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McDonald's > Burger King
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 25, 2007   |   Episode 128 (Show Archive)  

   

We can do it ... and by that I mean we can order a Big Mac, super sized fries and a side of crappy video games!
With billions of people served, a cast of lovable cartoon characters and one of the most popular sandwiches on the planet, it only makes sense that McDonald's would be the dominant force in the fast food industry. While competitors like Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC are making in-roads, so far nobody has been able to take down the giant of the fast food world, Ronald McDonald and gang. But this article is not about quickly made food that plugs your arteries and turns you into a marshmallow-shaped person. Who cares who can sell the most greasy French fries or Happy Meals?

McDonald's is more than just the star of Super Size Me; it's also one of the few fast food chains to succeed in the video game market. While

If you're the type of person who would love to get a call from The King, then buddy, just slit your wrists now and save us all some trouble!
everybody joked about last year's Burger King games (which included Sneak King, Big Bumpin', and Pocket Bike Racer), it was McDonalds that pioneered the idea of promoting their fattening burgers through video games. And it's more than just who came first; across the board the McDonald's were stronger video games made by talented developers.

Thanks to terrible movie games, mediocre titles based on TV shows, and non-stop commercialism, today's gamers are ready to just disregard any licensed product out of hand. For every good licensed product (like Chronicles of Riddick or The Warriors) we get at least five mediocre games that feel rushed and ill conceived. So it's no surprise that the Burger King games were looked at as nothing more than a joke, the type of thing you buy for dirt cheap and

Maybe it's just me, but Sneak King looks more like a rape simulator than a Burger King promotion!
give as a novelty item. Sure these games sold well, but you won't find many people who consider these games to be strong games. Had these games been any more expensive I doubt we would be talking about three million sales.

But just because the recent food-related games are disappointing that doesn't mean they are all bad. In fact, I dare say that the junk food games of the 1990s were actually some of the strongest 2D platforming games on those systems, the likes of which you might actually want to go back and play without feeling the least bit guilty about it.

Take for example Mick and Mack: Global Gladiators, the 1992 action/platformer from David Perry, the guy who introduced the world to Earthworm Jim and the MDK series. David could have just as easily taken the McDonald's money and

Despite the name and this cover art, Mick & Mack: Global Gladiators is actually a whole lot of fun!
pushed out a substandard game, but instead his team at Virgin Interactive developed a surprisingly great 2D platformer that is just as much fun today as it was fifteen years ago. What's more, Global Gladiators was more than just a giant advertisement for Ronald McDonald and company, there was also a strong environmental message that predated Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth by more than a decade.

Then again, should you expect anything less from David Perry? While some of his 3D efforts have come up a little short (such as Enter the Matrix), David's

Cool Spot is another game that could have been terrible if given to the wrong development team!
2D output is some of the best this industry has ever seen. David is the king of licensed games, churning out amazing games based on everything from Disney's Aladdin to 7up's Cool Spot to The Terminator for the Sega CD. Contrast his resume with Big Bumpin' developer, Blitz Games, whose best known for mediocre efforts like Zapper, Taz Wanted, and Bad Boys: Miami Takedown. Is it any wonder that the McDonald's game turned out to be something special while the Burger King game felt like nothing more than a shallow advertisement you paid for?

And it's not just David Perry (and the talented developers at Virgin Interactive) who honed their craft on McDonald's games. Just take a look at McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure, Treasure's Genesis follow up to the seminal shooter, Gunstar Heroes. While Treasure Land Adventures does not stand as one of the best Treasure efforts, it's still an incredibly fun action game that introduces a lot of good ideas that Treasure would eventually reuse in other games (such as Dynamite Headdy and Silhouette Mirage.


While M.C. Kids is not as bad as those Burger King games, this advertising is some of the worst you will ever see!
But there's one thing McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure is not ... and that's subtle. While you could go through Mick & Mack: Global Gladiator with limited McDonald's intrusion (occasionally Ronald would flag you in to the goal), Treasure Land Adventure is McDonald's through and through. It doesn't help matters much that you play the clown himself, which is bound to turn off a lot of older gamers who may actually find an enjoyable (albeit shallow) experience. Treasure Land Adventure won't win any awards for creativity, but where else do you get Ronald McDonald battling a giant evil tomato?

Of course, not every McDonald's game was developed by a talented team of seasoned pros. The 8-bit McDonald's game, M.C. Kids, is a mess of a platformer published by Ocean for the NES. But even with its faults (and there are many), M.C. Kids is never as painfully terrible as what you get from Sneak King. With its heavy emphasis on McDonald's characters, sugar sweet storyline and touchy controls, M.C. Kids is definitely not the kind of game you will proudly load up on the

Hey Brook Burke, maybe now is a good time to find Dave Navarro and film another season of Rockstar!
Nintendo Entertainment System. But at the same time, it's not the worst Super Mario Bros. 3 clone I've played. It's hardly a glowing recommendation, however as a game licensed on fast food characters this is one of the better titles.

Unfortunately one thing seems to be evident; all of the great fast food games were published fifteen years ago. These days the most beloved companies wouldn't touch the McDonald's license with a stolen keyboard, and those companies that do end up making these games have their hands tied by the license holder. That's not to say that we'll never see a great Burger King game, but if Pocket Bike Racer is any indication of what we can expect then it looks like the fast food heydays are behind us.

But just because the idea of a good fast food game seems, at best, unlikely, that doesn't mean that other companies won't try. Considering the overwhelming

If McDonald's ever decides to do another Ronald McDonald game they really should go back in time and do it with creepy Willard Scott!
success of the three Burger King games I wouldn't be surprised to see future games based on the Whopper. And why stop with Burger King? How long will it be until McDonald's decides to throw their hat in the ring and bring out a bunch of clown-related mini-games for the Wii? And let's not forget about Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Carl's Jr., and KFC ... if this trend continues I suspect we'll see a lot of cynical marketing attempts that ultimately leave a bad taste in all of our mouths.

At the end of the day I would rather not root for anybody. I personally loathe fast food and feel that this world would be a better place if everybody would give up the Golden Arches. But even though I won't eat their greasy slop, I can acknowledge that Global Gladiators and Treasure Land Adventure are solid games. Sure they are nothing more than advertising you are paying for, but most of the McDonald's games were actually pretty damn fun, which is a lot more than I can say about Burger King. And for that very reason I don't have trouble concluding that McDonald's really is better than Burger King!
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