Berzerk

On the home page, I talked about how this is the game that started it all for me, and I feel really confident in saying that it will go down as the only game I’ve ever peed myself while playing.  If the recreation center I frequented during my childhood summers offered knitting classes instead of arcade games, this might be a very different kind of website (Zombies Ate My Mittens?).

This is the only game in my collection that I would deem “untouchable.”  It’ll be in my Estate when I die (no rush on that one).  As much as I love my Monster Bash, if push came to shove, I’d sell it and take comfort in knowing that I’d get a lot of money for it.  Berzerk, on the other hand, is not an overly expensive game.  Depending on condition, they can typically be had for $450-$1,000, but when you factor in nostalgia, this game has a magic to it that renders it priceless in my eyes.

The game play couldn’t be more straightforward: you’re a humanoid in a kill-or-be-killed bout against robots who are programmed to destroy you.  Don’t get shot, don’t get touched, stay away from the walls, kill everything that moves, and perhaps most importantly: keep moving.  If you stay put too long, Evil Otto will come after you and kill you – literally with a smile on his face.  The game starts out simple enough, but the difficulty ratchets up quickly, and soon you’ll have to start making decisions the second you start a new screen or meet certain death.

Berzerk was one of the first games to use speech synthesis, and the phrases range from funny (“Coin detected in pocket” during attract mode), to foreboding (its famous “Intruder alert!  Intruder alert!” call-out when Evil Otto is coming), to taunting (“Chicken!  Fight like a robot!”), to downright scary (“Killlllllll the humanooooooid!”).  What makes it even cooler is how the robot voices range from high-pitched to very, very low.  The low-decibel ones are my personal favorites.  They sound so evil!

My Berzerk features a reproduction marquee (the original hangs in my game room as decor), a repro control panel, and a robot topper signed by Alan McNeil (Berzerk’s designer/programmer).  Phoenix Arcade makes a very nice reproduction glass monitor bezel that I’ll probably pull the trigger on one of these days.  My machine has the original PCB/hardware – which still works – but I’ve added an adapter harness and a Jrok board to the setup.  This allows high scores to be saved, and also provides the ability to toggle between Berzerk and its sequel, Frenzy.  Frenzy’s cool, but Berzerk is King.

Hail to the King, baby!

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