“Webster” defines the term “berzerk” as, “one whose actions are marked by reckless defiance.”
Well, that’s you in the Atari VCS game of the same name. In Berzerk, you’re trapped in a never-ending series of mazelike rooms. In order to get out of a room with your hide intact, you must “recklessly defy” armies of hulking Robots. You can either run or shoot your way out, but beware — the Robots are armed with Lasers that can fry you like an egg.
Just when you think you’ve gotten the best of these mechanical terrors, their mentor, Evil Otto, bounces into the room. Looking for all the world like a “happy face” button, Otto is invincible. If he catches you, you’re cooked!
The only way you can escape from the clutches of Evil Otto is to run for it. But don’t run into one of the walls! The maze walls in Berzerk are electrified and are every bit as deadly as your attackers. When you finally do exit a room, there’s no rest. You only enter another room with more Robots and another bout with the inimitable Evil Otto. Berzerk is right!
One of the nicest aspects of Berzerk is its accessibility. It looks easy. The maze room passageways are large, and the Robots are relatively small. However, looks are deceiving — Berzerk is not an easy game to master.
for Atari VCS
Game Play: 7
To destroy as many Robots for points in each maze room as possible without getting destroyed yourself.
Berzerk is played using the Atari joystick controller (left controller only). The joystick action is responsive, but slow. This is a built-in feature of the game and is not the fault of Atari’s controllers. Pushing the joystick in any of eight positions moves you in that direction (up, down, left, right, and four diagonal directions in between).
Pressing the action button fires your Lasers in the direction you have most recently moved. By pressing the action button and moving the joystick at the same time, you will be able to fire in the direction the joystick is moved. Your fire is relatively quick, but watch out — you cannot shoot and run at the same time. Hit the button and move fast to dodge Lasers.
Man: This is you, nameless and trapped, forever being pursued by the Robots and Evil Otto. As previously mentioned, you can move or fire in any of eight directions. Note that you can fire your Lasers on the diagonal; your attackers (the Robots) cannot. If you position yourself above or below them and just to their left or right, you will nail them every time.
You can leave one maze and enter another at any time via one of the exits.
You lose a life when either: a) your Man touches a wall; b) he touches a Robot; or c) he is attacked by Evil Otto. Death is not a pretty sight in Berzerk. When killed, your Man is horribly electrocuted for several seconds.
Robots: Relentless, merciless creatures set out by Evil Otto to destroy you. Fortunately for you, these attackers are also slow and stupid. You can easily outrun them, especially in early game screens when they move about half as fast as you do.
How stupid are they? The Robots are so stupid, they’ll follow you anywhere on the screen. They’ll even run right into walls in your general direction where they, like you, are destroyed. They cannot, however, follow you into another maze room.
Robots can fire Lasers horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally. As mentioned earlier, they’re dead bolts when you can position yourself on the diagonal and blast away at them. Most Robots will go down with only one Laser blast. Occasionally, however, you will encounter an extra-durable Robot that will require two or more direct hits to die. They will never fire at you during the first maze in a game.
Robots gain movement and firing speed with each successive maze, up to screen 15. After that, the Robots’ movement speed resets to that of the first maze, and progresses upward again from there. However, their firing speed remains equal to yours for the remainder of the game.
Robots are worth ten points each when destroyed. If all the Robots in a maze are destroyed when you exit it, you are awarded ten bonus points per robot eliminated. This, in effect, doubles your score.
Evil Otto: Although he may look friendly — like a smiley-faced beach ball — he’s deadly. Evil Otto enters each maze approximately seven-to-ten seconds after you do. He always enters from the exact spot you do. You should not hang around and wait for him. However, even if you run, Evil Otto will chase you. He’ll pass through walls and even destroy his own Robots just to get at you. If he catches up to you — WHAM! Evil Otto pulverizes you like a jackhammer!
Evil Otto cannot be destroyed (although in some game variations he can be temporarily stunned). Your best defense against Evil Otto is your own two feet — head for an exit, fast! What’s more, once you’ve destroyed all the Robots in a maze, Evil Otto will pick up speed considerably. Be sure to save one Robot for the last second and zap it just as you are about to exit a room. Otherwise, Evil Otto will zap you first. He’ll be moving about twice as fast as you will.
Shoot the Robots immediately above you, and circle toward the uppermost exit. This will draw the two Robots below you into the electrified walls.
