Berzerk: Recharged — Review
Berzerk: Recharged — Review

What does Atari mean to you? Was it Pong? Adventure? Missile Command? Space Invaders? Pitfall? For everyone, something slightly different, maybe none of these games. Perhaps all. The heaps of memories and hours spent on them. Atari aims to bring it all back, but after several years, it's getting a bit complicated for them. The biggest classics from Atari's portfolio have already made a comeback. The other big things are in someone else's hands. For example, the legendary Pitfall belongs to Activision, so Atari can't work with it. As a result, Atari is gradually moving towards games that are slightly less known. Here's another one of them.

First, a historical window. Berzerk originally released in 1980 on arcade machines and in 1982 made its way to the Atari 2600 console and later to other platforms. It was a top-down action game in mazes that you had to navigate while fighting robots and fleeing from the main enemy, Evil Otto. A kind of evil smiley face that appeared in rooms and could chase players. The game was revolutionary at the time of its release as it was among the first games to use speech synthesis. And besides, it played well and was relatively popular. Evil Otto even made it onto IGN's list of the top 100 video game villains.

Fast forward 41 years to the present. Atari is now releasing Berzerk: Recharged, a new and neon version of the game that takes the original concept and flips it into a modern guise. Again with some shallow backstory that doesn't matter at all, but with thoroughly modernized gameplay. However, the content is now very schematic if you've played Recharged games before. If you've played one or two, you know what to expect here. Unfortunately, this pattern doesn't change in any way, and you know there will be an Arcade mode with the same rules as in other games and also challenges, also with the same rules.

This is becoming the biggest drawback of Recharged games. Playing one feels like playing them all. Of course, the gameplay is always different; they are completely different games, but perhaps the development cycle could be stretched a bit in these studios (after all, several Recharged games are released every year) and try something different in the games. Tailoring content to each game, experimenting with modes, bringing something new. At the same time, you know that this won't be a very lasting game. You'll come back to it occasionally for about 10 minutes, but it would need something more.

However, the gameplay isn't bad. The action is very decent. It's like a proto-roguelite, where challenge isn't lacking, and you die often. But you always dive back into action and try to get further this time. In Arcade mode, it's about the classic arcade experience, where you have a weapon, dive into a series of rooms full of obstacles, traps, and enemies. Then it's up to your skill to get further now. But the layout changes; now you're navigating a different maze, facing differently placed enemies, and there are power-ups elsewhere. In Arcade mode, you can't prepare much in advance.

If you want an extra challenge, there are simple modifiers that will bring it to you. By default, you have several lives in the game, so a hit from enemies won't knock you out right away (only Evil Otto kills you in one hit). But with this modifier, one hit is enough. Alternatively, you can turn off dashing and make the gameplay harder for yourself. There's a sense of nostalgia and old-school atmosphere, and if you enjoy overcoming not so much the game but yourself, you'll enjoy it here. And you'll also have fun watching your nickname climb higher in online leaderboards.

As for the Challenge mode, it's more predictable since the level layout within each challenge/mission is always the same. The goal is to defeat this specific challenge. Their difficulty gradually increases, so you'll sweat later on. There are 20 challenges, so they'll last you a while. But it won't be like sitting down with Berzerk for 2 hours and playing. It'll be more like 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there. The problem with challenges is also that they don't vary much – defeat all enemies. This will occupy the vast majority of your time, and it's a pity. Perhaps it could use something else – reach the end, avoid even a single hit, and so on. But here, it's just about increasingly challenging elimination of all foes.

A great advantage of Recharged games is that you can easily sit down with them in co-op mode, and this applies to both modes. And you surely know that everything is more enjoyable with a partner. Moreover, cooperation is really simple, fast, and intuitive. You can sit down to play with people who aren't necessarily gamers. While they may struggle with the high difficulty, they quickly grasp the game's concept – hit enemies, don't get hit, and flee from the boss. It's just a shame that co-op only works locally here. It's fun and it's a foundation, but perhaps Recharged games could introduce online co-op so you wouldn't have to rely on whether someone else is on your couch at the moment.

I've mentioned power-ups several times already; they're here to temporarily give you an advantage – stronger weapons, faster dashing, life refill, and so on, you know them well. They add variety to the gameplay and sometimes really save your neck. The variability of enemies and traps is quite decent. The game works with difficulty by color-coding it. After a few attempts, you'll notice that the color of the environment signifies increasing difficulty. Enemies can endure more, pursue you longer, and so on.

The graphics are simple but fitting for the game. It moves smoothly across platforms, so there are no issues in that regard. But the sound is more interesting. Megan McDuffee is back on music duty, so you know you'll get synth melodies that complement the overall feel and enhance it. But what I really like is the sound of the enemies, which stays true to the original and motivates you. Leave a room without destroying enemies? They'll start taunting you, shouting that you're "chicken," and so on. An intriguing element, although annoying for someone sitting with you in the living room and working, like your wife, but you perceive it differently while playing.

Berzerk: Recharged is tough. It's a fun game, but I feel like I've played it before. I'm starting to get tired of the recycled Recharged concept, where each game is basically the same. I want new ideas, fresh concepts, and fun innovations that highlight good gameplay. I don't want every game from Missile Command: Recharged until now to offer basically the same content. You'll have fun, ideally with a partner, but you won't come back to the game with as much joy.


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