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Berzerk - The Atari Times


Man of Steel!
by Darryl Brundage

August 18, 2003
Before I get into the 2600 version of this game, let me go back to where it all began, with the arcade version...

Berzerk had many an innovation when it blasted it's way into the arcades in 1980: it was one of the first talking games ever; it was a wonder to behold the voices of robots chatting away back then (even though it was a bit bizarre as well, if you think about it). Even though running through mazes and shooting is as common as finding Combat and E. T. cartridges at a flea market nowadays, back then this was still pretty new (about the only other game with a [somewhat] similar setup back then that I can think of is Bandito, although the bandits were outside a square [mostly] and you were in the center).

However -- and getting back to the innovation of this game -- the robots in the game got the short end of the stick as far as their I. Q. went, as they're even stupider than Beavis and Butthead, since they can shoot each other, walk into each other (which touching anything in this game is fatal), and walk into the walls and die as well (ditto). However they died, you still got points for it all, whether you shot them or not. Talk about easy money...or points, rather.

Your time inside a maze was limited, however, as a bouncing, smiley ball of death (no wonder I've always hated smiley faces) named Evil Otto will pop up from where you entered the maze from, and bounce his way through walls and stupid robots alike in order to reach, and possibly squash, the very life out of you, which unfortunately the same can't be done to him, since he can't be killed. (Again, no wonder I've always hated...) Also limited is the easy pace of the game, as the first wave of robots don't shoot, and then, every time you enter a maze and the robots are a different color than the ones that occupied the previous maze, that means that their degree of difficulty has been upped as well, as they shoot faster and all. At least you get a bonus if you clear out all the robots in a maze, though. That's the arcade game, in a nutshell. As far as the 2600 version goes, though...

Well, first off, let me say I was a bit wary about this when it came out: I mean, even though I loved the 2600 as much as the next guy, you couldn't be so naive as to NOT know of the memory limitations of the machine. However, Atari pulled off a very decent adaption of the arcade megaclassic, which is not an easy feat to do.

First off, they got the look of the game to match very closely with the original: the humanoid, robots, and Mr. Otto all look very much like their arcade cousins (which, I hate to admit it, is pretty rare for a majority of the 2600 arcade ports [pink rocks in Asteroids anyone?]). The sounds, animation and control are also quite excellent as well.

Unfortunately THE biggest letdown is no voice synthesis, [Check out Berzerk:Voice Enhanced! -Ed] as it doesn't seem anywhere the same without Otto announcing his emergence into a maze with "intruder alert! Intruder alert!" (oh, bite me Otto! The ego he must have to shout out his appearance with every maze; sheesh!). Actually there are variations where there's no Otto at all -- not to mention a shootable Otto too -- but it's boring to play with him not included in the game.

However, this doesn't detract from the gameplay much, as it still plays pretty much the same, although the sprites and mazes take up more space on the tv screen than the arcade does, making this version feel a bit claustrophobic. Still, this is a very good version though, especially considering the 2600's limitations and all, as there's no two player version, but that became a bit common in a lot of the later adaptations that took up a bit of memory (like Ms. Pac-Man, which was waaaaay better than the original 2600 Pac-Man clunker, as far as adaptions went, for instance).

This is a common game to find nowadays too, so pick up a copy of it if you don't own one already. Don't be a "chicken" (this is also mentioned in the coin-op original) about it, intrude those flea markets, make your way through their maze of games, and shell out the "coins" that are in your "pocket" (which is also mentioned in the original)!

And go Berzerk!

Press RESET to begin! No title screen in those days.
The sparse graphics of Berzerk made it a natural conversion to the 2600.
The fearsome red robots!
System: 2600
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 95%
Sound & Music Score: 95%
Gameplay Score: 90%
Control Score: 95%

Final Score: 93%

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