Berzerk features 12 games for one player and includes one children’s version (also good for adult beginners). Game selections determine whether or not the Robots fire at you, thresholds at which extra lives are earned (1,000 points, 2,000 points, or not at all), and the behavior of Evil Otto. Depending on the game, Otto can either be invincible (he cannot be destroyed), rebounding (he can be temporarily stunned by your Lasers and “bounce back” in about five seconds), or not appear in the game at all. Difficulty switches are not used in Berzerk.
We like the games featuring firing Robots and an invincible Evil Otto. As far as we are concerned, all other game variations are merely practice runs that lead up to this, the Main Event.
Our strategies presented here are based on the most difficult Berzerk games those with firing Robots and an invincible Evil Otto. They will, however, apply to a certain extent to all Berzerk variations.
This is a bit trickier. Again, shoot the Robot closest to you, then circle toward the bottom exit. There is no center wall for the Robots to crash into, but you'll have more distance between you and them. This way, you’ll be in a better spot to shoot at the Robots and dodge their fire.
Note that in Berzerk, the mazes appear in no set order — any of 16 mazes can come up at any given time. In addition, the number of Robots in a maze room varies from screen to screen. You may encounter two robots spread throughout the maze in one screen and five Robots crowding around you in the next.
For all 16 mazes, however, we suggest a “circular” approach to clearing the room of Robots. General patterns for clearing three of the most common maze formations are illustrated in Figures 1, 2, and 3.
Move toward the left exit. You’ll need to shoot the two Robots in the center of the screen and the one in the upper left-hand corner. The other two will walk into walls and take care of themselves.
As you begin the game or enter a maze room, immediately blast any Robots near you. The Robots will not move or fire for a second or two. This will give you an opportunity to get them before they get you first. However, be careful not to accidentally walk into a Robot when you begin a room. You may be surrounded by them at the very start of a maze. Keep your hand off the joystick until you see that you can move and/or fire safely.
After you’ve cleared some breathing room for yourself, begin to move in a circular motion around the maze. Don’t delay. Remember, Evil Otto will enter the maze in a few seconds in the exact same spot that you did. Get away quickly — make him chase you.
Work your way around the room in a semi-circular pattern, blasting all Robots along the way. The idea here is to lure brawny, but not too brainy, Robots in your general direction. Since about half the Robots should be on the other sides of walls, they will walk at you but right into the walls, and they will be zapped. This, as far as you are concerned, is just as good as shooting them.
A Robot’s Laser fire passing through your Man’s neck. It can be done, but it’s not an easy move, especially with Evil Otto on your trail.
As you quickly make your way around the room, clearing it of Robots, be sure to leave at least one Robot alive. Preferably, he should be the one nearest the exit you are headed for. Remember, Evil Otto will travel relatively slowly when there are Robots left alive in a maze. But when you’ve killed them all, Evil Otto will suddenly speed up and travel at about twice the speed as your Man. When you are near the exit, shoot the final Robot and proceed to another maze.
“Shoot the Robots above and to the side of you first, then you’ll have a clear shot at the other Robots. Hold the button down and keep firing until you get them.
“If you’re pressed for time, shoot the Robots you have to, and then run from Evil Otto. Survival is more important than points.”
Scott Rodgers, age 17
Just so you can keep your bearings, remember that you will always enter a new maze at the opposite side of where you left the previous one. Thus, if you exit on the right, you will enter the next maze on the left, and so on. When the action quickens, you’ll need to keep this in mind so you can quickly pick out your Man and get a jump on your attackers.
Killing Robots: As mentioned previously, Robots are vulnerable to diagonal fire. You can shoot on an angle — they can’t. Also, when a Robot fires at you vertically, it is always from his right-hand side. This means that if you position yourself above or below and slightly to the left of a Robot, you will be out of the line of his fire. You can, however, easily zap him with a straight vertical shot.
Use the maze walls to your advantage, not only by luring the Robots into them, but by using them as protection, also. We suggest hiding behind walls where necessary to avoid a Robot’s fire. After you dodge his Laser you can jump out from behind the wall and shoot back at him. Not unlike a scene from an old western movie.
One little-known feature of Berzerk is that you can escape death by having a Robot’s Lasers actually pass through your body. What happens is you must position yourself so that a Laser blast slips through the “gap” between your Man’s head and body. This maneuver is illustrated in Figure 4. It is, however, tricky. You must perfect it to the max before you can fully use it to your advantage. Even if you choose not to use this trick in normal game play, it’s a great “show-off” maneuver to amaze your friends with when you demonstrate the game.