Originally Berzerk was produced by Alan McNeil and manufactured by Stern Electronics. It started off as a black & white game, but as arcade machines around it became colour , Berzerk followed suit. Inspiration for the game came from Fred Saberhagens “Berzerke’ series of Science Fiction novels. (Xtarelex 1984) Berzerk went on to be Stern’s biggest arcade hit selling more than 50,000 arcade units.
Arcade Berzerk was one of the earlier games designed to incorporate speech synthesis. At the time it cost around $1000.U.S. per word for speech to be incorporated into a game so few words were used. The Vectrex version doesn’t have speech, though Vec Voice may be used with ‘Verzerk’, and the standared Vec game states ‘got you humanoid’ when the player gets obliterated using Vec Voice. Interestingly enough in 1981 an 18 year old youth died of a heart attack while playing Berzerk and the coroner didn’t rule out prolonged stress from videogames as a key factor to his death.
Berzerk was the first videogame in which a human controlled player actually died, as the aim of the game is to destroy all enemy robots or make them run into the electrified walls or else get killed. A maze surrounds the player who has the full 8 directions of the Vectrex control panel joystick to permanently neutralize the robots who have low intelligence and sometimes end up shooting their fellow robots instead of you.
However, the player needs to have his/her wits about them as a bouncing ball with a smiling face called ‘Evil Otto’ enters the playfield if the player dwells too long on a particular screen. This was designed to stop players hanging around on certain screens so as to keep the game moving along. There are 64,000 possible maze structures and in each 0-11 enemy robots are placed randomly in a room when you enter.
The Vectrex version of Berzerk is slow moving and becomes repetitive after a while. Maybe good for a quick spurt but lacks any depth though the sound effects are good and chunky and arcade like.
Review written by Daniel Foot
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