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May 2024

Berzerk: Recharged

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Atari
Developer: SneakyBox Studios
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2023


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Switch Review - 'Berzerk: Recharged'

by Cody Medellin on March 29, 2024 @ 12:50 a.m. PDT

In Berzerk: Recharged, you'll fight through a deadly maze filled with menacing, vocal robots that have one thing on their processor-driven minds: your doom.

Atari and SneakyBox's Recharged series has always had a straightforward mission in mind: Take an established Atari classic, add a few tweaks, polish it up with a semi-neon look, and send it out for the masses to enjoy. Up until this point, these releases tickled a sense of nostalgia for classic gamers while introducing new stuff to appeal to those who are seeing the classics for the first time, and the result was always fascinating. Berzerk: Recharged is the 10th title in this line, and while the established formula remains the same, the magic in this one has gone missing.

Like the rest of the Recharged line, there is no story, and the premise remains  unchanged. You play a lone human who's stuck in a maze filled with killer robots in each room. The only weapon at your side is a blaster, but that's enough to kill every robot in your path. Killing every robot in the room is encouraged but not necessary. However, leaving each room in a timely manner is a must, as a countdown soon appears, after which Evil Otto — a large ball with a face — arrives and stalks you. The ball is unkillable, so your only option is to run to the next room and repeat the process until you die.

While the premise remains unchanged, several other elements have received their own tweaks. The game is now a twin-stick shooter, which makes things easier for modern gamers to grasp and adds some strategies that couldn't be accomplished with the old system, where you only shot in the direction that you're moving. You have a new move in the form of a dash that allows you to quickly move through enemy fire — provided you give it time to recharge before attempting to use it again. You can gain a few power-ups, such as proximity mines, bouncing laser blasts, a shotgun, and a moment of invulnerability. Your lives have been dramatically reduced to one, and while you do have a health meter, it doesn't work against electrified walls, and Otto can still kill you in one hit. Speaking of enemies, there is a bit of a variety increase as you now face off against heat-seeking robots and turrets alongside the normal robots that vary in health, depending on the color they sport.

The mechanics are solid, and the game plays out pretty well. However, there is one major change from a gameplay perspective, and that's Evil Otto. In the original game, Otto can bounce through walls, so if you weren't fast enough to reach an exit, you were generally done. Here, the spherical robot actually hugs the walls, so you can essentially kite him around if you're lucky enough to enter a room with intersecting walls. The change is big enough that Otto loses a great deal of his menace, and a once-fearful foe has been reduced to a mere annoyance.

The game also suffers from one thing it has no control over: time. We're currently in a market where it is easy to stumble across a twin-stick shooter in the same vein as Berzerk. This may be one of the forebears of the top-down shooter genre, but the changes made, from the introduction of a dash and power-ups, have all been done in other shooters before and done very well. This version of the game doesn't reinvent anything, and it doesn't come with the novelty in the other titles in the Recharged line. Quantum and Gravitar, for example, have the benefit of being games that few have seen before. Yars: Recharged is a completely different beast from the original title, and Centipede and Asteroids are stone-cold classics, they also have an advantage in that few modern games try to emulate their play style. If there weren't so many other shooters of this type on the Switch, then maybe the interest in this title would be higher. As it stands now, it's easy to forget about Berzerk in the vast sea of shooters.

It also doesn't help that the modes feel rather bare-bones, even with the inclusion of two-player co-op. The standard arcade mode emulates the original faithfully insofar as being a pure high score title. Changing this would have been sacrilegious, so seeing it adhere to the classic is completely fine. The options to remove things like power-ups and dashing will please those who are looking for something closer to the original arcade experience. Mission mode is more structured due to the removal of randomized levels, but it ends up being disappointing since the objective for each challenge is to kill a set number of enemies. Having any kind of modifier would've made this more exciting, but without that option, there's no reason to visit this mode.

The visual presentation is decent. The same neon glow found in the other Recharged titles is still present, and it looks fine. Your human character now sports a goofy walk animation, and the robots do the same. Otto has a nice glow, but the simple facial expressions feel like they've been hidden instead of being prominent. It does the job, but don't expect to be wowed by what's on display.

Where the game drops the ball is in the audio department. The music is fine, as it adopts a more modern techno theme, but the sound effects aren't too distinct or memorable. There are voices, but they disappoint on many fronts. First, the robots never taunt you. They simply move around in silence while you blast at their companions, and while that would've been fine on the Atari 2600, it isn't that good for a modern iteration. The only character you'll hear from is Otto, but the problem is that the audio mix is so bad that anything he says gets drowned out in other sound effects and music. There's no way to dial in a perfect mix to make the voice audible, but it feels like one of the signature pieces of the game was not taken into account.

Taken on its own, Berzerk: Recharged isn't a bad game. The shooting is still fine, the additions of health and power-ups are neat, as is the presence of co-op. The overall high score chase remains as compelling as ever for those with a classic arcade mindset. Aside from some notable exclusions, the problem is that this title enters a market rife with other twin-stick shooters that do more and offer more to the player, so it's difficult to get excited when picking up the controller. Unless you're filled with nostalgia for the original title and willing to forgive the misses, you can push aside Berzerk in favor of the countless other twin-stick shooters on the platform.

Score: 5.0/10

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