It must be fairly tricky for those at Atari HQ to decide upon their next course of action. Having launched their Recharged series of games with the absolute icons of gaming – Centipede, Asteroids, Missile Command and the like – sooner or later they would need to start delving a bit deeper into the depths of old-school gaming, looking for games that could become little sleeper hits in the modern era.
With Berzerk: Recharged they’ve possibly done just that. Taking a game from 1980 – a game that had seemingly gathered some kind of cult status without ever really finding a home in the mindsets of the millions – this is one of the better additions to the Recharged series. In fact, we’ve come away shocked at just how addictive this little game is.
Berzerk: Recharged takes the original Berzerk formula from 1980 and whips it up into a 2020’s frenzy. Visually overhauled (as it must be), it fits in with the other Recharged titles rather nicely, continuing the usual graphical style that has worked for the Atari team to date. Futuristic but simple is how I’d describe it, with neon colours capable of providing plenty of depth and variety to the game space, the main protagonist and the opponents that come their way.
Those visuals are extremely well complemented by a rather stunning soundtrack by the ever prolific Megan McDuffee. The tunes of McDuffee sit behind the usual twin-stick shooting effects that you’d expect of such a game, combining well with the general ambiance of the on-screen action. Frankly, visually and aurally, Berzerk: Recharged works really well. Aside that is of a few shadowing issues; clipping of characters on maze corners and a strange out-of-action bottom edge of the screen which causes the occasional problem.
Gameplay is on point. This is a twin-stick shooter in which you are left to navigate your way through an endless maze. The Arcade mode from the main menu will let you dip into this, all as you go in search of high-score tabling, perhaps attempting to best the scores of your mates in the process. Shooting and destroying all enemies found in the single screen rooms is front and centre for this matter, building combos as you move from one screen to the next, tackling the small variety of foes that pop up.
Those guys will happily fight back too, coming in a few different forms. There’s the Drone who will chase you around the screen, shooting back; a Pursuer intent on homing in on your position at speed; that of a Turret, stationary, spinning on the spot, firing out multiple bullets; and the Crawler. Honestly, the last of these are easily the simplest to despatch, as they stick to walls, rarely proving to be much hassle.
Clearing screens normally allows you to move on to the next, but find yourself in a bit of a squeeze and sometimes it is best to forgo the points scoring for safety, shifting up to another room as fast as you can. And besides, stick around in one room for too long, perhaps no longer than ten seconds or so, and the Evil Otto will come bouncing in.
Otto is a bit of a cult icon in some parts, gathering up acclaim from the original game way back when. He comes to Berzerk: Recharged in flashy neon style, grinning away, intent on taking you down. You’d do best to keep away from him too, as Otto is completely indestructible; when he comes on screen, you know it’s best to leg it.
The thing is, the more rooms you move through, the trickier the enemies. Whilst they continue to come your way in the usual forms, colour-coding them sees your opponents treated to additional health bars, quick movement and the like. Berzerk: Recharged is certainly no walk in the park when you have a screen full of the toughest of foes.
Helping you in your cause are multiple weapon power-ups. Initially complete with a bit of a weedy little pistol, you can upgrade this for a limited time; big shots, bouncing shots and triple shots are all much appreciated. There are shields to use, health grabs, mines and an Eradicator too – this last one being extremely rare but useful for clearing a screen of bullet hell.
In fact, the only upgrade and pick up that we’ve mostly steered away from is that of a Rail Gun. It’s too slow and imprecise for the manic action that can sometimes unfold in Berzerk: Recharged, with us never having got on with its shooting nature. Of course, it’s the only one that can fire through walls though, so swings and roundabouts. At times in Berserk: Recharged, you’ll take whatever you can get.
With a little dash that fast refills for multiple use, guiding your guy through the mazes of Berzerk: Recharged is highly addictive. Whether that be for leaderboard placings, achievement and Gamerscore gathering or just the sheer competition that Berzerk allows; reasonings will differ for each and every gamer. For us though, we’ve most certainly found this one of the most appealing of all the Recharged games from Atari. It’s perhaps because it’s less well known, or maybe just because the random nature allows for additional play.
Aside from that Arcade mode and a smattering of game modifiers for those really intent on bringing the pain, comes the usual Mission structure that is a key element of all Recharged games. There are some thirty Missions on offer here, ramping up in intensity fairly quickly – and we’re needing the help of our press kit for that number because we are nowhere near completing all of them. Even with a local multiplayer cooperative friend in tow, Berzerk: Recharged is a proper beast in terms of these hand-crafted stages; you’ll be left going through them for a good old while.
Whether it be because Berzerk: Recharged feels fresher than the rest, or whether it is because of the random nature it brings, we feel this is in the upper echelons of all the Recharged games that Atari have pushed out in recent months. It’s far from perfect, there are some odd visual annoyances and moments of clipping, but on the whole, this is a super addictive playthrough that just so happens to come at a cracking price.
Just keep away from Otto, yeah!?