Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The PK 27 -- Game No. 18

You can teach a monkey how to play a certain number of rooms, but you cannot teach a man how to play Berzerk. 
- Joel West, former world champion of Berzerk, in response to the somewhat-dubious method of scoring employed by his successor, Chris Ayra. 

Barring what I've said before (on numerous occasions), sometimes a game is merely a game. No pretense of art, substance, fancy graphics or enrapturing music; just a fucking game. Nothing more, nothing less, and therein lies the wizardry of Berzerk, the eighteenth game on our sanctified* list. 

At its core, you're a lone warrior waging war against an army of stupid, technicolor robots within a labyrinth of some sixty-thousand different rooms. Thrown in for good measure is the maniacal Evil Otto, a vermilion smiley face hell-bent upon squashing your ass faster than you can say a vermilion smiley face hell-bent upon squashing your ass.

It's pertinent to note that I refer not to the arcade machine itself, but the Atari 2600 incarnation of Berzerk because that's the one I played, as a kid, till my eyes bled. That's hyperbole, sure, but it's nothing but pure, unadulterated veracity to state that I did play Berzerk through sickness, health, toilet training, sex education, and a horrifically mangled left hand (courtesy of a psychotic Airedale Terrier**) even if my aptitude for the game was of less than stellar proportions. 

As stated initially, what really matters here is that the charm of Berzerk lies in its simplicity, not in  flowery graphics, especially considering the Atari 2600's limitations. Speaking of that, it's also important to contrast the Atari 2600 version of Berzerk with, specifically, the 2600 port of Pac-Man*** for the explicit purpose of demonstrating how to do a port correctly. Unlike the latter game (and decidedly so), Berzerk transferred extremely well. While less than a perfect conversion (but how often does that happen), it captured the spirit of the arcade game magically. On the flip side, the  console version of Pac-Man was, essentially, an exercise in obscenity, to say nothing of its contribution to the video game crash of 1983. Is Berzerk a better game than (PK27:23Pac-Man? If we're discussing the arcade games, then absolutely not, but if we're discussing the home ports, then yes, absolutely, yet if there's one thing the two games have in common, it's that they are -unequivocally, unabashedly- video games

No bullshit. Just fun and scores. 

According to Messiahpedia, Berzerk is the first game known to have been involved with the death of not one, but two of its players. Read about it here...if you dare!

* Blessed by the Pope himself just last week, immediately followed by a feast of tiger-paw soup, fried honeybees, and Cass Red. 

** Life lesson here. If you're ever tempted to steal a bone out of some large canine's mouth, make sure to wear a pair of gloves. Or use a baseball bat for leverage. 

*** Tangent time!

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