When I started into Berzerk: Recharged, I was shocked. There were no robot voices.
Berzerk was a 1980 arcade title, which means it existed before good graphics were invented. While something like Pac-Man could generally be considered a better game, Berzerk had one thing going for it: the robots talked. They’d draw from a series of words and phrases that would get pasted together into taunts. Things like “Chicken! Fight like a robot!” or “Get the humanoid!” Imagination was leaned on to fill in a lot of graphical blanks in those days, and having the robots converse with each other and actively taunt the player really helped get you in the headspace.
If there are no robot voices, what are we even doing here?
So, I asked the PR person representing Sneakybox and Atari about it. They told me that it was a problem with the sound levels. In order to hear the voices, you had to turn down the music completely. They had a patch for it out well before launch.
Phew, crisis averted.
Berzerk wasn’t a very complicated game, but try to remember that this was two years after Space Invaders and the same year as Pac-Man. The evolution of video games was going to be kicked into high gear for the next two decades, but 1980 was still pretty early.
Largely, the game just involved you running around electrified mazes, shooting at hostile robots (in eight directions! Fancy!) You’d get extra points if you cleared a screen before proceeding to the next, but if things go too hot, it was always better to duck through a doorway. If you lingered too long on a single screen, Evil Otto would show up. Hilariously, Otto was just depicted as a ball with a smiley face, but he was invulnerable, so you could only really run.
Berzerk: Recharged is pretty much still just that. You’re a little dude, you’re in a maze, and you shoot robots. The biggest difference here is the addition of power-ups and twin-stick shooting. Also, co-op, but who has friends in this economy? Does that make a huge difference? No, not really. It’s not the major overhaul that Quantum: Recharged offered. But Quantum didn’t age as well as Berzerk’s simple gameplay, so it maybe needed it more.
Get the humanoid!
I’m a bit surprised by the visuals in Berzerk: Recharged. I feel they’re a reasonable interpretation of the original’s graphics, but at the same time, the Recharged series has always struck me as being more stylish. Sneakybox has frequently reinterpreted older games as being more Tron-like, using lots of neon-heavy minimalistic designs.
By contrast, Berzerk: Recharged is a lot more cartoon-like. If I was feeling particularly mean, I’d say that it looked like a Flash game from the ‘00s. I’m not, so I’ll just say that it doesn’t have the same edge as other games in Sneakybox’s remake series.
The soundtrack, however, is outstanding. Sneakybox has frequently tapped Megan McDuffee of River City Girls fame to compose for the Recharged games, and she has outdone herself here. It still has a cyber-pop sound to it, but the hooks are outstanding.
Meanwhile, the gameplay doesn’t really shake up the formula all that much. There are dashes and power-ups, but you can turn these new abilities off to gain a boost to your score. I played without them, and honestly, Berzerk: Recharged doesn’t need them. It plays basically the same if you just use your standard pea-shooter and human legs.
The robots also don’t talk as much. I know that’s a small complaint, but I’ve already discussed how important the robo-jabber is.
Get the intruder!
Atari has made no secret that the Recharged series is mostly for the fans. Alongside it, they’re doing more feature-packed remakes like Lunar Lander Beyond and Haunted House. They’re generally good snack games. Even if you dive in to try and plumb out every one of its achievements, you can probably be done with it in an afternoon. As long as you know what you’re getting into, you’ll probably have a good time.
On the other hand, I feel like most Recharged games supersede their inspiration in some way. Even if they aren’t explicitly better, they’re a reasonable substitute. I don’t really feel that way about Berzerk: Recharged. To me, it’s no replacement for the original, which, with all its limitations, still managed to present a fun and strangely atmospheric experience. The remake is more disposable, and that’s a shame since I couldn’t readily tell you where you can get an arcade-perfect port of Berzerk.
Nonetheless, Berzerk: Recharged is a fun experience for as long as it lasts. It doesn’t quite capture the charm of the original, and there are many better choices now in terms of twin-stick shooters. However, those games don’t have a deadly grinning ball that follows you until it witnesses your death. Its gleeful grin, looking down at your robot-ravaged body, reveling in its victory. No, you are safe from that nightmare in your pathetic human games.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]