Somebody go wake up the muckety mucks at every big game publisher, because they’re about to see how a product license should be used. Mainstream brands and product-placement have gone hand in hand with the videogame industry since the very beginning, whether it be a dismal E.T. movie tie-in on the Atari 2600 or a derivative yet fun pizza-gathering Yo! Noid on the NES. Yet in-game advertising has run rampant lately, from 2K Sports’ incessant sponsored replays to Ubisoft’s inclusion of ads in Rainbow Six Vegas that are dynamically placed based on the gamer’s IP address and physical location.
Yet Big Bumpin’, the first in a series of Xbox 360 and Xbox games from Burger King, throws every bad feeling you’ve ever had about in-game advertising right out the window. Sure, it’s a blatant marketing tie-in to get in with the kiddies, but it really doesn’t matter. And here’s why: First, Burger King has had some great marketing personalities in recent years (the Subservient Chicken, the Burger King himself, etc.), and their outlandish nature means that none of them feels forced or random in the context of a playful videogame. Second, Big Bumpin’ never takes itself too seriously, knowing full well that it’s designed to tie us to a flame-broiled brand. But third, and most important, it tosses all those negative thoughts aside because Big Bumpin’ manages to be one of the best old-school arcade-style games you’ll play this side of 1989.
For all intents and purposes, Big Bumpin’ is a collection of four mini games ripped straight from Fuzion Frenzy, but every minigame takes place in a bumper car. The four games are surprisingly diverse, considering the limitations of a bumper car, and none of them seems overly derivative: control a colored puck the longest, knock competitors out of the ring and be the last man standing, bumper-car hockey, and a mode in which you gather electricity and return it to a reservoir before your competitors smash you to pieces. These four modes can be played across five different “environments,” all of which are based off the most stereotypical carnival you can imagine. Remember, the game never takes itself too seriously, and the carnival personality drives that point home.
The game modes are playable in four ways: as a simple “one-off” in which you pick and choose what you want to play, as a five-bracket tournament against AI competitors, as a four-player same-screen multiplayer experience, and online via Xbox Live. Online play involves setting up your own four-player matches in any of the modes, and you can choose to take part in ranked (the game has its own ELO system for online leaderboards) or unranked player matches. The online mode also lets you decide whether you want to score the rounds as every-king-for-himself or as a team. And, if for some reason you only have two people in your online game, Big Bumpin’ fills the remaining two spots with bots. The game does this offline, too, if you play the same-screen multiplayer, but the online inclusion is quite an accomplishment.
Probably the biggest accomplishment, though, is simply how Big Bumpin’ integrates the Burger King brand without raising a single eyebrow. Throughout the game the brand tie-ins are clever and never feel forced. There’s a level called The Broiler, for instance, a reference to a BK sandwich, but in the context of the carnival (and the level design) it just “works.” When customizing the game options, the customization screen is called “Have it Your Way.” The playable characters include the King himself, a dude in a hamburger suit and the Subservient Chicken. From top to bottom, everything in Big Bumpin’ just “fits,” and every branding tie-in is designed to keep the game fun, not overwhelm you with ads.
Add all this up, and you’ve got an absolute joy of a game, especially considering it only costs $4 with the purchase of a Value Meal (and plays on both the Xbox 360 and Xbox). The controls can feel a bit slippery at times, especially compared to the overly precise AI, but for a mini-budget game itâ€™s easy to forgive. If this game were available on Xbox Live Arcade, it would be more enjoyable than half of the games available. Heck, if it were possible to buy without the meal, I would honestly recommend skipping lunch and spending that $4 on Big Bumpin’ instead. Since that’s not an option, though, drive to Burger King right now, buy a meal and spend the extra $4 to get Big Bumpin’. You and your family can thank me later.
- Overall: 9
- A Burger King game gets a 9? When it’s a $4 title, the bar for “Editors Choice” is arguably a little lower, but once you play Big Bumpin’ you’ll understand the score even better. For $4, it’s hard to find a more enjoyable, old-school-fun or family-friendly game.
— Jonas Allen