Throwback Thursday - Pressure Cooker Atari 2600: USDA Prime Grade

Throwback Thursday - Pressure Cooker Atari 2600: USDA Prime Grade

Pressure Cooker
Activision Inc.

I love a good burger, just ask my wife (and my doctor.)  I feel like burgers can go either way, it's either cooked amazingly well, or it's a hockey puck. Back in the early 1980's, the video game industry was no exception to this analogy. Companies from all over the world were trying to cash in on the home video game craze, and a lot of cartridges ended up being turds (no not E.T., we will get to that another day.)  However, if there was one company you could always count on for a great game it was Activision.  Excellent titles like Pitfall!, River Raid, Dragster, Fishing Derby and more all stood out from the crowd providing a beautiful and addicting gameplay experience. With their brightly colored labels on their cartridges, these titles stand out from the crowd of trash that was put on a circuit board inside a black plastic shell.

Pressure Cooker allows you the player to control Short Order Sam. You have the glorious task as being the head chef in a burger joint named "The Grille" where apparently there are no other employees working. A conveyor belt provides the bottoms of hamburger buns and a ground beef patty for you to customize to the customer's liking. Ingredients are located on the right side of the play field, which are shot at you for you to catch to place on your bun. Lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese can all be shot towards you, depending on what the customer wants. However, some ingredients may be fired that you don't need, you can send them back by pushing the joystick button while in front of the rejected topping. Finally, the top of the hamburger bun is also shot from the right hand side to complete your mouth-watering masterpiece.  While all of this is going on, your customers orders can be found at the bottom of the screen, with check marks under which ingredients they have requested. The color coding specifies on which distribution conveyor in the "Wrapping Room" the completed burger creation should be deposited. This "Wrapping Room" screen can be found by moving Short Order Sam to the bottom of the screen, and pressing the button to release the burger to the appropriate customer.

Make sure Short Order Sam places the burger in the correct slot or it doesn't count!

"Business is Booming at "The Grille". Hamburger orders are just pouring in. But back in the Assembly Room, the Food Dispenser is pouring out condiments everywhere. Help Short-Order Sam fill each order with the proper combination of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and cheese. And don't forget the bun! Then, rush the completed orders to the Wrapping Room fast. Alright cooks, grab your spatulas!" -Pressure Cooker Manual

Prove that you scored 45,000 points or more in Pressure Cooker and you could mail away for this Short-Order Squad patch.

My first experience with this game was in the late eighties, when my cousin Candace had this title and many others that I had never seen before. She brought some of her Atari cartridges over to my grandmother's house for my brother and I to play with our system. Immediately I was hooked with the brightly colored graphics and catchy background tune that was unusual for many Atari games of that time. The controls are slick, and the game is very easy for anyone to pickup and play but hard to master. Score 45,000 points and you would be eligible for the Short-Order Squad patch by mailing into Activision with photographic proof of your score. A little known fact, Garry Kitchen was the designer of this classic and hid a secret message inside the game. When Short Order Sam turns left, you can see the letter "k" that is placed inside the body of the character sprite to signify the last initial of the creator.

The main Pressure Cooker play field. Note the "k" in Short Order Sam's body to signify the creator, Garry Kitchen.

Pressure Cooker can be found in multiple Activision collections, including PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance, PC, Android, iOS, and more. There also is a 2-player mode where players alternate to compete for a high score. This game is perfect for a quick test in reflexes and memorization, and is in my "Top 5" Atari games of all time. It is a perfect game in all areas, and one of the top games to come out in 1983 for the Atari VCS / 2600 system. A countless number of clones have tried to recreate the addictive madness that is Pressure Cooker with cakes, ice cream, and other junk food, but nothing comes close to a good juicy burger.

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