Publisher: Stern Electronics
Developer: Stern Electronics
Played on: MAME, gamepad
Berzerk takes place in a maze-like installation of killer robots all out to get you. Simple premise, of course, but again, this is what videogames are supposed to be about — simple ideas as an excuse to put you right in the action. Modern gaming, are you listening?
The robots themselves are (intentionally) pretty dumb — they will fire at you when you are in line with their shots (eight directions) and advance when you are near or at least they think they have a good path, but they are ignorant of the electrified walls, other robot’s shots, and even other robots, all of which will kill them. This means that not only do you have a direct means of killing them with your eight-direction weapon (used by pressing a direction with the fire button) but you can also guide them to their own deaths by luring them into a wall or in the line of fire of another robot, or even into another robot. This element of the game gives it a bit of strategy.
You don’t have to kill all the robots to exit a room, but the game will chastise you for doing so (via speech synthesis, a pretty cool feature at the time) calling you a “chicken”, but you get a bonus for clearing the room first, making it worth the effort. Taking too long to leave, however, will summon an invincible, bouncing entity called “Evil Otto”, which will home in towards you even through walls and kill you on touch (and other robots, giving you another way to clear the room). Killing all the robots in the room will make Evil Otto move toward you more quickly as well.
The game is incredibly fun even in its simplicity, and the voice synthesis is nice even as it taunts you when you lose a life (“Got the humanoid, got the intruder”) or you run out of the room without finishing it (“Chicken, fight like a robot”). It even taunts the player to try the game at the high score screen outside of a game (“Coin detected in pocket”). It’s definitely worth giving it a shot. Because if you don’t… well… chicken.