
The cons? You know that awesome premise? It’s not as awesome once you find yourself rewatching the same unskippable cut-scenes and having the same unskippable conversations over and over and over again. Not to mention the difficulty of the game sky-rockets almost instantly, mixing time-based puzzles with pixel-hunting and red herrings. Then there’s the question of the horrible voice acting – why does Wilbur look like a Michael J. Fox, but sound like a Jerry Lewis?
What really drove me crazy was how none of the great puzzle solutions I came up with were even feasible to try out. At one point, an alien eats Wilbur’s aunt – so I figured when they send me back in time, I can go warn her to get out of the house. Instead, Wilbur just yells at her about the phone bill again and doesn’t even care that she’s about to die in a couple hours. I checked every walkthrough – the game does not allow me to try and save her at all. Why would a game that’s all about changing the future not allow me to save someone’s life? Obviously the game designers wanted her dead.
All in all, “Orion Burger” is still a pretty noteworthy addition to the underrated adventure game library. But it’s one of those shorter full-length games that’s more fun with a walkthrough, lest you want to keep your sanity.
July 20 2009 10:53 am | Video Games