Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is a surprise addition to tinyBuild’s catalogue. Sure, the publisher has an eye for indie gems, but with their recent acquisitions, the cynic in me worries that the underdogs won’t get the same exposure as before. Not the case here.
First of all, this feels like it should be on Itch.io, not on the PlayStation store, though it looks like it was made for the PlayStation One. That’s not a derogative slur; it’s just that this is incredibly visceral both in presentation and themes. It’s not the sort of title that a well-known publisher might get behind. No doubt someone can instantly correct me. The bottom line: I’m impressed.
Having the luxury of Happy’s Humble Burger Farm on both PS4 and the PC, I’d put my endorsement on the latter, unless you have a mouse connected up to your Sony box. I couldn’t seem to get on with using the sticks to interact with items. It’s not terrible, but again, that freedom of choice meant picking the PC. The visuals are significantly better (unless you’re using an 8MB AGP card).
What the funk is Happy’s Humble Burger Farm, then? Well, it’s in the title, and it’s been mentioned before. It’s a first-person horror experience that chucks Five Nights at Freddy’s, every catering simulator you can think of, and the mascot from the Skew Askew universe, Mooby, into a blender. Your role? Burger flipper, or Patty Artist.
You start each day waking up in your apartment, trying hard not to acknowledge the store manager who lives in the same block as you. He’ll open your door and STARE. It’s so extraordinarily creepy, and I love it. Like most low-paying jobs, your employee treats you like a possession, expects you to be on time, deliver a high calibre of service, and use your initiative when learning the ropes.
It’s encouraged to refer to your little Happy’s Humble Burger Farm brochure on how to make a burger and salmon fries, pressing tab then scrolling through the instructions. The initial tutorial was thorough, so no one task is hard to do; it’s the volume and accuracy. As if that wasn’t stressful enough to get an order right, you’ll be docked wages, worse still: the chains mascots will terrorise you. Yeah…
Surprisingly, the tasks at hand are reasonable enough to juggle if you can focus long enough without the distractions that get inside your head. If you’re a true patty artist, you’ll opt to do the bonus chores that need doing, earning a bit of cash to splash and spunk on your apartment. Buying gear, not baptising the sofa.
These cosmetics are naturally a bonus. Besides the daily routine of flipping burgers, which is far from a rut when the lights start going off, and you’re looking over your shoulder more than you should, the scope of Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is marvellous and incredibly immersive. Once you finish your shift, you’re free to explore and learn more about your surroundings.
After my first shift and noticing the inanimate mascots in places they shouldn’t be, I quickly made my way home. I’m useless with horror games. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the route back, but in my confusion located hidden tapes that reveal more about what’s going down at Happy’s. As if the mood of this game couldn’t get any better, these voice recordings, as well as the dictaphones in your apartment, talk radio and background TV ambience were superb.
While I’m assessing Happy’s Humble Burger Farm, feel free to attach that weirdo label you’ve been keeping in your judgemental box. I can’t fault the atmosphere in this game. From the ominous eerie sounds and distorted speech of your creepy co-worker to the build-up of fear of failure and subsequent terror, this has got to be one of the best atmospheric games in terms of my tastes.
The core gameplay is perfectly fine – it’s eerily satisfying watching the meat fry with the pixelated fats popping like jumping beans. But it’s that ambiguity that supercharges the experience. While Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is a little more coherent for most, it reminds me of Paratopic, an indie that I adore. If you like that sort of menace, curiosity and have a penchant for video filters, I suggest you check out Scythe Dev Team’s game.