You're a chef, apparently named Cookie. One day, rival chef Ohdove throws some food at you and says he's taken over your restaurant, Eaten. Now you have to win it back. There's the story. It took Taito eight million dollars to come up with that.
Panic Restaurant dates from an awkward time in the history of the NES: 1992. The Super NES had just appeared, and though Nintendo assured NES owners that their system would continue to be supported, it would actually only last another year. Though the Sega Genesis and Turbographix 16 had been around for awhile, and though Atari had gone from 2600 to 7800, this was the first time a currently successful video game system was upgrading to new hardware. As a result, the third-party companies who had gotten rich off the NES were climbing over themselves to shift focus to the Super NES, and the NES was being left more and more obviously behind. Panic Restaurant is a relic from that confused time: a video game that the designer half-assed all the way through, because the future was in the next room with Yoshi.
To fight back, you have a frying pan you can whack things with. It's not much, but at least you can swing it quickly enough to be effective, unlike some video game frying pans I've seen (I'm looking at you, Conker's Bad Fur Day). You can also obtain a spoon, fork and dish as you go. The spoon is bigger than the frying pan, but works very much the same way. The dishes are a projectile weapon which are thrown in a downward arc a short distance. And the fork... the fork works like a pogo stick, allowing you to "stomp" on your foes. You can only hold one weapon at a time - collecting a new one overwrites the old - and if you get hit, you lose the weapon and default back to the frying pan. Also worth noting at this point is that any power-ups you grab don't respawn if you die; you only get one shot with each of them. Along with weapons, Panic Restaurant has the typical platform game power-ups: candies to refill your life, lollipops to fill and extend it, a chef's hat for an extra life, and a pot to make you temporarily invincible.
Each enemy you kill drops a coin. At the end of each level, you can use the coins in a slot machine to win points, lives or life. You have a choice: use all your coins, or lose them. Makes one wonder why the slot machine portion isn't more automated. Anyway, you use up to five coins in each run of the machine, and if you have five available, you have to use them all. Not that that's really bad, since each coin gives you another line with which to win.
Each of the levels is named after a course of a meal: Appetizer, Soup, Salad, Fish, Meat and Dessert. Very clever. Each one has a different sort of theme (outside, icy freezer, etc.) and each one ends with a boss:
JIFFY-POP TYPE POPCORN THING: It bounces from left to right, pausing occassionally to rush across the floor. Every time you hit it, it swells a bit, until it finally bursts forth deadly popcorn. It only does that once, though. The second time you make it blow, it dies.
MICROWAVE: This one bounces around as if to crush you, and occassionally pauses to shoot some chickens at you. The chickens can be batted away, and the microwave itself is easily killed with a few hits.
WOK: It stays on a platform near the top of the screen whole shrimp rain from the heavens. When enough shrimp have fallen into the wok, it shoots them all over, jumps to the bottom of the screen and runs back and forth there, shooting some more. Then it repeats. So you avoid the shrimp and hit it a lot. Hm.
HAMBURGER: Probably the hardest boss in the game. It's a vulnerable, seasoned all-beef patty, resting between two halves of a sesame seed bun. It bounces around a couple of times, then fires its bun-halves in either direction and off the screen. Then they fall back down near the patty and reassemble to do it again. The problem is that Cookie is so damn slow, you can't hit the patty while its frozen and hope to avoid the falling buns. So you have to risk hitting it while it bounces. Not overly easy.
ICE CREAM CONE: First, it throws its extra scoops of ice cream at you. Then it starts bouncing (this seems to be a trend) and drilling away pieces of the floor. So you hit it a lot. This also seems to be a trend.
OHDOVE: I don't want to give away the secrets of the final boss, but it just may involve hitting him a lot. I can confirm that there is no bouncing, however.
The final battle takes place high in the sky on flying frying pans. You throw eggs at Ohdove so's you can pop the balloon keeping his afloat. It pops, he falls off the screen. Then your frying pan explodes, and you fall. On the way down, you grab a balloon to slow yourself, but then it pops and you fall again. You land on the roof of your restaurant, and bounce onto the ground. Then the words "THE END" appear on the restaurant. That's it. I guess you can't expect much for half an hour of work.
TIPS & TRICKS
Thumbs down for Panic Restaurant.