Berserk Boy Review

Berserk Boy header

There’s a huge amount of nostalgia for classic side-scrolling platformers like Mega Man X and Sonic, but that means there’s also countless games that have struggled to capture that same energy and appeal. I was worried Berserk Boy would be another one of those, but despite wearing it’s Mega Man X influences on it’s sleeve, there’s more to this game than meets the eye, and it’s easily one of the most impressive platformers I’ve played in recent memory.

The armoured hero aesthetic of Berserk Boy is a pretty obvious homage to the blue bomber, and the opening beats of the story don’t stray much further from that script either. A mad scientist wants to take over the Earth with his army of Dark Energy minions, but a human resistance has sprung up to squash those plans. Untrained and underpowered, Kei isn’t the ideal hero at first, but when he comes in contact with a strange orb, he turns into the titular Berserk Boy and platforming combat ensues.

While the roots of the narrative aren’t entirely original, I really appreciate how creative and endearing the characters that inhabit it are. Everyone from your companions to the bosses you battle features a fun design and some quirky dialogue, helping sprinkle plenty of personality into an otherwise pretty standard heroic sci-fi quest.

Berserk Boy transformation

There’s an incredible amount of personality infused in the gameplay of Berserk Boy, too – instead of entirely lifting the game feel and combat flow of one iconic side-scroller, it feels like a really well-realised mashup of the best parts of several games. Running, gunning, and platforming has the momentum and smoothness of Mega Man X, but there’s a much bigger focus on maintaining momentum and movement so it feels like a combat-focused spin on the way you’d navigate classic Sonic the Hedgehog levels.

Part of that comes from the emphasis Berserk Boy puts on melee combat. Rather keeping distance and pelleting foes with bullets, you’re constantly dashing between foes and chaining attacks together in quick succession, building up a Berserk meter that you can spend to dish out even stronger attacks. That loop adds a sense of urgency and a quest for constant action to your combat encounters that elevates the experience and creates so many fun encounters across each map.

Berserk Boy combat

Plus, as you progress through multiple biomes and over a dozen stages, you unlock even more tools for destruction in Berserk Boy that let you really tailor the experience to how you want to play. Defeating each major boss gives you a new transformation that not only alters your basic attacks, but your movement abilities, eventually letting you fly, dig through tunnels, or lock-onto and zip-between multiple enemies. Upgrades back at your home base then let you unlock additional attacks and abilities for each transformation. There are some awkward sections in each map where you’re forced to use a specific transformation to navigate past an obstacle, and than can slow things down a bit, but those moments are outweighed by the sheer adrenaline rush or chaining attacks together in combat or conquering bosses with your favourite abilities.

Berserk Boy blends the best aspects of several games together, crafting a unique experience altogether as a result. It’s obvious where it draws inspiration from, but those inspirations have never been executed like this before, and it’s rare to have so much fun with a sidescrolling platformer that manages to pack so much into it as this one does. A perfect taste of old-school nostalgia and an inspiring look into the future of platformers all rolled into one.

Summary
Berserk Boy is a love letter to classic platformers, but in combining its inspirations together it carves out it's own path as an incredibly promising new game and, hopefully, the first entry in an unforgettable new series.
Good
  • Fast, fun combat
  • Deeply customizable abilities
  • Bright visuals and pulse-pounding music
Bad
  • Some mandatory power-swaps can slow down gameplay a bit
9
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.

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