Berserk Boy Beta
"Don't Just Stand, Don't Just Stand, Don't Just Stand, Don't Just Stand, Go Berserk!"
Social media can be a wonderful place as you never know what you might find as you innocently scroll through the day's content. It was a Twitter retweet from a mutual that introduced me to Berserk Boy and I was enthralled from the screenshots alone. Then I saw a gameplay trailer and it was enough for me to garner interest. I have a soft spot for fast-paced retro 2D games, especially when it's done right. For an example of the type of games I'm talking about, Inti Creates is a developer that naturally knocks them out of the park. Another example is Artdink's Wonder Boy: Asha In Monster World, which was a splendid remark of Wonder Boy 4.
The stars have aligned for me as Berserk Boy's public beta was right around the corner. Beginning today for the next two weeks, players can experience the beta for themselves. The beta features the game's first six levels, spread across two different worlds. Each world has a boss at the end that contains a Berserk Core. Each Core alters the game's playstyle considerably. There's quite a bit of content for players to enjoy and the difficulty is just right. If someone like me could complete the beta, everyone could. But, what about Berserk Boy? What are my thoughts after spending two hours reaching the end of this experience?
Berserk Boy begins with two childhood friends, Kei and Dizzie, who are recent additions to an "Earth Defense Force"-like sector known as The Resistance. On their first day of work, an invasion takes place while the duo attempts to look for a Berserk Core behind the scenes. Dizzie ends up kidnapped by a mysterious figure and Kei meets a talking bird named Fiore. Together they chase after the man who has both the Berserk Core and Dizzie captive. As most things go, Kei finds the Core and absorbs it, manifesting the power of the Berserk. After this, the first level begins in New Hope City. Before Kei finds the core, he is capable of holding his own against the enemies within city walls. Pressing L2/LT or X/Square will cause Kei to dash (Kei...Dash?) with Fiore in tow.
Pressing B/Circle will cause Fiore to attack while pressing d+A in the air will cause a Stomp similar to Sonic Generations. The Berserk suit amplifies all of these attacks, imbuing Kei's attacks with the power of thunder. Kei dashes with the intensity of electricity and colliding into enemies will cause him to bounce to the next target. Think, once again, Sonic's homing attack except it's a manual input. It's up to the player to chain attacks while using enemies like springboards. As Kei's attacks flow, the hit counter increases, which gives the player more points. Plus, it looks pretty damn stylish when you get the timing down.
Berserk Boy Rocks...Man! (Get it?)
Rock Man? Mega Man? One of the many influences of Berserk Boy? Forgive me for the pun, it's just that everyone in this game has a pun up their sleeve. I knew the moment I saw Kei was "on the Kei-se," I was in danger. Fortunately, the gameplay trumps over the puns by an X-treme mile. X? Mega Man X? Sorry.
I mentioned Sonic several times, but there are several games that Berserk Boy carries the spirit of. The obvious Mega Man franchise comes to mind, but there are also Metroidvania elements as well. There are certain areas that are gated off at the beginning of the game, requiring a certain core to overcome.
Upon obtaining Flame Drill, Kei can drill through rock, identified by the dark grey formation that's featured in the very first level. There are also hints of Metal Slug, as freeing trapped refugees are important to Berserk Boy as is obtaining the Berserk Cores. As Kei frees trapped soldiers, the home base will slowly fill as some have a very interesting choice of dialogue.
Berserk Boy's Charm Is The Sum Of Its Parts
At the end of each stage lies a boss that will put everything the player has learned to the test. An example of this is the first two bosses in New Hope City, who are both spiders. Each spider has an attack that renders them invulnerable and will harm the player if they make contact. They also share an attack that swings a beam back and forth like a pendulum, teaching the player to attack from above.
When the player eventually fights their first Berserk Core user, Flame Drill, they will be introduced to several familiar attacks. The pendulum beam for example now swings clockwise with a flame barrier protecting him. After many deaths, I realized that I could chain my attacks in-between Flame Drill's attacks. Fortunately, the attack phases are each to identify, but they deal a lot of damage if you miss the timing.
Very few instances felt more satisfying than chaining your attacks together against a boss that you spent the past half-hour on. That sigh of relief when you finally take down a tough boss is something I've been quite familiar with. So I won't deny a heaping serving of humble pie. The thing is, with every death your score lowers by a set amount, even going beyond zero. By the end of the first World Boss, I...well I'll let the screen speak for itself.
Each Suit Offers A Different Playstyle, Keeping Berserk Boy Fresh
Upon unlocking Flame Drill, Berserk Boy's gameplay changes drastically from its Berserk mode. If Berserk was "Sonic," then Flame Drill is best described as "Knuckles." Featuring heavy-hitting attacks that can be upgraded to something out of Hokuto no Ken, the Flame Drill can burrow underground. As mentioned earlier, the Drill can also traverse through solid rock regardless of what suit Kei is wearing. There are also platforms that Kei can drill into, serving as a movable platform.
The second world, the Frozen Temple, introduces new enemies including cloaked shinobi. The number of hazards also increases, forcing players to stay on their toes. The world boss this time around is a femme fatal known as Ice Kunai, who compared to Flame Drill, is less into talking and more into fighting. As it turns out, she would rather not fight much less do anything, becoming annoyed that Kei even made it as far as he did. Even in defeat, she gives up her core with a jaded expression yet respects Kei enough to not push her luck.
Burning Passion, Meet Frigid Ice Queen
How did I fare this time around? Well, I still got a negative score but it wasn't nearly as bad as Flame Drill. In Mega Man fashion, the last power-up unlocked is usually the most preferred for the next fight. Flame Drill simply does far too much damage in short bursts to not be used, but even using the suit was a learning curve. The Flame Drill's attacks move Kei forward, but if Kei switches direction, the attacks will carry that momentum.
I had to use the Flame Drill as if I was playing a fighting game, making sure I completed my combos while keeping up with Ice Kunai. If she stood still, I'd activate my Berserk skill which was a flame shield. This, plus the combos, deleted her health bar but it put me at risk. I knew I was burning my health trading blows with her, but it was a matter of defeating her before she defeated me. It was at this point that I fell in love with Berserk Boy. Each boss was a puzzle that needed to be solved and once that "Eureka!" moment hit, it was worth the payoff.
B. Boy Is An Optimistic Breath Of Fresh Air To A Genre That Needs It
Unfortunately, this was the end of the beta but I felt satisfied to reach the end. Players could still play through the beta and try out the new Ice Kunai Berserk Core in levels already completed. Compared to the other two suits, this one is exclusively ranged, firing a volley of kunai at a safe distance. It may be the weakest of the three, but it is definitely the coolest---argh.
To participate in the Berserk Boy beta, players can join via the game's Steam page. The playtest is available until April 14th and I highly recommend giving this one a try, especially if you love games like these. Plus you can pet the dog and be rewarded for it, joining the ranks of other games like Ghostwire Tokyo that follow the vision. What's not to love?