Save State Takes A Chance On Action-Packed Berserk Boy And Wins

Welcome back to Save State where our boys have gone berserk. In the last couple weeks, I received some bad news and needed to cheer myself up, so I do what every person with disposable income does… I buy a random game I see on sale. How my backlog became so large may start to make sense to some people. In any event, I recently checked out Berserk Boy since it was on the cheaper end of the range and was thrilled that it was as entertaining as its trailer on Steam made it seem. Because it’s another indie title that’s heavily inspired by games such as Mega Man, Azure Striker Gunvolt, and Sonic the Hedgehog, I figured this would be right up my alley.

A major thing you’ll notice right off the bat with Berserk Boy is most likely going to be its stellar presentation. Characters are fluidly animated, instantly bringing to mind Gunstar Heroes. The colors are bright and colorful, and the backgrounds are visually distinct from enemies which helps with identifying foes at a glance. Berserk Boy is a retro-inspired game through and through, and the only thing really off in its presentation is that it has poor audio leveling for its voice acting, so some voices will be way too quiet, while others will be aggressively loud if you turned up your volume to hear the hushed tones of the quieter voices.

Berserk Boy follows a young character named Kei who is very clearly inspired by Mega Man. It begins with what is effectively a mad scientist attacking a city to find a strange orb. When Kei finds a talking bird named Fiore during the attack, it’s quickly revealed that Fiore is trying to keep the crazed scientist from acquiring the orb to push world domination off until next week. When it seems like all hope is lost, Kei throws himself on the orb and successfully merges with it, and he becomes the titular Berserk Boy.

The story of Berserk Boy is a pretty simple Saturday morning cartoon kind of tale. There’s no Inspector Gadget or War Greymon to stop the scientist’s plot, so it’s up to Kei to kibosh this plot by the big bad. For the most part, with these indie platformers, you don’t really play them for the story, and Berserk Boy isn’t a huge exception to this. The characters can be fun, though there’s a lot of dialogue for such a simple story.

When you first start up Berserk Boy, you don’t attack enemies directly with a buster gun or by punching them. Your primary method of attack will be to dash at foes using energy from your special meter (that refills quickly), which puts a target on them, and you can send an electric charge at the enemies to detonate them, very similar to Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, which is a personal favorite of mine from Inti Creates. The movement is fluid, responsive, and always feels great because you can dash in any direction, giving you control over how you approach enemies and obstacles.

As you progress in Berserk Boy, you unlock the powers of the bosses you defeat and can switch to their abilities on the fly, very similar to a certain Super Fighting Robot. Typically, when you acquire a new boss power, you obtain a new way to dispatch enemies but also gain new movement abilities to explore stages, such as the first boss giving you a drill ability that lets you dig through the ground. Each stage is littered with goodies to obtain, and many of them can’t be acquired your first time through a level. So, if you’re a completionist, you’ll want to backtrack after gaining new boss abilities to gain new power ups.

Berserk Boy might make you think that there’s a Metroidvania element to it with how large the base that functions as a hub world is, but once you reach the command center, you can jump through a level select to your next stage and get right back into the action. There are teleporters littered throughout each stage, which really aids in searching for collectibles so you don’t have to completely restart a level from scratch if you suspect you missed something. Each stage typically has currency floating around that both charges up your special meter and acts as your upgrade funds.

The different Berserk forms you acquire throughout the course of the title are far and away the biggest attraction, with the first one functioning similarly to a mixture of Gunvolt and Copen from Azure Striker Gunvolt 2: you dash into enemies, and then release a powerful shock to damage them. This is also used for a lot of platforming challenges, requiring you to dash into enemies and targets repeatedly to get over pits.

Other powers you gain provide you with the power to dig, or to turn into a kunai-tossing ninja, fly through the air, and more, and the best part of all of these is that you can switch from among them on the fly. There are more powers than just these, and they each have special attacks and upgrades you can get from the shop though many of them are pretty expensive due to what I assume is futuristic inflation.

I can’t praise the visuals enough, and the soundtrack, thankfully, is just as strong as the graphics and gameplay. The backing tracks of Berserk Boy were made by Tee Lopes, the same composer behind Sonic Mania and the more recent TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge. There are a lot of bright, energetic tracks in Berserk Boy to keep you in the right state of mind while you zip through a large number of stages and beat down some bad guys.

Berserk Boy is just a great time. Moving and attacking always feels good, the action is fast and frenetic, and a lot of thought clearly went into a good number of the boss encounters.

Berserk Boy is up there with a lot of great indie platformers like Super Alloy Ranger, Panzer Paladin, and Gravity Circuit, which are some of my favorite newer indie titles. It can be challenging to find things that are both cheap and good, and somehow Berserk Boy is both.

That being said, I think it’s about time we shut down this week’s entry of Save State. Until next time, remember to always give them the old razzle-dazzle!

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