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Berserk Boy Review: A Mega Metroidvania

Platform Reviewed: Nintendo Switch

Also on: Steam

Price: $20.00

We recently got word that the Nintendo eShop sports more than 11,000 games. That's right. The Switch is home to more games than any other console. The problem with this is that good games can get easily lost in a sea of mediocre-to-terrible titles. So the question remains: how does a good game stand out among an avalanche of awful? Well, there's a few ways. First, make the game fun. Second, have it feature interesting characters. And third, it needs to have a banging soundtrack. Fortunately, Berserk Boy is a game that features all three of these characteristics.

Berserk Boy takes place in the future at war. An evil genius and former ally, Dr. Genos, has amassed an army of robots and waged war on New Hope City, all while in search of energized orbs that contain ultimate power. You play as Kei, a member of the resistance army, who finds one of these orbs just as Genos tries to steal it. Immediately fusing with its power, Kei transforms into Berserk Boy and seeks out to stop this menace. Yes, the plot does sound awfully familiar to that one mega game about that man.

That's OK though – imitation is the best form of flattery. And Berserk Boy wears its mega inspirations on its sleeve. A lot of the game takes cues from the Mega Man series – in particular, Mega Man X – as Kei runs, jumps, dashes and power-drops his way through each zone, fighting enemies along the way. But it's not a mere clone of the classic series – Berserk Boy adds many different elements to its gameplay so that it stands out as a strong title in and of itself.

The game is best described as a fast-paced action platformer. You will will traverse each zone, utilizing your powers to avoid environmental hazards, take on enemies, and fight larger-than-life bosses. Each zone has a boss that's also infused with a power orb. Defeat that boss, and you gain that orb's powers – fire, lightning, air, ice, and earth in all – to help you on your journey. There are some light Metroidvania elements – each zone has hidden areas that are only accessible using a certain power. This encourages backtracking, as gathering coins and rescuing civilians helps Kei as he purchases and unlocks new abilities. There's a ton of variety in the upgrades, too – from extra jumps and dashes to additional attacks and bonus health or energy.

And you'll definitely need as many power-ups as you can afford, because this game is challenging. Berserk Boy will test your reflexes, as you'll be memorizing boss patterns, jumping and dashing through dangerous environments, and switching orbs on the fly to make it past hazards. And when you're not nimbly navigating the levels, you're strategically taking on enemies. Unlike his blue bomber spiritual predecessor, Kei does not have a blaster. Instead, his attacks are melee-based. Using your different orb powers, you'll attack enemies with a mix-up of quick and heavy attacks. You can also take out enemies by uppercutting them into spikes, off ledges, or unleashing Berserk Mode – a super-powerful attack that you can use once you've gathered enough energy.

Luckily the controls are tight and responsive – and in a game like this, low lag is a necessity. While it does take a while to get used to the controls, you'll eventually find yourself zipping through levels with ease. Boss battles are challenging without being frustrating, and many times result in that “just one more go” mentality. Understanding that Berserk Boy can be a tough game, the developer thankfully included two different modes – the more modern “infinite lives” mode, where you can keep trying from your most recent checkpoint, and the more traditional mode where you only have a certain number of lives to beat the game. In terms of accessibility, there's also a “no death” mode – which is especially appreciated if you're just looking to play through the game (or get in some speed-run practice).

Visually, Berserk Boy looks very nice. It's got that 16-bit aesthetic, with some super-smooth and gorgeous animation. It really is a treat to watch the game in action, especially when you start to master some of the more advanced moves. Cut-scenes, while static, are very colorful and detailed. Characters are memorable looking and environments are varied as well. As far as the popular modern-retro look, Berserk Boy has it nailed down. Oh, and there's an adorable dog you can pet. So yeah, bonus points for that. The music fits the game's fast pace as well, and is amazing in its own right. I would like to point out that Tee Lopes, who worked on the music for Sonic Mania, worked on the music for Berserk Boy. So if you enjoyed that soundtrack, you'll know what to expect here.

I'd say my biggest complaint about Berserk Boy is the learning curve. It took me a while to really get comfortable with the controls and the feel of the game, but my experience is not everyone's. Some may immediately take to the controls, while others may have a challenge. Speaking of challenges, Berserk Boy can be a pretty tough game – but I still strongly recommend it due to the added modes to make it a bit easier.

Final Grade: A

This is what I love about gaming nowadays: developers fall in love with certain games, take those experiences, and shape their own games. Berserk Boy is one of those games – it takes elements of what it was inspired by and builds upon it, making it stand out on its own and avoids becoming one of those copy and paste games that litters the eShop. If you grew up with challenging 16-bit platformers like Mega Man X, or are a newer gamer that was raised on Shovel Knight and the Messenger, then Berserk Boy will make you feel right at home.

Review code provided by BerserkBoy Games



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