Turning up the heat on restaurant management.

Like a lot of folks looking for their first job, I started off with an obligatory stint of burger flipping at a part-time fast food gig back in high school. I’ve experienced the insane chaos that can come with serving greasy grub to lines of hungry customers with short fuses. Burger Bustle nicely emulates the semi-stressful vibe of busy burger joint action and the inevitable fun that builds when you get into a steady groove. It also incorporates a few interesting twists that other restaurant-themed time management games don’t have.

Without any story setup or main characters to speak of, Burger Bustle’s premise is straightforward. Rather than trying to build a restaurant business from scratch, save a failing food venture, or stick it to the man, you’re simply concerned with stuffing food into the stomachs of as many paying customers as possible in order to make as much green as possible and beat out the competition. Though the individual goals between levels change-up at regular intervals, the overarching objective is to earn enough stars to work your way up the ranks of the top 20 restaurants around.

Burger Bustle

At least initially, the gameplay follows the same flow as other time management titles. Customers that come into your restaurant will wander up to the counter and place their order. Basic food stations let you produce a variety of different burgers (fish, chicken, beef) that can be customized with toppings at secondary stations. There are also other unlockable stations that let you whip up pastries and sweets, French fries and onion rings, coffee drinks, and other tasty treats. Once diners have settled on a menu selection, you’ll prepare their meals by clicking on various stations around the kitchen, wait for the food item to queue up, and then deliver it to the server who will package and present the food to the customer.

The unique thing about Burger Bustle is you’re required to staff each station with an employee in order to make it operate, and you can drag and drop current staff in different spots in the kitchen on the fly to fill-in where they’re needed. You can run a full kitchen with only four staff members (with one person handling burger cooking, one handling toppings, another preparing sweets, drinks and fries, and one handling the counter), but you don’t always start out with enough staff to cover everything. Extra personnel can be purchased once you’ve earned enough money in a level, however, you also have to balance your spending in order to afford new stations required to meet goals in each stage. Dealing with employees can make the already intense gameplay more frantic, yet it also adds a nice level of extra depth to the otherwise standard formula.

Each stage is a standalone challenge, so stations, workers, and other items you unlock in a given level aren’t necessarily immediately available in future stages. The objectives quotas also change frequently from one level to the next. You’ll often be striving to serve a set number of customers, make specific foods within the timeframe given, or earn enough income to hire a set amount of employees, though other variations do arise. Completing each goal within the set timeframe isn’t essential to progressing to later levels, but you’ll need to meet those benchmarks to score enough stars to work your way up the top 20 ranks. Every competitor you beat earns you an award that comes in the form of a special item to help you along in your quest. These helpful goodies speed up your cooking equipment, provide you with refreshments to ease grumpy patrons, and help out in other important ways. It’s an intriguing way to progress through the game that encourages re-play of past levels to boost your score.

Burger Bustle

Playing through tiers of stages in the main campaign opens up new restaurant locations to play in, including wacky places like the Wild West, outer space, and a water park. Each spot has its own silly clientele. While many characters’ voices and goofy catchphrases are recycled from one place to the next, their outfits change to match the area’s visual theme. Beyond the main campaign, there’s Survival Mode and Relaxing Mode that offer slightly different variations on the main game. Both are only unlocked once you reach the higher reaches of the top restaurant charts.

Burger Bustle is a game with a lot of depth that constantly switches things-up to keep you from getting bored. That said, it can be frustrating further along in the game when customers simply just don’t order the foods you need to meet order quotas in a timely manner. This will sometimes prevent you from achieving the gold and silver time medals needed to boost your score quickly. Otherwise, the gameplay is varied and exciting, and the upbeat visuals and charming customer shenanigans balance out the focus-intensive juggling act.