Here’s a game I’ve had my eye on for quite some time. Berserk Boy, a Mega Man X-inspired blast of energy, has all the makings of the video game equivalent to high quality anime fantasy battles. Flashy and speedy, a single trailer was all it took to get me onboard—the nods to games of old was just the kicker. Now with about an hour of time under my belt, I’ve acquired a good taste of what to expect.
Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.
“Berserk Boy is a vibrant, retro-inspired 2D action platformer that lets you… GO BERSERK! Change into different forms and use the power of Lightning, Fire, Earth, Air, and Ice as you race through stylish stages in a heroic battle to save the planet from the evil Dr. Genos!“
Even from static images, one can tell that the priority here is with flow. Bombastic, energetic, and effortlessly radical, much like the high-octane 2cool4school embodiment of the youth of the ’90s and early 2000’s. Berserk Boy certainly lives up to the implications present in its very name—a frenzy of fluid action and controlled chaos.
From the very moment the player is allowed control over Kei, the protagonist, there’s an immediate sense of power. Shooting forward and upward like a rocket, it’s very much like a cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man X. Aesthetically and mechanically like the latter, with an emphasis on kinetic progression like the former. Simply playing the game—all else aside—eclipses any significant worries I have of the full game’s release.
Admittedly, I did not try out the “Retro” mode, where enemies are a tad harder and retries are limited. On “Modern” mode, however, there’s less emphasis on breaking the speed of the game by engaging in combat, which I would probably prefer. Various enemy types are often killed only after one or two hits, which keeps things on a good pace.
Audibly, the explosive vibe of the game is furthered heightened by its blazing soundtrack. In particular, the opening stage’s musical score is great fun. Lots of percussion—I like me some loud percussion. Combined with the already invigorating gameplay style and anime-esque visuals, it completes the blend of all-out vivacity.
Plus, if you like Mega Man X (in general, not just that specific title), the foundation of Berserk Boy will appease your gaming palette. Level design hinges on the four cardinal directions; lots of upward/downward climbing and left-to-right (or vice versa) run n’ “gun” (no actual guns present). You’re also encouraged to rescue civilians in various parts of the stage, occasionally hidden, to fill up a spiffy progression bar that completionists will enjoy.
Not a complete copy, to clarify, Berserk Boy teeters the line between independence and homage well enough. Though with only an hour to get a grasp of what’s to come, it’s hard to know what exactly is in store for later.
There wasn’t too much to dissect in this demo, so this section won’t be too drastically long. After all, the gameplay seemed to be the most important aspect on display, and that ended up fairly riveting. Still, some minor things arose here and there.
Particularly near the opening sequence, the sound mixing is rather suspect. There is some occasional voice acting present here, though it’s often drowned out by the volume of the backing track. While not as bad in other settings, there doesn’t seem to be any importance on either; when someone is speaking, I think that should take precedence, no?
Visually, there’s a good variety of sci-fi-esque materials to marvel at. The structure of levels and the home base are pretty nice and only occasionally daunting. Characters, however, don’t have the same kind of luster. Kei and other major characters are all right, but side characters and faceless characters (those that don’t have a portrait when addressed) look a little unspectacular to me.
Obviously, the art design of the game is going for a more anime feel, featuring characters with enlarged eyes, eyebrows, and hair. Major characters pull this off splendidly with how “ridiculous” they look from a realistic perspective. It’s just that minor characters look like they blend between reality and anime to the point of uncanniness. They don’t look as sleek or memorable (or colorful).
Then, at the end of the demo, one is provided with a new “power”: fire-based claws. This power, compared to the default electric one, doesn’t flow as well for me. One ability it has, which allows the player to dig underground, is very finicky to use, especially in cramped areas. Also isn’t quite as fast, though more intricate in combat situations.
What occurs is it breaks the flow that was so greatly captured with the default ability, making it more situational for secret goodies you otherwise couldn’t access on the first run of a stage. I often found myself switching back to the first ability because it was simply more fun to use. Though there are likely many more abilities to use, it made me slightly hesitant to think they’d be any better than the default.
Should the trailer do anything for you, I would heavily recommend you give it a try. Those fond of the obvious inspirators’ games will have a great time, if only for a short while. Short and sweet, I suppose. Still, there are some minor chinks in the armor that could use some refining to make it more fun and frantic (in a good way). Looking forward to the full release… whenever that may come!
Berserk Boy has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.