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Insanity (Turbografx-CD) artwork

Insanity (Turbografx-CD) review

"Insanity is the first TurboGrafx homebrew game in eight years, and the first to ever feature PSG music in addition to a CD soundtrack. Aside from some assistance on the artwork, this Berzerk clone (to use the creator's own words) was essentially programmed by one guy in under one year."

This is a homebrew release. When playing indie games, I'm not looking for the production and sheen of a commercial release (although more power to anyone who pulls that off). I'm looking for ingenuity and talent. A game that showcases one, the other, or both is likely to receive a recommendation.

Insanity is the first TurboGrafx homebrew game in eight years, and the first to ever feature PSG music in addition to a CD soundtrack. Aside from some assistance on the artwork, this Berzerk clone (to use the creator's own words) was essentially programmed by one guy in under one year. There's very little available documentation for TurboGrafx programming; learning the system and demonstrating enough dedication to complete a project is pretty impressive . . . especially when the time and expense of manufacturing professionally-pressed packages is considered. Insanity's existence is a testament to the enduring devotion of TurboGrafx fandom.

With all of that in mind, it pains me to say Insanity, although competent, isn't particularly good.

Following Berzerk's example, the orange-clad humanoid avoids touching electrified walls while shooting chatty robots and escaping through open doorways. Doing so moves on to the next level; however, instead of aping Berzerk's inescapable series of 64,000 maps, Insanity eventually culminates in a boss battle against the diabolical Robot Master after a few dozen stages. The Robot Master is Insanity's version of "Evil Otto" -- instead of an iconic, demented smiley face, TurboGrafx fans get a grumpy grey tornado. The game starts out way too easy and takes a while to get going, but it becomes quite challenging by the time you face its fiendish finale.

Aside from that neat multi-part boss battle, this is essentially a thirty-year-old game. Blasting robots or watching them stupidly walk headfirst into electric walls is always entertaining, but the humanoid moves at a snail's pace, the invincible Robot Master floats through walls, and cheap deaths abound -- the humanoid is occasionally shot upon entering a stage, unless you first pause the game to get your bearings.

These issues were all present in the original Berzerk, but plenty of retro games, and retro-styled games, have already improved on its concepts. The old arcade classics (including Berzerk) stood out because they made the most of their limitations; aside from its catchy music, Insanity demonstrates little imagination of its own. There aren't any cinematics, the robots all behave basically the same, and the backgrounds don't even change color. Aside from looking cool in its professional packaging, I'm really not sure why Insanity needed to be sold as a $30 CD.

It may sound like I didn't enjoy the game, but that's not true. I enjoyed Berzerk when I was seven, and I enjoy Insanity today. It's a faithful remake. But when so many indie developers are producing something new or expanding on old concepts in clever ways, it's hard to get excited about a game I played so many years ago. Aetherbyte Studios has demonstrated competence and willpower. I plan to support their next project . . . but I won't ask you to do the same.



zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (November 29, 2009)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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Arkhan posted November 29, 2009:

Hmm. Homebrew != indie as far as development goes. Indie developers are on the current systems striving to produce great modern games...

All development for old, defunct consoles is homebrew! :)

I feel the review didn't properly represent Insanity as an as faithful as possible remake of Berzerk and was approached in the wrong manner as far as what it is as a whole.

Maybe the backgrounds could have palette shifted (who needs em when they pulse like they do), maybe there could have been cinematics (why, really?), and maybe the robots could have acted like they have Ph.D's, but then it wouldn't be the same Berzerk.

Saying the game lacks imagination is a bit of an overkill. Compared to the stickmen and lackluster art of the original.....

and you said games that showcase talent or ingenuity are likely to get a recommendation, went on to mention some of the talent involved (such as the PSG music, and there are some other behind the scenes code related bits that players obviously are unaware of), and then at the end threw in a "I plan to support their next project . . . but I won't ask you to do the same". Ouch. Homebrew is often a thankless art, but man...

PS: You missed out on the hidden modes. :)
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zigfried posted November 29, 2009:

Thanks for the feedback!

I would disagree on the definitions of indie and homebrew.

Indie = person or group not affiliated with a professional company
Homebrew = produced by a hardware consumer (as opposed to a professional developer), term normally refers to games on a platform that requires some type of proprietary medium

So if Sega makes a new Genesis cartridge, it's not homebrew or indie. But if I made a new Genesis cart, it would be both homebrew and indie. If I make a digitally-distributed game for Xbox Live, then it would just be indie but not homebrew.

Regarding that last sentence, I appreciate the effort you put into the game, but I would not feel comfortable asking people to join me. I'm not telling them to avoid the game (which is why I said I enjoyed it and plan to support in future)... just leaving it up to people to make up their own minds based on what they feel is important from an indie/homebrew product.

I really am looking forward to your next game, whenever that may be!


PS- I found Predator mode! Just not the others.
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JoeJackson posted November 30, 2009:

Hmm, something don't seem right about some info here. I don't think this game was programmed by 1 guy and 1 female artist as the Aetherbyte website says they are a team of programmers, artists, musicians. It does look pretty dated and bland and I agree the professional artwork is probably the only thing going for this game and that $30 price tag is just retarded.

What do the credits in the manual and game say or are there any credits at all?
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zigfried posted November 30, 2009:

I got the info from ongoing information during development (including a developer interview at another site), and from the game credits. I certainly hope I didn't misunderstand something. Please correct me if you know otherwise, but I believe there was the designer and then a couple people who helped with artwork (one did in-game and cover art, one did package design/media artwork).

The review text is correct (no mention of "female assistance" since two people assisted with different aspects of artwork). I just updated the teaser blurb to match the review text. Sorry for any confusion caused by the inconsistency.

Based on the end-game credits, the package designer also worked on in-game graphics. The credits also mention "the old dude at Hurgle" under programming. Hurgle Studios is later credited with "assistance". I've always believed this particular project was essentially a one-person show, but I'll certainly correct the review if anyone has other information.


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