As Thanksgiving was fast approaching, it brought to mind the little quirky SNES platformer known as Out to Lunch. This game centers around a chef who has to run around like a madman collecting his runaway ingredients. There really isn’t such a thing as “Thanksgiving games” I suppose, but you can’t make a case for such without citing this peculiar title. I’d been meaning to play this game for 24 years now but didn’t until very recently. I’ve heard some pretty good things about it over the years. As some of us are still recovering from our food coma and Black Friday shopping scars, let’s kick back and see what’s cooking. Fair warning, there may be a few (lousy) food puns throughout. That was just the first egg-ample. Just kidding. I’ll try to avoid doing the cliche thing. Key word there being “try.”
THE STORY GOES…
ROTTEN TO THE CORE
CAPTURE THE FOOD
LOOK OUT FOR SECRETS
PORTION CONTROL AND OTHER TIPS
Bonus points are rewarded if the first three food items you collect are the same three that come bouncing out of the fridge. So it pays to pay attention to the brief cutscene before each level. Pretty neat, huh?
Locating and securing the flour and net first should be your top priority. Only then can you stun the food with your flour, leaving them ripe for the taking.
Release the captured ingredients into a cage. Once the required number has been secured, a portal opens to whisk you to the next stage.
Earlier levels tend to have the flour and net close by. As you can imagine, not so much in the later levels. In addition to stunning them by throwing flour at them, you can also jump on their heads.
Collect all the extra items, like soda cans and candy canes, to gain even more points. You’re also given points each time you place an ingredient into the cage.
Potatoes, due to their size and lack of speed, are the easiest target. I like how the food is animated and is even given eyes and various expressions.
There is an incentive to collect as many ingredients as you can and saving them for one massive collective deposit. The point value will increase! By the way, how nice it is to see the flour and net nearby right away. Don’t get used to that…
Bitter rival, Le Chef Noir (what a great name), occasionally appears out of thin air to liven things up.
Instead of attacking you though, the coward attempts to swoop in for a little sabotage. If left unchecked, he’ll open the cage and free up the ingredients. All that hard way out the window. So make sure you strike first. I find going Godzilla on his ass to work best (provided you have the Tabasco power-up).
Playing a certain tune without any sour notes will reveal something special. Some portals appear near the cage once you’ve saved the proper number of ingredients. But other times these portals appear far away from the cage. Each level gets progressively more difficult.
Switzerland is a pretty easy world and eases you into the mechanics of the game. Don’t forget you can stun enemies by hopping on them (sometimes you won’t have the flour right away).
Sometimes instead of the flour you’ll find the spoon instead. I like the way Pierre le Chef swings it around like he’s a badass Jedi. En garde!
Skates make our friend Pierre move faster. Teleporters soon come into play.
Bacteria will infect your ingredients if left unchecked. They die a painful and oozy death. Deteriorating platforms lead to a 1 UP for skilled chefs.
Bloody snowy platforms! This is the first sign of resistance on the game’s part. Up to this point you’re breezing through. This is the first stage where the timer becomes an issue. Make sure you have all seven ingredients as well. You do NOT want to make it to the cage here shy of having seven. Trust me.
Annoying when you’re missing just one. Go get that tomato, Pierre! Oh, sneaky little bugger!
There’s nothing like making it to the exit with one second to spare.
Beating a country leads to the Fruit Bonus game.
Speaking of bonus stages, be on the lookout for the cuckoo clock on the last stage of Switzerland.
You’ll be whisked to a bonus stage that gives you a crack at more points and a chance to extend the play clock. On to the second country… Greece!
Springs send Pierre sky high. Wait, what’s that in the tree there…
Teleporters can add a serious goose chase vibe to the game. Uh oh, here comes that Le Chef Noir bastard to make your life a living hell!
Annoying as hell when he barely eludes you and sets your ingredients free.
Doesn’t Le Chef Noir know? Never touch another man’s food.
Damnit, I left one behind. Talk about cutting it close!
Greece is not my favorite. I found it a bit repetitive and more annoying than fun to play.
Sadly, Out to Lunch has no password feature. However, if you click on Advanced, it will take you straight to the game’s third country. By the way, don’t get too excited by that 2 Player option. It’s alternating.
Jamaica, or the West Indies as it’s known here, is a more interesting country to navigate than Greece. If nothing else other than for its color scheme. Plus we’re introduced to the pineapple sprite, which looks cool.
Hoard those ingredients until you’re ready to dump them in the cage. Keep an eye peeled — there’s fiery Tabasco sauce hiding behind that giant seashell.
Jamaican me crazy, mon! Er, sorry. Hey look, who knew Pee Wee worked on this as a game tester.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Out to Lunch wasn’t reviewed by either EGM or GameFan, but did pretty well with gaming publications overseas. SNES Force scored it 83% while Super Play rated it 84%.
Whenever possible, I try to play a game to the very end. I don’t like switching games out until I can either claim one of two things. 1. I’ve beaten it. Or 2. I’ve gone as far as I humanly can. I do this because it’s the most satisfying way to play through one’s gaming library (at least for me). Also, I’ve found that certain games trick you into believing they are better than what they are if you only play it for the first 15 minutes or so. Unfortunately, Out to Lunch joins that list. (Other notable examples in my view include Nosferatu and Prehistorik Man). The first country, Switzerland, is a fun introduction. Sure, the control isn’t the tightest and Pierre is a bit of a crappy jumper, but I still enjoyed it. But then came Greece. The formula for the most part remained the exact same. The levels started becoming extremely tedious, and the less than stellar control became more of an issue as the game grew increasingly more difficult (thanks in part to the control). If I’d only played Switzerland and walked away, I would have given Out to Lunch a strong 7.5 rating. However, after persisting with the game I discovered that rather than evolving and mixing things up to keep me invested, the game instead quickly grew stale and became a chore to play.
To make things even worse, there is a sore absence of a password system. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are also NO cheats to the best of my knowledge that allow you to skip stages or countries. That means each time you play this game, you have to start on level one. Mind you, there are 48 levels in all. Granted, the Advanced option does start you off on level 17, but that’s still 32 levels away from beating the game! It’s a major pet peeve of mine when a game is long enough to warrant having a password system but then doesn’t, as well as no code to skip levels. It just drags down the whole experience, especially when the game can grow tedious after a while.
I really wanted to like Out to Lunch. And I did starting off. But then it was a series of unfortunate events. The timer felt too fast. Or the spotty control would betray me in the heat of the moment. Or the fact that you only have three measly lives and zero continues. And so forth. There is a decent game lying underneath all this. There really is. Unfortunately, Mindscape made some mind-numbing decisions that impacted the overall game quality. It’s a shame too because I came into this game hoping it would be a hidden gem of sorts. It certainly has its moments. But a few moments alone doesn’t make one a hidden gem. It’s not a rotten egg by any means but it’s not the “hole-in-the-wall” I was hoping it might be. I hate to say it but Out to Lunch is a classic case of diminishing returns.