Monday 21 September 2015

Berzerk (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1982

Berzerk is a maze shooter that was first released in the Arcades in 1980.

You play as a Humanoid and the objective is to navigate rooms and shoot robots to rack up a high score. Each screen features up to 11 robots, electrified fences that can kill you and multiple exits that lead to additional rooms with alternate layouts. Successfully clearing a room isn't mandatory but doing so will earn you ten points for every robot that appeared. You start off with three lives but another one is earned every 5,000 points. As you rack up points the game gets progressively harder with more enemies who gain the ability to shoot. You're constantly kept on your toes as if you casually take your time in each room an indestructible enemy called Evil Otto appears; he's able to jump the maze walls and will squash you if you don't get out quick enough! The gameplay is addictive as you constantly need to monitor the situation of each room and decide whether to risk shooting the remaining robots or rush to an exit to avoid Otto. The number of unique layouts is impressive and not knowing what lies ahead once you enter a room is intense. The robot A.I. is incredibly stupid though and they frequently commit suicide by walking into the electrified fences! At least they aren't invulnerable to each other's gun-fire as if you're clever enough you can position them to do the work for you! Your Humanoid moves at a snail's pace so it can be tricky to dodge incoming fire; slowdown is also present when too many robots are on screen and while it affects your movement incoming bullets still fire at high speed! Unfortunately there is a game-breaking bug which corrupts your current score and messes up your life counter. A two-player mode is available but you take turns rather than battling cooperatively. The intro jingle is great though and sounds like it's from a B-movie!

Berzerk is an enjoyable shooter but this port has some shortcomings in its gameplay and technical design. When things work properly it plays well but eventually you will encounter one of its many bugs and leave feeling frustrated that it wasn't polished a little bit further.

Random trivia: The bugs were eventually fixed by a homebrew developer called Mark Shaker in a release called Berzerk Debugged. It also added speech samples if you had the VecVoice attachment!

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