Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Big Bumpin'

Even for a fast food company, Burger King has had its fair share of rather bizarre marketing campaigns, most infamously their on-and-off King mascot. In late 2006, one of these campaigns involved selling a series of three Xbox and Xbox 360 compatible games as $3.99 add-ons to a value meal, those being Big Bumpin’, Pocketbike Racer and Sneak King. While I didn’t get any of these games during the campaign’s initial run, in part because I didn’t own either of Microsoft’s home consoles at the time, I did go out of my way to find them for cheap around the time I actually got an Xbox system. While I did briefly play them then, I recently decided to revisit them to see if I had actually seen everything in those games, beginning with Big Bumpin’. Even after some time had passed, it was just as unremarkable as I remembered.

The general gameplay of Big Bumpin’ is based around the amusement park attraction of bumper cars, set across five arenas with variations each. Each of the different gameplay modes, of which there are five, is explained through the loading screens before you start a round, however the text goes a little too fast for some people to actually be able to read it. Prior to starting a round, you can “Have It Your Way” [actual button prompt] and customize the conditions of each game, including the difficulty of the AI and the win conditions.

There are a number of playable characters, including a few original characters, and the ability to customize your own. Three of the playable characters include the King mascot; Whopper Jr., as seen in a Whopper Jr. marketing campaign; and the Subservient Chicken, listed as S. Chicken, used in a bizarre marketing campaign for the TenderCrisp chicken sandwich. Additionally, actress Brooke Burke is included as a playable character, which seems like an odd choice since she's not one I would typically associate with Burger King. You can also choose your bumper car and can even participate in tournaments to unlock additional cars, though the cars are more of an aesthetic choice and have no effect on gameplay. As a small touch, you can freely blow the horn during the game by pressing B, as well as change the style of the horn by pressing the Left Bumper.

There are five different play modes, each with their own rules and win conditions, as well as pick-ups with varying effects depending on the game. Last Man Standing is a pretty self-explanatory one, in which you must avoid taking damage or falling for the arena's traps long enough to win. Shockball isn’t explained very well, though the impression I got is that you have to survive multiple rounds while playing hot potato with a ball of lightning. Power Surge also involves electricity, but players must collect enough Charge Points and bring them to a receptacle located elsewhere in the arena. Bumpin Hockey is a timed game of air hockey, in which two teams of two players have to score goals before time runs out. Finally, Own The Puck is a variation of the hockey setup, except you score points by maintaining control of a puck, which you claim control of by bumping into it.

Bumpin Hockey plays like air hockey.

The graphics are generally decent. Each of the five areas in the game is themed in a way to distinguish themselves on the surface. However, even the theming and multiple layouts don’t prevent the arenas from feeling a bit samey. While the camera is placed at a good distance away from the gameplay, the general design of everything makes it rather easy to lose track of your bumper car.

The music is also decent, though not particularly memorable. Not helping is that the music cuts off in the selection screen after you play a single round, even cutting off mid-game before the timer (where applicable) has a chance to run out. You can tell the announcer is trying their best to create some enthusiasm, however it wasn’t enough to keep me invested in any of the game modes.

One thing I will mention is, much like Pocketbike Racer and Sneak King, the game includes a paper slip advertising the BK Crown Card, the name for Burger King gift cards. Though this game didn’t make me want to go out and get one, I appreciate that the option is there.

Big Bumpin’ was designed as a cheap advergame and it shows. It’s not exactly the most exciting of the three games from King Games, as it can easily take an hour or less to see everything the game has to offer. Still, while I wouldn’t highly recommend it, there is a certain novelty in playing it at least once, especially since it’s not too hard to find a cheap aftermarket copy. In the end though, it manages to work as an advertising vehicle in its own bizarre way, since I found myself mildly craving a Whopper while writing this review.

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