Classic Video Game Spotlight: Berzerk

“Intruder alert! Intruder alert!” “Got the Humanoid, got the intruder” Berzerk is the latest entry into our classic video game spotlight. One of the first games to heavily feature speech synthesis, Berzerk is truly an landmark video game. It was released by Stern in arcades, but was also featured on the Atari 2600.

In Berzerk you control a stick figure – called a humanoid – through a simple maze with multiple exits. You can direct your character in the 8 basic directions and use a fire button to shoot. Standing in your way are robots, in the beginning they are slow and can’t shoot, in later rounds they are faster and can shoot back. You must navigate your way through the maze to one of the exits as quickly as possible. Your character loses a life if it comes in contact with a robot, a wall or a laser shot. The robots are stupid and will walk into walls and shot each other… basically killing themselves. In addition, if you take too long on any maze a bouncing smiley face named “Evil Otto” will come after you. He cannot be shot (in the arcade version of the game) and will bounce right into you, through walls and kill you by touch.

The most important/memorable thing about Berzerk is its speech synthesis. Berzerk’s (very expensive at the time) voice synthesizer generated speech for the robots and the game in general including:

“Coins detected in pocket”:¬† while showing the high score list when game not active.
“Intruder alert! Intruder alert!”
“The humanoid must not escape”: after you escape when killing every robot.
“Chicken, fight like a robot!”: when you escape room without killing every robot.
“Got the Humanoid, got the intruder”: Plays when you die. (“Got the intruder” higher pitch than the “Got the humanoid” part)

Berzerk is a killer! Berzerk is the first video game in history which someone died from playing. In January 1981, Jeff¬† Dailey(19 yrs old) died of a heart attack soon after scoring 16,660 points.In October 1982, Peter Burkowski (18 yrs old) made the Berzerk top-ten list twice in fifteen minutes, and then a few seconds later dropped dead. True story…freaky.