Berserk Boy berserk boy with a big grin

Berserk Boy Review

Game: Berserk Boy
Genre: Action, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows) (Also on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: BerserkBoy Games
Controller Support: Yes  Steam Deck: TBC
Price: US $ 19.99 | UK £ 15.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: March 3rd, 2024

Review code provided with many thanks to Lost In Cult. 

Berserk Boy Blending Some of the Best Ideas in Action Platformers

The short summary of Berserk Boy is this is what happens when you throw Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man and add a few drops of Metroid into a blender. Now it turns out that mixture and potentially terrifying mental image makes for a darn good action platformer.

Saturday Morning Gaming

Set in the robotic distant future. All is not well for mankind, who is on the brink of enslavement by an evil scientist and his army of darkness. But there is hope. That hope comes in the form of a young chap called Kei. A spiky haired fellow who happens upon a mysterious orb which transforms him into Berserk Boy. Now infused with new lightning powers, he joins the resistance to seek out the remaining orbs and fight back against the bad guys.

The obvious gaming influence of the story and setting is Mega Man, with its clean robotic futures and bosses whose powers you can absorb. But over time, I started to get Captain Planet vibes. An old cartoon show that attempted to promote environmentalism with the power of Saturday morning TV. This was because throughout the game you gain the powers of fire, earth, ice and wind. The only thing missing is the power of the heart. In a way I kind of wish Berserk Boy leaned into this potential cheesiness but instead it plays things pretty predictable and safe which is absolutely fine. Most players will be here for the gameplay and for the familiar plot.

Berserk Boy grinding on rails
(Singing) Sliding around at the speed of sound

Excellent Score

Berserk Boy makes use of a very detailed pixel art style with smooth animations. Character sprites all feel they have that edgy air of attitude to them, which I was fine with. Levels are varied in design featuring your typical range of locations like ice and forest areas all of which have a future mechanical feel to them. The stand out for me was the soundtrack. Composed by Tee Topes, who worked on Sonic Mania and TMNT: Shredders Revenge. The score has that high octane punch, which suits the fast pace of the game. 

Fast and Fluid

The gameplay in Berserk Boy is high-speed and exciting. You explore multiple themed levels, each of which consists of three stages, the third usually focusing on a boss battle. The overall goal is just to reach the end of each level, but the game offers an incentive to explore and take in the environments if you wish. There are resistance members to save and collectables to find.

Platforming and combat is a lot of fun. When you pick up the controller (which is recommended on PC) you’re greeted to a platformer that is tight and responsive. The first power you gain is the use of lightning that lets you zip around the level with a satisfying air dash. You quickly feel like a heroic figure harnessing this great power as you dominate your opponents with your lightning moves and speed.

Berserk Boy throwing ice
Each new form has unique abilities.

Power up

As you defeat each boss, you gain a new power that unlocks a complete set of new moves. The fire form can drill into the ground and use a special platform. The wind form can fly and use a special buzzsaw to deflect enemy fire (guess this makes the game buzzsaw approved). Each form also comes with a special Berserk move, which can be charged up and unleashed on enemies and bosses.

With additional moves unlocked you can backtrack through levels to look for collectibles you may have missed and even find a new route through the level giving plenty of incentive to replay. Switching between these forms can be done quickly with the shoulder buttons. If you prefer you can hold the number down which will pause the gameplay allowing you take your time to make your choice, a feature I really liked.

Consideration for the different forms is even worked into the level design, with some nodes instantly transforming your form when you’re speeding through platform segments. Within each level you can collect these electrical orbs scattered about which you can later cash in to upgrade each form as well as unlock new combat moves. A minor niggle I had about the different forms is you do have a lot of moves to remember, which may take a bit of getting used to a player just there to brainless speed through the game. For an exhausted parent, that’s kind of what I was doing at times.

Berserk Boy a resistance member
Making a powerful entrance

Difficulty

Difficulty generally sat in the moderate range for me. For the most part I was having a grand ole time zipping around levels taking out enemies. But the boss fights did cause some frustration. Much like Mega Man, bosses have a pattern to follow where you strike at the best moment. I was fine with this but just found it took a lot of slogging to chip away at their health bars. But maybe that’s because I didn’t have a full grasp of the move sets.

Soon after release, I imagine some clever clog on YouTube will post a video of their mad Berserk Boy speed running skills. When you begin the game, you have two settings. One where you have limited lives like the old retro days and one where you just have unlimited lives. I chose this later option for my playthrough. There is one accessibility feature that makes your character invulnerable, essentially turning on God mode. Once again it’s a shame the game just offers this rather than some middle ground say like reduced enemy health or extra platforms (something cleverly implemented into Mega Man 10) but I guess it’s there for folk that really struggle and just want to make it through the game.

I generally liked the pace of the game, but things came to a bit of a halt following boss fights. After these encounters you return to base where the alarm raises and you have to explore the area to find hidden enemies and defeat them. It’s just slow and tedious and halts the satisfying fast pace of the levels. 

Steam Deck

Berserk Boy is yet to be verified on Steam Deck. Most of my playthroughs were on the Deck, and I encountered absolutely no problems with performance or controls. So if handheld is your preferred way to go it gets my thumbs up on the Deck.

Berserk Boy boss fight
Going Berserk on this boss

Conclusion: Berserk Is Right 

Berserk Boy is slick and stylish platforming action. Considering a solo developer made this, this is an impressive achievement. It may take many pieces of inspiration from the retro greats, but it all comes together to make a great adventure.

For me it fell a little short with meaty health boss fights and its slow paced hunting the enemy segments. But when exploring and taking in the core levels I was having a blast. An addictive soundtrack and detailed pixel art style further helped this. I easily recommend Berserk Boy to any action-adventure fan, modern or retro. If Berserk Boy ever did want to venture into the realm of Saturday morning cartoons, I’d probably watch it.

Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot

I like it a lot

A free demo is available on Steam if you want to give the game a try.

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