Home News Review: Berserk Boy (Switch) – An Upbeat, 16-Bit Throwback, Not As ‘Mega Man’ As It Looks

Review: Berserk Boy (Switch) – An Upbeat, 16-Bit Throwback, Not As ‘Mega Man’ As It Looks

Review: Berserk Boy (Switch) – An Upbeat, 16-Bit Throwback, Not As ‘Mega Man’ As It Looks

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Berserk Boy has been tipped as a Mega Man-inspired 16-bit adventure, but it’s actually closer to Inti Creates Gunvolt series, and even then feels markedly different.

Taking place in a future world where a scientist named Dr. Genos has gone rogue, you play Kei, a young boy who teams up with firebird Fiore to battle his way to saving the universe. The narrative isn’t particularly noteworthy, but it’s well handled with attractive intermittent stills and quick dialogue exchanges. It’s certainly less intrusive than the Gunvolt series in this respect, interjecting just enough story to make things whole without making you labour through excruciatingly drawn-out reams of waffle. Instead, its waffle is brief, occasionally mildly amusing, and mostly to the point.

Berserk Boy draws on several influences and cherry picks elements from various titles to build a solid, honed action adventure all its own. There are shades of Mega Man Battle Network in its hub section; the aforementioned Gunvolt in its combat hooks; and many a 2D platformer in how you negotiate the springs, spikes, and pitfalls of its multi-tiered scenery.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Protagonist Kei decides to join the resistance with the aid of his newfound power: the Berserk Orb. This purple ball of lightning slots into your quick menu, and transforms him from a boy with light attacks to a speedy, devastating force.

Berserk Boy offers five major Sectors to conquer, each split into a set of lengthy sub-stages. You get your bearings in New Hope City, and between missions return to the Lab, where you can talk to various resistance soldiers for information updates, and crucially, access a shop for permanent character upgrades. These include things like increased health, more powerful attacks, longer combos, and improved dash abilities, amongst a host of others.

Since you can revisit any cleared stage, it’s possible to grind for cash, should you feel so inclined, to increase your purse and your overall power profile. There’s a touch of Metroidvania worked in, too, with inaccessible parts of stages requiring certain power-ups to circumvent. Backtracking to find hidden areas considerably increases the game’s overall scope, and ultimately unlocks an alternate ‘EX’ mission for each stage.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

While some power-ups can be bought, the five Berserk Orbs can only be won from Genos’ minion bosses, each transforming Kei with new special attacks and functions that change the way you deconstruct the scenery. Finish New Hope City and defeat its flaming boss, for example, and you win the Flame Orb. This permanently acquired Berserk Power will transform Kei into a fiery red-haired tornado, affording him abilities like the drill attack, one which can burrow through certain patches of scenery.

This skill allows you to go temporarily subterranean, too, so you can navigate beneath low-hanging spikes — an ability that comes in handy when backtracking for stranded soldiers to liberate (of which there are at least a dozen scattered around each stage) and out of reach Berserk Icons. We also really enjoyed the Kunai-flinging ninja guise granted for sector three, casting its future jungle as a run-and-gun, projectile-based landscape. Each guise also comes with its own super attack, engaged with a stab of the trigger button, prompting a momentary fullscreen illustration before being unleashed.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

It isn’t much like Mega Man at all, really. It’s fast, loose, and far less regimented, being more arcade-action-oriented with a set of unique bells and whistles. You aren’t pushed to battle bosses using particular forms, but rather to experiment with whatever works. And it all hangs together very well. It feels less leaden than certain Japanese alternatives, moving with searing pace and an upbeat vibe. Four stages in and you should have a total understanding of the game’s structuring.

While the shop, in our opinion, is mildly too expensive from the outset, it isn’t an overly difficult game if you attempt to make headway without it. Each Orb form you acquire has different functions, some excelling in fist combat rather than dashing, or aerial combat rather than ground. You can switch Berserk forms on the fly with the shoulder button, which becomes integral as early as Sector Two, where you’re prompted to regularly change guises to skate through. It’s all cleverly implemented and makes stage traversal continually interesting. There are vehicle section interludes, too, adding variety to the mix, where you hop and fire through forced scrolling sections.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Additionally, Berserk Boy’s combo system is very enjoyable to toy with. Achieving an S-Rank on a stage is usually as simple as pulling off a decent maximum combo and not losing a life, and the layouts really encourage lean, dash-based chaining. When you smash into an enemy, dealing them damage, a follow-up blow is prompted, allowing you to press the ‘B’ button to send out a shockwave. It may be possible for expert players to chain entire stages by way of dashing, although don’t quote us on that. Either way, chaining enemies is a straightforward and fun pursuit, and often required to avoid spike pits. Its engineering works better, in our opinion, than certain entries in the Gunvolt series.

Graphically, Berserk Boy is pretty. The backgrounds are nice, the sprites bold and well animated — although we must admit to liking certain frames more than others, and certain transformative guises over others. This, however, is trivial and a matter of taste. The music is top-notch, composed by Sonic Mania’s Tee Lopes, driving the adventure with catchy, toe-tapping themes.

Some of the bosses could have used some beefing up. Stage bosses and attacks tend to be repeated, and they’re rarely pitched on a major scale. There are some challenging engagements later on that encourage you to experiment with switching Berserk powers. The stages themselves, however, are a tad overlong. You will often defeat a boss, and then keep going until you reach an exit portal. While certainly fun, they regularly feel like they should be ending sooner.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

We did encounter one glitch the like of which we haven’t seen since Sonic 2 on the Sega Master System, taking a hit in drill form that lodged us in the wall. After much struggling, we ended up transported outside the stage’s play area, running along in a weird no man’s land. It only happened once and is quite unlikely to happen again, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.


Its very reasonable price tag isn’t the main selling point of Berserk Boy. Rather, it’s a very competently made indie action adventure that has the feel of a 16-bit title, powered by the oomph of current-day consoles. It’s far more arcadey than both Mega Man and Gunvolt; faster, and altogether more interesting owing to its multiple character forms and deft stage design. Its hub world is easily navigable, and the upgrade shop, Metroidvania backtracking, and prisoner liberating side-missions encourage players to squeeze the most from the experience. There are minor, trivial aspects that could have been tightened up slightly, and the independent development aspect isn’t entirely in the background. For what it attempts, however, Berserk Boy is very successful, regularly showing up larger development studios with its creativity, and comes easy to recommend to 2D action enthusiasts.


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