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Berzerk (Atari 2600) artwork

Berzerk (Atari 2600) review


"Berzerk is a relic. It's not a project game--nothing on Atari 2600 is or ever was meant to be. It's an appetizer, something you pop in before you start a gaming session to get you pumped for more in-depth shooting."



Doomed! You are the sole survivor of an expedition to an uncharted world, held prisoner by a legion of idiotic robots. Armed with a laser, you attempt to flee their labyrinthine headquarters before they reduce you to a crispy corpse.

Berzerk is a relic. It's not a project game--nothing on Atari 2600 is or ever was meant to be. It's an appetizer, something you pop in before you start a gaming session to get you pumped for more in-depth shooting. Your actions are limited to firing a laser and traversing a plane built of electric walls. Blocking your egress are mechanical morons who fire slow-moving projectiles that sound like they're suffering from the worst bout of depression. The first few screens shouldn't challenge you. Just aim and fire and watch the scrap pile grow, then exist stage left.

The joke is on you, though, because there is no exit. Berzerk is yet another of those depressing titles where loss is guaranteed, but you can still rack up points and brag to your buddies about how awesome you are. After that, you can bemoan how cold and lonely the world is.

Robots and their projectiles become faster, but not smarter. They still walk into walls, shoot each other, and commit other helpful acts of stupidity. Standing still is sometimes your best weapon, unless you've selected the proper game variation. Waste too much time on higher settings and you'll stir the wrath of the robots' creator, Evil Otto. A bouncing Wal-Mart logo will appear on the screen, phasing through walls and even tearing his own minions to bits just to get to you. Certain variations will allow you to plug a bullet into this happy face from hell, but others render him invincible.

Therein lies the true game, one where life is much shorter and much more precious. This leads to frantic battles where dodging and efficiency supersede patience and thorough destruction. However, the experience would have been better had Atari offered a bit more. Different room designs wouldn't have added much, but a couple different enemies would've been nice. You know, something else to keep you on your toes.

Berzerk's mindless combat is enjoyable enough for catharsis, and those wanting a little kick in their old school gaming have worthwhile variations that rely on your will to survive. It's a simple title from simpler days, one I don't mind firing up now and then. Just don't make the mistake of thinking it's worthy of positioning next to today's titles, or even those of the last two generations. Berzerk sits in its own niche aside from modern gaming. Either you're on board and you'll appreciate it, or you've moved on and aren't going to trick yourself into believing Berzerk is worth your time just because retro junkies like myself say so.

Rating: 8/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (December 18, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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honestgamer posted December 18, 2011:

I'm wondering if this game is the one that was also released on Apple IIe computers and known as THIEF. Check out this asset gallery:

http://www.honestgamers.com/assets/26875/view/0.html

Is it the same game, or are they clones or whatever? I'm curious!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted December 18, 2011:

Holy crap! Yeah, it looks exactly the same. The only difference would be the level designs. The rooms are slightly more elaborate in Thief.

EDIT:
That's got me wondering as well. I know Berzerk was on a few other systems like Vectrex (played that version as well), so perhaps Thief was a renamed port.
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bloomer posted December 18, 2011:

THIEF was indeed Apple II's Berzerk clone.

I didn't realise til I was in my 20s, but a huge proportion of the games from the first half of the Apple II's lifespan were pretty close ripoffs of arcade games.

Thief was Berzerk
Bug Attack was Centipede
Gamma Goblins was Astro Blaster
Outpost was Space Zap
Falcons was Phoenix

etc

After a few years, you start to get the official ports from some companies. Atari in particular ported tons of stuff to the Apple II. Jungle Hunt, Congo Bongo, Crystal Castles, Dig Dug, Moon Patrol etc.
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honestgamer posted December 18, 2011:

Bug Attack doesn't feel like a clone in the same sense, though. Centipede was a lot more limited, while Bug Attack introduces so many elements (including bonus levels and different enemy types and such) that it's more like a clone in the sense that Sonic is a clone of Super Mario Bros. or something.

I remember playing Apple Invaders as one of my first Apple IIe experiences, which was just Space Invaders with a name change. But I hadn't played Space Invaders. The Apple IIe was my introduction to gaming, after all. There were also games like Raster Blaster and even a version of Mrs. Pac-Man. The Apple IIe games that made a real impression on me were Spy Hunter and Moon Patrol. Oh, and Mario Bros. that was (naturally) ported over by Atari. Because we all know that Atari is the brains behind the Mario games. ;-)
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bloomer posted December 18, 2011:

Yes, that's why I didn't mention Mario Bros ^_^ That is certainly one of the most awesome 2 player games on the Apple II. A really great port.

You're right that Bug Attack adds more stuff than Centipede had. But the others I mentioned are pretty much tit for tat. I forget what the Targ clone is called (Crazey Mazey?, but there is one. Wikipedia suggests Crossfire, but, uh, Crossfire is pretty evolved from Targ.

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