Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Frenzy is Berzerk 2. Typically, most older gamers seem to appreciate Berzerk (1980) much more than Frenzy(1982); Berzerk receives considerably more internet chatter. From a historical perspective this makes sense because Berzerk sold many more units than its frightfully awesome sequel. Both games were created by Alan McNeil, supposedly based on a dream.

Berzerk represents both life, and, more specifically, the archetypical nightmare. You start, but no matter what you die. The nightmare motif is apparent through the minimalistic graphics, only the basic symbols required to transmit information are used. The "running man" resembles modern signs for "man," and the robots, similarly, use very few pixels to represent the concept. This simple transmission of information allows the player's imagination to run wild. However, death dominates the Great Electric Maze, so death dominates the player's imagination. Suddenly, the horrible smile on Evil Otto's face seems more sinister and the robots prove that despite all of your human intellegence you are outgun, horribly outmatched, with absolutely no hope of victory, only the possibility of a glorious death.

Frenzy expands upon this formula by adding skeletons, ghosts, and more horrors. Every 4 screens you'll encounter a "boss room" which has a special tile. The Giant Evil Otto punishes attacks on his kind, the telsa coils power the robots and when shot all robots will stop moving. The mainframe computer, when destroyed, causes the robots to go insane, or break into a "frenzy." Finally a haunted robot factory that produces ghosts.

The new enemies are a nice variation on the old robot AI. Skeletons are difficult to hit from above or below, and ghosts are harder to hit horizontally (but only when attacking from above the ghost, if you attack horizontally at the feet of the ghost it is still very easy). But best of all are the walls. The old electric walls are gone, replaced by destructible walls and mirror walls. Mirrors reflect bullets (slightly changing the angle in a predictable way) and destructible walls allow the player to blast an impromptu exit from the current board. The board is also subtly different from Berzerk's. Berzerk uses a 3x5 "grid" and Frenzy uses a 4x6. With the increase in "rooms," Frenzy increases the amount of robots per board dramatically (I've seen 24 robots on a screen!) No walls are electric in Frenzy, making pixel-perfect shots easier in certain situations.

Mirrors are your friend, and getting robots to kill each other is the key to success. Here are some other tips:

1. Find a "safe spot" as soon as possible.
2. Try to enter into the bottom-right "room."
3. Set the dipswitches to give you an extra life every 1000 points.

But in all honestly, the game is designed to award an extra life at every 3000 points, so, unlike Berzerk, Frenzy can theoretically be played for 64,000 screens (at which point the game would crash). Therefore, Frenzy is a more uplifting look at robot destruction, with a cheerful Halloween theme and amazing, colorful artwork.

Frenzy is, by far, the better game. Proponents of Berzerk will praise it's minimalistic approach and 1980 charm, and I too applaud Berzerk; however, Frenzy provides a more complex world without exceeding the general concept of Berzerk. Frenzy offers the player more flexibility when designing a creative, elegant solution to a difficult board. Skeletons, ghosts, mirrors, and boss rooms bring the nightmare into sharper focus. The hieroglyphics of Frenzy are more vivid and terrifying than its cuneiform ancestor. These games, along with Robotron:2084, define the robot-shooting genre.


Anonymous said...

Frenzy is almost impossible, but it is truly a great game.

samiorigami said...

great review...
what's up with that crazy cover art? it looks like star wars meets the terminator.... and otto...
but I especially like your little green dude at the bottom... he made me laugh ^_^


The Dread Pirate Guy said...

I worked at TKO Software briefly, and in the break room, they had one of those multi-game arcade machines.

I can't even begin to think how many lunch breaks I spent playing Frenzy. It was such a great game. I can't believe I had forgotten it.