Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is a game that makes you realise all the horror stories of the fast-food industry were just the beginning. The core of the game involves you working a 9 to 5 job at your local fast-food restaurant that is in no way is inspired by any well-known restaurants. There is one key difference between Happy’s Humble Burger Farm and other fast food establishments, the customers aren’t the only horrific things to show up.
While this work routine makes up the core of the gameplay loop, the first scene of the game makes it very clear that what is going on with your character may not be as straightforward as it seems.
The Meat and Potatoes of the gameplay
As mentioned above, the core gameplay revolves around the daily running of a fast food restaurant that somehow keeps getting customers. This initially starts out by you having to produce three simple burgers for customers with the difficulty revolving around not burning the food and occasionally having to skip on some salad. Though things start simple, the running of the restaurant soon involves you having to cook many different meals whilst also having to deal with emergencies in the restaurant such as overflowing toilets or furry invaders. Oh, and did I forget to mention that if you fail enough of your tasks then a bloodthirsty cow appears – if you can`t make it happy with a rotten burger, be prepared to respawn.
You also need to deal with some very unhelpful guests in your kitchen, from self-destructing blobs to giant venom spewing fly men. These additions also highlight an issue with the gameplay in that after their first or second appearance they become less of a scare and just more of an annoyance to deal with. Especially in the case where they can obstruct your vision to the point where you may be unable to read the green text order on a green screen because your vision is also turned green. To put it bluntly, after your first two shifts a failed order becomes a lot more frightening than anything else the game throws at you.
The actual gameplay involves you having to pick up and throw food and drinks into various fryers, microwaves and serving bags. While the mechanics are simple, they can also be the most infuriating part of the game. This is due to the wild targeting inconsistency, you can throw a bunch of similar items in the same direction and they’ll all land in different locations. Additionally is the fact that if your item does go somewhere unintended, based on how fiddly it can be to pick it up, it will probably result in a game over.
Hidden under the surface
As I said earlier, while the restaurant service part of the game is front and centre, it is certainly not the only part of the game. Mild spoilers from this point onwards, so if you want to go into the game completely free of knowledge, skip this section…
From the very outset of the game, where you experience a scene from an operating theatre, it is clear that there is something lying just beneath the surface of what is being presented as the main game. Throughout the opening, while you are undertaking the first shifts, the game gives you clues that there is more going on with the introduction of tapes that paint a very different story to what you are being told. If you start to go down the rabbit hole of these clues, you will soon find yourself putting your serving skills to the test in much more deadly situations than just dealing with unhappy customers.
You also learn that there is a lot more to the city than just your back and forth journey to work each day. These varied environments range from a storage warehouse, that stores more than just boxes, to an underground area being stalked by very upset poultry. The game also gives you the ability to create “recipes” that give you access to important items such as keypad hackers and burger bombs. These items are then used to even further open up the map and story.
Without giving any more information on where the story goes, the game takes you to some very strange places despite its rather short runtime.
Once you have gotten through your first playthrough of the game you unlock endless mode, this is just you vs. the customers in the restaurant with all food options unlocked. The only goal here is to last as long as you can under the pressure, without the threat of any horrific interruptions as you serve your meals. I liked the fact that you can enable this mode and continue playing for as long as you wish, but I feel it would have been better if you could simply activate it without having to complete the game first. Although the game is interesting and challenging, I imagine there are some people who may want to just play the simulation side before they finish the game, maybe for practice?
Happy’s Humble Burger Farm isn’t the most advanced or realistic game out there, far from it. At times, it felt like I had travelled back in time and was playing on a PS1 thanks to the low-quality textures and simplistic level design. However, this was all done intentionally as it helped the game appear creepier and unsettling. I was playing the game on my PS5 via Backwards Compatability and had no issues with the stability or performance, it just took me a while to become accustomed to the visual design after playing modern AAA games prior to this game.
In terms of audio, there’s a jukebox with lots of soundtracks to choose from as well as over two hours of Talk Radio – not to mention some fun voices including Jon St. John (Duke Nukem). If you do like the music, you can pick up most of the soundtracks on Steam – however, the developer hasn’t put them on PSN. Considering how cheap they are, I’m hoping they’ll distribute them on Sony’s store as well.
Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is a simple game with some good initial scares that sadly wear off after a while. When the gameplay works it’s a smooth and enjoyable experience, but the main problem is that I found it to be quite fiddly and inconsistent at times, affecting my overall opinion. The combination of a cooking simulator and a horror game is one I’ve not seen before, resulting in an often frustrating and challenging experience. I thought that the Endless Mode was a good idea, extending the simulation gameplay, but the only problem for some is that they will have to endure through a complete playthrough in order to access it.