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Video Game / Berzerk

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"Chicken! Fight like a robot!"

Intruder alert! Intruder alert!

A forgotten classic of The Golden Age of Video Games. The player controls a humanoid, who must shoot robots and/or escape the room.

Berzerk (Stern Electronics, 1980) was one of the first video games to have voice synthesis, which it put to good use. It compels passersby to play by saying "Coin detected in pocket!"; spurs its computerized cohorts to victory with "Stop the humanoid! Stop the intruder!"; expresses its consternation with the player's success by saying "The humanoid must not escape!", and, most famously, insults fleeing players with "Chicken! Fight like a robot!"

Also noteworthy for being one of the first video games that afforded the player non-linear ways of achieving goals. The AI robots could be goaded into shooting each other, walking into deadly walls or otherwise killing themselves without the player firing a shot.

Berzerk was even blamed for two deaths. Two teenagers in separate arcades had heart attacks after achieving high scores, causing Moral Guardians to wonder whether arcade video games were too much excitement for people to handlenote . Even in 1980, most people didn't take them seriously.

The game received a sequel, Frenzy (1982), which introduces two styles of robots (skeletons and tanks, who act the same, but the skeletons are slightly harder to hit from above or below), a temporarily-destroyable Evil Otto, destructible and reflective walls, and "Special" rooms with some feature that adds a twist to the normal game (the Robot Factory constantly sends out new robots, shooting the Power Plant immobilizes all robots in the room, shooting the Central Computer causes all robots in the room to go crazy and destroy each other, and Big Otto gets very very angry if you destroy Evil Otto in his chamber).

May have inspired Castle Wolfenstein and its update, Wolfenstein 3-D, or even Robotron: 2084. Not to be confused with the 1967 British B-movie Berserk! (1967) or to the dark fantasy manga Berserk.

Tropes detected in pocket!

  • Ambiguous Gender: The humanoid is always referred to by the robots as "it".
  • Ambiguously Human: The player is only called "the humanoid" in all official documentation, as well as by the robots.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • The player can use the other robots to kill each other and make Evil Otto smash the robots. They're slightly smarter in Frenzy (they won't walk into each other, for example), but not by much.
    • In the Atari 2600 version, the robots couldn't walk into each other (due to a one-robot-per-scanline technical limitation), but were much more likely to walk into walls.
  • Attract Mode: Coin detected in pocket! It was one of the first games in the market to be equipped with a speech synthesizer chip, and it isn't afraid to use the fact to attract players!
  • Big Monster, Cute Name: Evil Otto... though the big monster himself was cute too, being rendered as a smiley face. Originally, this was a temporary graphic until the programmer could think of something cool to use. The idea of players running away from something so cute and insipid was funny to the programmer. So Evil Otto stayed a happy face.
  • Boss Warning Siren: "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" (or "Robot attack!")
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: "Coin detected in pocket!"
  • Checkpoint
  • Collision Damage: Touching a robot will kill you instantly. Robots touching each other will also die instantly. Evil Otto will kill anything he touches.
  • Damage Discrimination: Averted. Robots can accidentally kill each other by way of Collision Damage, running into walls (usually by touching the end of one), and shooting each other. Evil Otto will kill anything he touches, even robots. In Frenzy, you can hit yourself with your own reflected shots.
  • Deadly Walls: The walls don't discriminate between player and robot; it is possible to get a robot to destroy itself by walking into a wall. Averted in Frenzy.
  • The Dreaded: Even the robots, who normally are after your blood, are afraid of Evil Otto, who is capable of killing them indiscriminately.
  • Endless Game
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Everything. Basically, don't touch anything that isn't black.
  • Floating Limbs: The humanoid's neck.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Luckily averted with the robots, who can be tricked into shooting other 'bots.
  • Have a Nice Death: "Got the humanoid! Got the intruder!"
  • Hitbox Dissonance: See the humanoid in the picture at the top of this page? Well, its head and body have two separate hitboxes. A horizontal shot through that gap where the neck would be, is entirely harmless. Call it an "Asimovian necktie".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: You can kill yourself in Frenzy with your own shots if you aren't careful with the reflective walls.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: At lower levels, the robots can easily be manipulated into shooting each other, and sometimes don't even need the player's help.
  • Implacable Man: Evil Otto.
  • Invincible Minor Minion:
    • Evil Otto cannot be destroyed, but his appearance forces the player to exit the room. In Frenzy, Otto can be destroyed (it takes three hits); however, each such destruction will result in a new Otto spawning immediately thereafter, and moving faster than the previous one. (More than 3 Otto kills on one level can be said to constitute a Moment of Awesome for the player who accomplishes that.)
    • Optionally averted in the Atari 2600 version, one-third of the game variations have no Evil Otto, and one-third feature a killable Otto (he's worth no points, and he respawns after a few seconds). The remaining variations feature invincible Otto like his arcade counterpart.
  • Killer Robot: Every enemy that isn't Evil Otto, though in Frenzy, some look like skeletons instead of robots.
  • Mood Dissonance: Evil Otto is out to murder you, and will happily destroy any robots that happen to be in his way. He's also a bouncing smiley face.
  • Mooks: The robots.
  • Moral Guardians: An early target of them, due to a player dying of a heart attack, which was blamed on the game rather than the victim's medical issues.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Evil Otto.
  • Nintendo Hard: Most people can't last three rooms.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • Much of the game's atmosphere is derived from this.
    • After destroying all the robots in a room, you still have to exit it. In the time it takes to get there, Evil Otto can make an abrupt apperance.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" (or, in the sequel, "Robot attack!")
    • In Frenzy, destroying Evil Otto in a Big Otto room is a bad idea, causing him to spawn four Evil Ottos and send them after you at top speed, in addition to the normal respawning one. "Oh crap" indeed.
  • One-Man Army
  • Perpetual Smiler: Evil Otto, though in the sequel Frenzy you can shoot him and his smile will turn into a neutral face, and then a frown.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The stages are all randomly selected from pre-generated stages.note 
  • Robo Speak
  • Robot War
  • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Stalked by the Bell: Evil Otto. This may be the Trope Maker.
  • Take That, Audience!:
    • Exit a screen before killing every robot and they chastise you for it. "Chicken! Fight like a robot!"
    • Do it enough times in a row, and the robots start calling you "the chicken" instead of "the humanoid" in their background chatter.
  • Underground Monkey: There is only one type of robot; as the game progresses, it changes color as it shoots more/faster shots. The second ROM version features more robot colors than the first.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: "Berserk" is usually spelled with an S.

Got the humanoid! Got the intruder!