The Game: You’re alone in a maze filled with armed, hostile robots who only have one mission – to kill you. If you even so much as touch the walls, you’ll wind up dead. You’re a little bit faster than the robots, and you have human instinct on your side…but even that won’t help you when Evil Otto, a deceptively friendly and completely indestructible smiley face, appears to destroy you if you linger too long in any one part of the maze. The object of the game? Try to stay alive however long you can. (Atari, 1983)
Memories: Already released in a near-picture-perfect version on the Atari 2600, Berzerk was surely an easy game to port to that console’s newer, more powerful sibling. But the 2600 version was so good, what could Atari do to top it?
Simple: they made it talk. RealSports Baseball grabbed the glory of being the first home video game that didn’t require additional hardware for speech, but Berzerk is where that ability was put to the arcade authenticity test. Granted, even in the arcade, Berzerk wasn’t spouting Shakespeare – it was droning canned threats in a voice similar to the original Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons. But the 5200 proved to be a capable, if curiously sing-song, mimic when it came to replicating those robot voices.
As usul, the catch with the 5200 is control-based, but for those with third-party joystick alternatives such as the Wico Command Control joystick and keypad, or any similar controllers, Berzerk can actually be quite a bit of fun. The standard non-centering 5200 sticks add not so much a new layer of challenge as a new layer of frustration, as usual. That aside, however, it’s a solid translation of an arcade classic, raised to a new level of authenticity with the addition of voice synthesis.