Sometimes I wonder if Nintendo Power did permanent damage to my brain.
Today’s game is Out to Lunch. Out to Lunch is one of those “could have worked on the NES” style SNES games. You’re Pierre le Chef, a happy little dude that apparently lives in a waking Hell where all food items are giant, sentient, and capable of escaping from the fridge. Pierre doesn’t want to starve to death, so he grabs his best butterfly net and sets out to re-capture the ingredients for… let’s see here… potatoes, turnips, tomatoes… I suppose he’s making Ice Climber soup. Each level winds up being something of an expanded-Bubble Bobble type affair: each “board” is a seemingly random assortment of obstacles, and you’ve got to stalk your veggies all over the map, capture ‘em, and then drag them (presumably kicking and screaming) back to a specially prepared giant vegetable cage. Jumping on an escaped foodstuff stuns the thing-that-should-not-be, and there are a few powerups lying around, like hot sauce that can lead to fire breath, and salt that is… salt. Look out for Le Chef Noir (roughly translated: something racist), Pierre’s nefarious rival, who will open the cage and let your meals run wild again! The lunch rush was never so literal! Food pun!
Out to Lunch isn’t a bad game, but that paragraph contained basically everything there is to see in the game. Aside from a roaming bacteria or two, practically every trick and trap this game has in store for the player can be experienced within the first level, and, a half hour in, you’ll be ready to put the controller down and play something slightly more robust, like Duck Hunt. Yet, somehow, there are 48 separate levels in this game. That would be kind of impressive on a NES cartridge, but this thing is on the same system as Super Mario World, and that game had 96 exits and a dinosaur. Nowadays, Out to Lunch would be a simple browser or cell phone game, and maybe it would be pay-per-salt to gain an advantage over your unseasoned foes. One guy would pay a thousand dollars for a million Lunch Coins, Facebook would mock him for a solid week, and that would be that. The world keeps turning, and Out to Lunch is quickly forgotten.
But… why do I own a copy of Out to Lunch?
It’s not because it’s a treasured childhood memory. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even rent this generic platforming whateverthingy. Launch games like the previously mentioned Super Mario World, Final Fight, and even Gradius 3 were all much better experiences than OtL. And it’s not because Pierre le Chef is some beloved childhood character. Even today, I’m likely to buy a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Star Wars game on the spot on the power of license, because I’m weak and a slave to my desires. But Out to Lunch has no such hold over me. Where did this blasted cartridge come from?
And then it hit me: this game was a mistake.
I never wanted Out to Lunch. I wanted Panic Restaurant.
I still have yet to play Panic Restaurant. And why is that? Simple, it currently sells for about $500 used. It’s a NES game, and it was one of the last ones off the assembly line, and nobody bought it because panicking eating establishments are not the most appealing venues for videogames, and, fast forward about two decades, now only six people have a copy. There was probably a time in history that I would have shelled out that kind of dough for a rare NES game, but now, even with a more significant disposable income, the rise of reproduction carts has frightened me away from the field. What’s the point if you can’t even know you’re buying the real McCoy? And am I going to disassemble something I bought for half a grand to find out for sure? Hell no. It’s not like the ROM isn’t right there, and I probably know enough about cart engineering to make my own if I was really that dedicated. Where was I? Oh yeah, I’m never playing Panic Restaurant for some stupid excuse I’ve concocted. Same goes for you, Little Samson!
But I did always want to play Panic Restaurant, and that’s entirely thanks to Nintendo Power. Panic Restaurant was featured in Issue 38 of Nintendo Power, coincidentally the issue that covered Street Fighter 2. As you can probably guess, since I was young and hungry for street fighting, I read that issue an estimated twelve billion times. It was also the July issue for the year, which meant it got some “extra” reading over the course of the annual Florida vacation (which involved a car ride that lasted roughly as long as the rise and fall of the Roman Empire). Oh, and was this an issue with that Legend of Zelda comic? It was! Oh God! This is a perfect storm, people! I might be able to recite portions of this magazine from memory. I bet Super Mario Bros. 3 was the number one NES game that month! … Okay, that was a gimme.
But, as I now leaf through this issue of Nintendo Power (yes, I have it readily accessible… don’t you?), I realize that a number of these games I wouldn’t play for another ten years, if at all. Magic Sword? Going to have to wait for emulation for that, young Goggle Bob. Gameboy Toxic Avengers? Sorry, same deal (and it ain’t gonna be pretty). Even R-Type, Super Smash TV, and Shatterhand, all featured in this month’s Classified Information, were games that I wouldn’t touch for years, if not decades. Make no mistake, I wanted to play Super Smash TV (the arcade… comes home!), but I think I want to rent the new, not-in-arcades Mega Man X this week. But that desire… the need to play these games featured in a magazine I read over and over… that only grows… and festers… and, soon enough, I’m at a used game store ten years later, looking at a SNES cartridge with a whacky chef on the cover, and… yeah… I think this is something I want, right? Yes, please, let’s buy this, play it for five minutes, and then never think about it again until some daffy robot demands it be played. That’s a plan!
And I wonder: if Nintendo Power can get me to buy some weird 16-bit game on a misplaced memory of an 8-bit game, how else is that beloved publication influencing my thinking today? Are articles I read twenty years ago manipulating the life or death decisions I make daily? Is Counselor’s Corner controlling the man I am now? Oof, that’s almost too much to contemplate. I’m my own person, dammit, I’m not going to let Nintendo Power tell me what to do!
I think I have to go lie down now. Maybe I’ll call my doctor, get some advice straight from the pros…
FGC #222 Out to Lunch
- System: Super Nintendo and Gameboy. This game would be more tolerable in a portable format… but then it would probably also just be Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle. That’s not a good thing.
- Number of players: Two player alternating. And you both play as the same chef. Couldn’t get a recolor going, guys? Lame.
- Favorite powerup: There are spiked shoes, and I thought they would help stomp on enemies more effectively, but, nope, they let Chef “stick” to the icy platforms, and not slip around. Considering that damn slipperiness pretty much killed my desire to keep playing this game, I’d say that’s the best powerup available.
- So, did you beat it? Nope. I’m not sure I’ll ever be bored enough to grapple with this much tedium.
- Did you know? Because I will never own the game, I will never review Panic Restaurant as part of the FGC. And that looks like a more interesting game than Out to Lunch, too! Right here in Nintendo Power, it says that…
- Would I play again: I never wanted to play this game in the first place!
What’s next? Let’s review 2016! Please look forward to it!