Top 5 Food-Related Arcade Games

You might have heard that October is Truck Month. You're right, of course - as if you could forget with those Chevy ads on heavy rotation -- but as a designation it's irrelevant. Everyone knows that in Houston, every month is truck month.

You might also have heard that October is Texas Wine Month. Or perhaps not, considering the enormous shadow cast by Houston Beer Week. (Absent intentional counterprogramming in the beer vs. wine feud, seems like someone could have made a phone call there, right?)

You are probably not aware, however, that October is also Video Game Month. Houston gamers recently thronged the annual Arcade Expo (161 games, all set on free play), and Houston-based charity Extra Life held its annual video game marathon to benefit the Children's Miracle Network. What better time, then, for us to rank the top 5 food-related arcade games?

5. Ice Cold Beer (tagline: "The one game customers ask for by name!")

A mechanical arcade game in which you use two joysticks to maneuver a small metal ball into a lit-up hole representing a beer bubble, presumably to "pop" the bubble. It's sort of like the tabletop Labyrinth game. The food connection is tenuous (why exactly are you trying to pop beer bubbles?), but as a game about beer for beer drinkers to play in places that serve beer, it's sort of genius. This is the all-time favorite food -themed game of Keith Christensen, founder and chief organizer of the Houston Arcade Expo, who observes that it "also makes a pretty fun drinking game." You got that right! Also came in a non-alcoholic version called Zeke's Peak, which customers did not ask for by name.

4. Popeye

You play the eponymous character and try to rescue Olive Oyl while dodging the Sea Hag, Bluto, and the beer bottles they throw at you. Your primary weapon is, yes, spinach. Fun to play, but with an annoyingly moralistic message. I get it: spinach good, beer bad.

3. Tapper (tagline: "Catch a Mug Full of Fun!")

You play a bartender serving Budweiser to thirsty customers who inch toward you with increasing speed; if they reach the keg before you serve them, or you fail to pick up their empty mugs, you die. Fun both as a game and also as a social experiment: Do you think bar patrons were aware they'd been Tom Sawyered into paying money to serve other people beer? The verisimilitude is nice -- the joystick for "pouring" beer is a Budweiser beer tap handle, and the game cabinet features a brass rail and bottle holders - but Tapper's most amazing feature is that it's a semi-realistic game about the food service industry that doesn't suck. (I would love to see an Iron Chef video game, but am not holding my breath.) Also came in a non-alcoholic version called Root Beer Tapper, which was almost exactly the same game, yet much lamer.

2. Food Fight (tagline: "Tell the truth -- haven't you always wanted to throw a pie in someone's face?")

You play towheaded scamp Charley Chuck, whose sole goal in life is to eat an ice cream cone, slowly melting on the other side of the screen. Upon successfully reaching the cone, you engulf it with your mouth like a python does a gazelle. Opposing you are four evil chefs named Oscar, Angelo, Jacques and Zorba, distinguishable only by the shape of their toques. To answer your question, yes. Jacques's toque does look like a beret. Also onscreen are piles of peas, tomatoes, bananas, pies and watermelon, which both you and the chefs can pick up and throw as weapons. Anyone who's watched Hell's Kitchen knows that food is a dangerous projectile, but in all other respects this game is just wacky. Since when do chefs try to prevent kids from eating ice cream?

1. BurgerTime

You play hapless chef Peter Pepper, trying desperately to prepare hamburgers while being chased by the anthropomorphic Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle and Mr. Egg. Your only weapon is a limited supply of pepper, which you can throw at your enemies to stun them temporarily. BurgerTime is three kinds of awesome, but to be fair, the hamburger preparation is unrealistic: you assemble a burger by walking over each section (bun, patty, etc.), which drops it one level and eventually into a holding tray. But what kind of idiot plays video games and complains when they're not real enough? BurgerTime as metaphor is easy to understand - sometimes when you cook, you feel like you're at war with the ingredients. And the only way to stay alive is to add some spice. Did I mention that BurgerTime is awesome?

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