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Thursday, May 26, 2022

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Obscure Video Games: Panic Restaurant

Keep calm and beat your meat

So this week I decided to go crazy and review a game that actually saw release in the US. I still consider it pretty obscure, though. The game is Panic Restaurant, a 1992 NES release from the late, legendary game designer Kenji Eno and his company EIM (Entertainment Imagination and Magnificence). Eno was only 22 at the time of its release, and he’d already been in the industry for a few years at that point. However, he didn’t become well-known to hardcore gamers until starting his next company, WARP, in the mid-’90s. WARP was notorious for releasing bizarre and unique titles, most notably the survival horror sagas D and D2.

Despite Eno’s reputation, Panic Restaurant isn’t the craziest game you’ve ever seen. However, it is a very good platformer. You play a chef named Cookie, and your restaurant has been seized by your nemesis Ohdove (supposedly a mistranslation of “hors’ d’oeuvre”). The action unfolds over six levels that represent six courses of a menu devised by the villain: appetizer, soup, salad, fish, meat, and dessert. Needless to say, this means you’ll be fighting against a variety of evil food items — pizza, flan, carrots, etc. Oddly, however, the levels don’t adhere to their themes as well as you might think. For example, the main boss of the “soup course” is a microwave that shoots live chickens at you. Of course these anomalies may just be the result of a poor translation.

So why did I enjoy the game so much? It’s got a great art style with a lot character. The sprites are big, nicely drawn, and well-animated for an 8-bit game. The difficulty level is appropriate — just tough enough to keep you interested. The variety of weapons (all various kitchen utensils) livened things up, as well. You go from throwing dishes, to pogo-ing on a deadly fork, to swatting edibles with a giant spoon.

There are a couple things that might keep you from playing Panic Restaurant. It is rather short; in fact, it will probably only take you a few hours to get through. But even if that doesn’t keep you away, the price probably will. Due to its rarity, you can expect to pay around $400 for a complete boxed copy. Don’t panic — it’s a good game, but you probably don’t need to own it.

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