I’m pretty ashamed to admit this, but I never played the original 1980 Berzerk arcade game. By the time I was old enough to appreciate the arcade lifestyle, more advanced games such as Frogger and 1942 had already cemented themselves as arcade staples. So, to help prepare for this review, I fired up the ol’ MAME cabinet and gave the original Berzerk a whirl. And while the game itself was pretty basic, the addictive gameplay and impressive (for the time) audio really took me back to a long-forgotten era and hit me with waves of nostalgia. And after playing Berzerk Recharged, I can say that this feels like a game pulled from the early 80’s – for better and worse.
Berzerk Recharged is, as you would guess, a reboot of sorts of the original Berzerk. It’s a fairly straightforward format: your character enters rooms that are populated by killer robots, turrets, and homing mines. The goal is to take out the enemies, rack up points, and move on to the next room. You must be quick, though – if you take too long, a gigantic, indestructible entity named Evil Otto will show up and make a beeline straight for you. One hit from him and it’s game over. As you take out enemies, your score and score multiplier will increase, but so will the game’s difficulty. Like with any arcade game, the goal is to make it as far as possible and rack up as many points as you can before you are taken out by your enemies. Your have a laser gun at your disposal, as well as a rechargeable dash ability. Power-ups are randomly peppered throughout the screens, which range from granting you a speed boost or a quicker dash recharge, to health recovery, and everyone’s favorite, the spread gun.
There’s two modes of play: Arcade and Challenge. In Arcade mode, you’re playing Berzerk like the original game – moving from screen to screen and taking out enemies, while trying to get that high score. Challenge mode is a selection of 20 different maps; the goal in each is to defeat all enemies without dying. You can also play the modes in local co-op. It’s a pretty basic concept, but the real fun is chasing that score and trying to outdo yourself with each run. There’s leaderboards as well, so you can see how well you fare against other players and your friends. Finally, the Arcade mode has score modifiers that can really boost your final points – at the cost of making the game more challenging. For example, there’s a “one hit” modifier that grants the player only 1 health, but also grants a 100% score bonus at the end of your run. If you’re feeling particularly gutsy, you can add these modifiers in before you start your next round.
Gameplay is pretty responsive; your character moves around and has a pretty funny running animation. You use the right thumb stick to aim and the right trigger to shoot. It works well enough, although I would have preferred an option to combine the shooting and aiming so it felt more like a traditional twin-stick shooter. Aim can be a bit off, especially when using the railgun power-up. It isn’t anything game-breaking, but still something I would prefer to see.
The music is phenomenal. It’s a synthy, thumping soundtrack that fits the game’s aesthetic perfectly. I loved every bit of it. Sound effects also work well enough, but I do miss not hearing the voice samples from the original game. One of the selling points of the original Berzerk arcade game was that the enemies would talk as they attacked you. Having realistic, robotic voices in a video game was a huge technological leap at that time, so the omittance from the Berzerk is a bit of a put-off. Even if it was just an option to turn on and off, it would have been a poignant inclusion.
“Game Over” and “Mission Complete” screens are also very sudden. When you are killed, there’s no death animation or anything – it just cuts right back to the point recap screen. I know it doesn’t impact the gameplay in any way, but having a surprise Game Over screen just pop out of nowhere kind of takes away some of that closure when you lose all your health. Since this is a remake, I find it odd that the original Berzerk is not playable as well. And finally, the $10 price point can be considered a bit steep considering that this is a score attack arcade game with only a few modes of play. Had Atari added in some additional bells and whistles like the original arcade game, the Atari 2600 port, or even bonuses such as photos of the original arcade cabinet or advertisement flyer, behind-the-scenes info, etc., it would make it easier to recommend it at this price.
Final Grade: C
Berzerk Recharged is a fun game – it’s easy to get into, challenging, and addictive. You’ll soon find yourself having that “just one more run” mentality as you push further and further into the maze to beat your prior score. And the inclusion of leaderboards only adds to that competitive itch. At the same time, though, it’s also a victim of being a little too similar to its predecessor. It can feel barebones, especially at the price point. It’s a good game and it works, and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of the original arcade classic. If not, though, it’s a tougher sell, but still a decent experience.