Happy’s Humble Burger Farm puts you in the shoes of a lone worker of a strange fast-food outlet, tasked with carrying out menial tasks such as taking out the bins, cleaning the cooking equipment, making the food and then ultimately serving it to your customers.
Off that description alone, it sounds very much like the classic VR title Job Simulator or a kind of Cooking Mama clone and yes, the mechanics of the game are quite similar. But if that is the kind of experience you are hoping for, you are in for a shock… many shocks in fact.
Instead of the cheery visuals and the innocent childlike presentation of the aforementioned games, you are thrown into a bleak, purposely pixelated, depressing landscape, where everything feels just a bit “off”.
It doesn’t take long to realise that this game will focus less on the cooking and more on tension and atmosphere building and initially it does it brilliantly.
Not your regular cooking-sim
After a brief tutorial, where you learn the control system and how to create and serve the food. Then you are thrown into the game at the deep-end. Lying on a table, with surgeons looking down on you and mumbling some incoherent lines to each other before heading off for something to eat.
You awake in your apartment and are directed to get ready for your shift in the restaurant. The instructions from this point on are minimal. You will have to prepare the cooking equipment, open the shop and serve your customers whatever they desire off the limited menu.
So far, so normal, but the shop mascots have other ideas. Frequently they will turn off appliances, get in your way, destroy almost prepared food, attack you from behind and just be a general nuisance. There are also visual and auditory hallucinations happening at regular intervals which can be terrifying. You are constantly on edge throughout the experience which invariably leads you to make mistakes. It doesn’t stop there though. With each mistake comes an infraction. If you receive three infractions the titular Happy the Cow will attempt to kill you.
Would you like cries with that?
It’s not all about the shop though. After your shift, you are given free rein to either wander around New Elysium City or go back to your apartment. Both options give you an opportunity to learn more about the situation your character is in. It’s a nice and welcome break from the repetitive nature of the core mechanics of the game.
Scattered around the city you will find posters, cassette tapes and other helpful clues which assist you in trying to put together the pieces of the story, the history of Happy’s Humble Burger Farm and let you understand just what the hell is going on.
You can use your cash earned to buy power-ups that assist you in your cooking duties by giving you extra speed or if you choose, you can buy assorted nick-knacks to try and brighten up your disgusting apartment.
A-moo-sing little game or an udder disaster?
The game is either a mess or it is brilliant. It’s not a pretty game, but that is more through design than by fault. The poor graphics are important to add to the atmosphere so I can’t give it a low score based on that. The storyline is basic and has very little in the way of twists and turns. I think most gamers will have an idea of what is happening from the very start. The controls are a mess too. It can be a frustrating game to play, but again, it’s difficult to tell whether the people in Scythe Dev Team intended it to be.
You will either “get” this game or you won’t. It’s repetitive, it’s frustrating, the graphics suck and its control scheme is all over the place.
But if you love to be disoriented, want to be uneasy and creeped out, you could do much worse than immersing yourself in this bizarre and oppressive world for the 5 or 6 hours it lasts.