Berzerk (Arcade) – Review

Retro Resolution Retro Review
 

System: Arcade
Developer: Stern
Author: Alan McNeil
Year: 1980
 

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Berzerk - Stern - Cabinet Marquee - Image: arcade-museum.com

Now three and a half decades old, what can be said about Stern’s 1980 all-time classic Berzerk that hasn’t already been written a thousand times before?

  • Game concept derived from Alan McNeil’s dream of deadly robot attacks – check
  • Breakthrough synthesised speech (‘Intruder Alert!’, ‘Chicken, fight like a robot!’) – check
  • Two real-world heart attack deaths chillingly attributed to high-scoring sessions – check
  • Designed as monochrome but retrofitted with colour in response to Defender‘s success – check

Berzerk certainly boasts a plethora of fascinating facts, yet most fail to convey the captivating emotional response elicited during a frantic bout of arena-based robocide. Entrapped within a two dimensional maze of deadly right angled walls, your laser-beweaponed stick man combats Cylonesque killing machines in a bid for freedom.

Expertly exploiting the limitations inherent in the hardware, powered as the coin-op is by a Z80 slower than that of the humble ZX Spectrum, Berzerk is an exercise in studied minimalism. Interestingly, also shared in common with the Speccy is the Sinclair machine’s iconic colour clash, due to the quarter-resolution of the colour map overlaid on the original monochrome graphics.

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