Pixel Burger is an unassuming tower stacker in the vein of Tower Bloxx, Cargo King, or any of the thousands of other “put one item on top of another until they fall over” arcade challenges out there. While these all share the same basic gameplay, there’s an undeniable charm to this retro-styled burger stacker that makes it easy to pick up and impossible to put down.
The simple, but just-detailed-enough graphics are both functional and endearing: the fried egg is only a couple pixels tall, but clearly has a yellow yolk pouch; the bacon is wavy with crispiness; the bun has tiny sesame seeds dotting its top. The tiny pixelated ingredients become even more charming over time as you unlock additional “foodstuffs” like pencils, batteries, and a slew of other things with no right to burger inclusion, but which the game requests with the same sincerity as lettuce or tomato.
The gameplay is untimed but not quite relaxed: you need to make a vertically-stacked burger with the correct order of ingredients, and it must remain standing on its pedestal from bottom bun to top. For the first few levels, this is a cakewalk. Early, actual-burger ingredients like onion and pickle are small and flat, easy to stack uniformly.
But each burger you successfully build bumps you up a level, and both the types and number of demanded ingredients grows.
By level seven, you’ll have awkwardly round apples and mushrooms to contend with, and ten-plus ingredients to pile on a single bun. Just one uneven layer can throw the whole thing off-kilter, sending your partially-edible masterpiece careening off its podium. We’re currently stuck trying to finish a towering level 14 burger that is packed with squid, Neapolitan ice cream, and what appears to be an early edition of the Oxford medical dictionary.
If this sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. But this silliness—along with the shockingly specific physics engine that knows if your single gummi bear is a pixel off—is the endearing, Katamari-esque appeal of Pixel Burger. Passing a level awards a single statement: “Nice burger.” And yes, a failed level is only noted by “Bad burger.” There are inobtrusive ads and only two 99 cent in-app purchases (either of which removes the ads): a “helper pack” with additional, sturdy ingredients and a “crazy pack” with even more absurd, challenging objects—like a giant sloth or a Doge head.
The amazing thing is: there’s actually more strategy here than simply dropping all of these items in a straight line. You can tidy up already placed ingredients by nudging them with your current selection. Small items can be slotted into open spaces anywhere along your tower (usually next to a much-hated apple). We’ve even found that a few items can be stacked next to the burger on the stand itself—just not too many. A bushel of unused apples will still earn a “Bad burger” and the shame of a sloppy failure.
Otherwise, it’s just you, a pedestal, and an ever-growing mountain of burger insanity. It’s the perfect one-minute, pick-up-and-play game, except we’ve been playing it all day. We will pass this level, and when we do: celebratory squid- and book-burgers for everyone.