Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Clocking in for a horrifying simulator of life at minimum wage, we’re exploring restaurant management at Happy’s Humble Burger Farm, a “quiet” restaurant on the edge of town. I’ve spent fifteen years in the food industry now, most of that has been behind the line in the kitchen of a full-service restaurant, but I’ve held my fair share of management and fast food positions as well. I signed up for the game expecting a laugh, the concept was good enough for a chuckle, and I’m always up for some spooky exploration. What I wasn’t prepared for was the exact same stresses I have experienced at actual work. From an out-of-touch boss that doesn’t care to impossible coworkers and noxious customers, it’s all there.
Waking up to an obnoxious alarm in a dingy apartment with a call from your boss was way too familiar as the game starts in post-tutorial. A large bed fills most of the room, there’s a fair amount of living space in the front, and even a walk-in closet in the bathroom. Not gonna lie, I’ve lived in worse. Toe is a pretty bad neighbor though. Across the hall and one door down lives your coworker and, as the game calls him, your best friend and he opens your door every time he walks past it. You find a recording later that reveals he is 35 years old, and has regressed mentally to the point where he can barely stand there staring at the burgers on the grill as they burn.
Step outside and smell that fresh, New Elysian air. Just, don’t do it through your nose. Your boss reminds you that you do not live in the nice part of town, and that you can’t even take the bus to work, right as you exit the building and see a mess of cop cars and a helicopter surrounding a fiery car crash. Toe seems unfazed though, hands mimicking handlebars as he jogs down the street and into the most ominous street tunnel I’ve ever seen. Luckily, this part of town really likes its burgers, because there are full-on road signs directing you past a series of construction sites, one with a bunch of workers wandering around, to take you to Happy’s Humble Burger Farm.
Full traps outside the place, truck just left outside the back door, trash from the night before still around the lobby, and the creepiest statues of the cartoon characters the restaurant is based around you could expect from a restaurant. Not so creepy once the lights are on, Charlie the Chicken even has a whole beatnik vibe. Do not interact with the farmer. Oh yeah, this was one of those restaurants. I shook my head in real life, ticking off the past jobs I’d never return to if my life depended on it as I started up the grill.
This kitchen is absurd too. All of the patties are kept in the back freezer, you can’t assemble your sandwiches on the board attached to the cooler the toppings are kept in, and you have to go all the way around the whole dressing station to get to your fryers and warming tray from the bagging station. I wanna have a conversation with whoever at corporate organized this nonsense, ‘cause there is no way it came from in-store choices. Drink station and shakes are alright though, easy to fire-and-forget while you fill the rest of the order.
Simplicity is the goal with this menu. Three proteins, five toppings, order it how you want. Do not get orders wrong. It’s fast food though, you don’t have all day. Work smarter, not harder as my boss always said from the office chair. Some handy notes have been added to your employee guide, like “Prepare burger while patty is cooking” and “Do not upset her” Ignore the scrambling naked man along the floor, it’s the twitchy one coming from the bathroom you’ve gotta worry about. He’s a fan of the Poppin’ Pork sandwich and Petey the Pig, and will just explode if you get in his way. Clean up before you leave, and try not to think too hard about where the farmer was standing when you clocked in. Some bricks will smash through a front window to the restaurant as you’re heading out. Someone didn’t like their Salmon Nuggets I guess.
Day three is where things get extra interesting. The construction site has an accident, and you find a burning crane has smashed the fence in front of the warehouse with all the workers. Your boss told you to not check it out, to leave it to the professionals, but they’re not here, and we’ve got time before our shift. You can just go to work here, pick up another element to the kitchen, add tasks to complete in that limited order time, keeping from upsetting happy. If you’re like me, you can instead fight a gigantic, mutated, biomechanical Petey the Pig who tears explosive hunks of flesh from himself to throw at you as you dodge those twitchy, exploding people and try to make three Poppin’ Pork Sandwiches with all five toppings to throw down Petey’s throat. After which he’ll explode, revealing a very messy tunnel through him to get some lore dumps and things for crafting.
Go to work after, make some money, save your money, you’ll need it. Finish your shift, go home, and find a robot in your closet who reveals that everything is fake, and that the person before you made a bunch of recipes to escape. Something tells me it didn’t work. Maybe it did, and that’s why they’re gone now. I doubt it though. Petey was the easiest of the crew to get past, in my opinion. Charlie is not a Chill Chicken. I’m trapped though, endlessly making burgers for dead-eyed customers and naked floor-crawlers.
The game suffers some drawbacks for the console version. It’s a sim, so it’s button-heavy, and just doesn’t translate smoothly to a controller. The sensitivity settings likewise are a bit lacking for what’s needed to be effective at the game. They have eight color filter options for different visual needs though. If anything though, it increases the stress when it gets real spooky.
Jumpy, fast, chaotic, and downright creepy; if you want more of the existential dread of managing a fast food restaurant with an extra side of being eaten by horrifying barnyard companions Happy’s Humble Burger Farm delivers.Score: 8 / 10