Click to rate
Berzerk is a multi-directional shooter video arcade game, released in 1980 by Stern Electronics of Chicago. It is a canonical example of a maze game, in which the player has to navigate around a maze-like building while shooting enemies.
System requirements for Atari 2600
System requirements for Atari 5200
Berzerk reviews and comments
The premise of Berzerk is pretty simple but it is mandatory to have a better grasp of what is going on, in summary: you're stranded in an unknown planet and your team is captured by an evil man "Evil Otto", after that you're prompted to escape from his maze-lair filled with laser-shooting robots and electrified walls. Which brings us to the core of the gameplay, as its premise, it is really simple but also effective, you start in a randomly generated room with some robots on it, the objective of the game is to eliminate as many robots as you can and stack points to get the best score possible before you die, as you may notice this is an arcade game on which the better you play the better your score, the robots start with slow movement and slow shots but as you progress they become more and more aggressive.
This game have several optional game modes, twelve to be precise, on which everyone has a different set of rules, ranking from the normal mode on which you only shoot robots or a harder mode on which after some time has passed Evil Otto will appear and start to hunt you down ala Nemesis from Resident Evil 3, this gaves an extra layer of challange an although it seemed that you can master this difficulty, for the most part Evil Otto seemed op and faster than your character, so in my case playing in this mode was more like 'dispatch every enemy as fast as I can before the evil head appears', the other modes are variations with increased or decreased difficulty, harder to get extra lifes and even an easy mode, although I believe the best way to play the game might be the said no.2 mode with the appearing Nemesis head, since it is challenging as is rewarding, the controls have great response and hit boxes are on point, my only issue is that shooting requieres some awkeard plsitioning like if you're in a higher position in the room than an enemy it's difficult to hit it before they hit you're legs, it's difficult to describe this situation but it will make sense once you're playing, luckly you can shoot diagonaly unlike your enemies so you can take advantage of that.
A thing that I liked a lot is that every room, especially when you're high on points and enemies are aggressive is that they feel like a little puzzle, in a similar but simpler way as in the more modern Hotline Miami, you'll find yourself in situations on which you'll need to choose in a matter of a split second if taking care of enemy A will be better than B or D like I said it's simple but it is also effective. Although my favorite aspect might be a very personal one, this game reminded me of the time when I was little and when I played with my toys I created narratives with them, in Berzerk (and I imagine a lot of games of that era) since the visuals are practically a canvas for your imagination to fill the holes I was constantly feeding the game's narrative with my own one, claiming that enemies with an specific color were a type of robot with their own story and even when the AI moved and died in erratic and self-destructed ways I gave them the trait that is because they're old robots from and old war of some sorts so a lot of them have malfunctions, of course this is made up but it wasn't as if I was looking to make this narratives, the came rather naturally, on a more "philisophical" note, the fact that you're forever traped in this maze with the only thing that keeps you going further is the your will to live, this thinking, on purpuse or not gave me the chills and along with the other stuff made my playtrough a more purpose and fulfilling experience, even if it was brief.
Berzerk might not be an amazing game by today's standards, but it certainly has aged well, more if you're willing to do some lifting yourself, the fact that basic colors, points, and lines gave me this much, it is a testament of how creativity can endure time, even when the experience can be short (or even longer depending on your arcade-mode tastes) and flawed, if you by any chance can get Berzerk my recommendation is that you add it to your collection if only to play it to test it.