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Berserk Boy

Berserk Boy

Written by Jeremy Duff on 3/11/2024 for PC  
More On: Berserk Boy

Making a game that is meant as a tribute to some of a genre's most prolific titles can be a huge challenge. On one hand, you want to make sure that you hit all the points that made the classic titles great. On the other hand, you need to make sure that you do enough to stand out on your own and not come across like a clone rather than a tribute. The bigger the titles that you're paying tribute to, the tougher this challenge becomes. BerserkBoy Games challenged themselves in a major way when they chose to pay homage to two of the biggest gaming franchises in history: Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog. The result of their hard work, Berserk Boy, is a game that manages to not just meet that challenge but conquer it.

Much like the games that influence it, the game’s story is second to the gameplay experience. You play as Kei, a young member of the militaristic Resistance force. An army of darkness, led by an evil, mad scientist, is attempting to locate and control a mysterious type of energy powered by Magical orbs. These orbs hold immense power and anyone who harnesses that power becomes a force to reckon with. Unfortunately for the people of Earth, this power is usually a lot more than their manly forms can handle. Thankfully, this isn’t the case for Kei; he has the gift of being able to merge with these orbs and utilize the powers that they offer for good.

It is a common and lighthearted story-trope, but it seems to take itself too seriously. The world of Berserk Boy is colorful and has great character designs; I feel like it would have led to a better experience if the atmosphere was presented in a more lighthearted way. Based on the looks, this should be filled with humor and almost slap-stick level comedy. It looks like an all-ages action comic book, but carries the tone of something far more serious.

The gameplay experience, on the other hand, is a true delight. As you tear through the various stages and environments, you will lay claim to different “Chaos Orbs” which will grant Kei unique sets of powers to use along the way. It starts with an electric-esque type power that lets Kei zip across the screen at lightning speed and send pulses of energy towards his opponents and environment triggers. From there you will gain a variety of powers which include throwing kunai, tunneling through the group, and adding flames to your physical attacks, among many others. Sure, it is pure Mega Man-101, but it works so well.

What makes Berkerk Boy’s take on this concept so good is the speed at which you can, and will need to, switch between these powers. Once obtained, you can swap between the orbs with a simple button press, meaning that you can craft an almost endless list of combinations as you unleash your barrage of attacks on your enemies. It is really addicting once you obtain a few orbs to create unique combinations of attack strings. You can switch between them rapidly in order or pull up a wheel, which pauses the action, and switch to a specific power. You will need to utilize both methods at different points in your adventures. You also need to learn to read your environmental cues to know when certain powers are needed over others.

Those attacks are almost constantly evolving as you can purchase upgrades and additional moves for each orb. As you proceed through the stages and defeat your enemies, you will collect tokens that can be spent to upgrade your arsenal and your abilities. In addition to moves and powers, you can also extend your life and energy gauges with upgrades through this same method. Granted, this system is very easy to abuse if you would like to as there are numerous points in the game where you can endlessly farm these tokens and basically buy every upgrade at will. Hopefully you won’t do this and ruin the experience for yourself.

When they say that Berserk Boy is a tribute to Sonic and Mega Man, they absolutely mean it. The game wears the style of both games with pride. The stage and progression structure through each world is ripped almost directly from the Mega Man franchise. The screens pan across as you transition between them and you enter boss battles through and empty screen vertical doors, just like a Mega Man game. It’s clear they regard the Mega Man structure in high regard. The same can be said for the Sonic games in the traversal aspects of most of the stages. When you’re not fighting a slew of enemies, you’re zipping through obstacles and dangers at a breakneck pace. You almost don’t even have enough time to think as you move through them, so expect to die a lot. That is okay though, because that is the charm. It may take you a few tries, but when you get through a particularly frantic stretch of a level and hit one of the four level checkpoints, it truly feels like a badge of honor. I found myself retrying different sections to complete them with different strategies as my arsenal of abilities expanded. While I know that this type of gameplay loop isn’t for everyone, it is the type that I particularly enjoy and what kept me coming back for more.

It is the combination of these two mechanics that becomes the mark of the game. The frantic traversal of the stages combined with a fast-paced combat system results in some incredible experiences. Being able to swap between your equipped Orbs on the fly works wonders and creates an exciting and memorable gameplay loop. When you get into a rhythm, things are flying by, and you are zipping between enemies, wrecking shops. The same sensation is even felt when you’re facing off against one of the games many, large-scale boss battles. Sure, they feel like they are ripped right out of one of the Blue Bomber’s adventures, but they give you a chance to put everything you have learned and the powers that you have gained to the test.

As enjoyable as the gameplay is, the game does experience a couple of missteps along the way in terms of the overall experience. For example, your main base / hub, is ridiculously and unnecessarily large. Granted, you can warp between locations in the base (which you will explore between levels) from the pause menu, but it just feels completely unnecessary. You have just a couple of locations that you will frequent, where you visit key characters and access things such as improving your abilities and selecting your next mission. It feels unnecessary to walk across 8-9 screens to get between one and the other, especially considering there is really nothing between them to do other than interact with NPC’s who tout canned phrases. There are times when the base does get infested with enemies, but considering how brief that experience is, it comes across as “filler” material that doesn’t serve a point to the overall experience.

While I love the enemy variety in the game, I really feel that they throw too much at you too quickly. By the end of the first two worlds, you will have seen most of the enemies in the game. Granted, they get minor theme changes as you go along, but they’re based on the same design. The overall number could easily have been spread out a little more and you don’t need to see everything so quickly. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with the game’s bosses. Those prove to be incredibly diverse and fun to experience as you go along.

Even though the game is rather brief, with the mainline story being completed in roughly 6-8 hours, Berserk Boy makes efforts to extend the experience for those of us who are “completionists”. You’re rated on your performance of each level, and we all want that remarkable S-grade for each chapter. Plus, you have the option of playing the story with a limited life-count or with unlimited retries available; the content of both is the same, so you won’t miss anything by choosing one over the other. However, those that like to challenge themselves can do so.

We don’t get enough of these types of game in the modern era. With everything shifting to 3D and a focus on hyper-realistic graphics, sometimes it is refreshing to visit a new take on a classic concept. Berserk Boy does just that. It takes a proven gameplay style from two different legendary franchises and blends them together for a remarkable result. If you enjoy the classic 8- or 16-bit adventures of either Sonic or Mega Man, they you owe it to yourself to give Berserk Boy a shot.

A game that certainly isn't shy about what it is, Berserk Boy is a love letter to the Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man franchises. While there are arguably some slight concerns along the way on the design front, those shortcomings are overshadowed by fun and addicting gameplay. The game manages to pay great respect to the games that influenced it and still stand on its own at the end. Fans of both classic franchises will certainly enjoy going Berserk!

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Guess who's back!!! If you have been here before, you know the basics: lifelong gamer, father, and of course, former certified news monkey. I still consider myself all of those things, just maybe not in the grand scale that I once did. I’ve been blogging on the industry for more than decade now, in some form or another. It wasn't until I landed here at Gaming Nexus that I really dove in head first. Now, writing about games has become what I do for fun (and sometimes work) and something I intend on doing until the day I die (in some form or another).

I'm a huge fan of just about everything you can interact with using a controller, no matter how old or new, good or bad. If you put it in front of me, I will play it (at least once).

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