Discover more from The Retroist
Berzerk for the Atari 2600
When I was a kid, we had a couple of places in town that had video games. The Pizza Parlors, the candy store, the newspaper shops, the Super Market and the Laundromat all had games. I can remember each location and its sites and smell as they related to the games.
The Newspaper shop, with its strong smell of ink and tobacco, was the place that had Berzerk. I loved the arcade version of the game and spent many hours playing in the back corner of the shop, while adults bought magazines and cigarettes, I would plunk in quarter after quarter, even long after the game had lost its popularity. I am pretty sure the game would have gone away if it was not for me playing it week after week. That is why when Atari ported Stern’s Berzerk for its VCS system, it was on the top of my list of games to get (I still own my original copy).
Firstly, if you are not a player of Berzerk, you should watch the video below. When you do, you will see that it is a maze game of sorts, with simple robots that try to take you down as you move around. Easy enough, but if you take too long on any one board, the evil indestructible, Evil Otto, will appear and drive you out or kill you. All of those elements are drawn directly from the original game. Sadly, though, because of the limitations of the technology, they needed to do two things. They made the mazes simpler, and the robots can no longer shoot vertically.
This of course makes the game slightly easier, but overall it does not take away from the overall greatness of the release. In fact, as a kid (and kinda now even), I enjoyed it more because I was instantly able to play longer than I did on the original arcade game. The other thing that is missing from the original is the great voice synthesis tech that allowed the game to talk. Maybe it is just a minor cosmetic change, but it certainly makes the game seem a lot more “plain” in the eyes of both young and older me.
Overall, I give Berzerk for the Atari 2600 4 out 5 stars. Which is one star higher than what Vinvectrex gave his review of the Vectrex version of the Berzerk.
Am I being too lenient? Too much of a fanboy? Possibly, but this game is a lot of fun to play. I would perhaps even give this game the coveted 5-star rating, if only it had voice synthesis (which was added to a home-brewed version that came out in 2002) and the ability to shoot vertically (not added).