Berzerk Atari 2600

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The player controls a green stick-figure, representing a humanoid. Using a joystick (and a firing button to activate a laser-like weapon), the player navigates a simple maze filled with many robots, who fire lasers back at the player character. A player can be killed by being shot, by running into a robot or an exploding robot, coming into contact with the electrified walls of the maze itself, or by being touched by the player's nemesis, Evil Otto.
The function of Evil Otto, represented by a bouncing smiley face, is to quicken the pace of the game. Otto is unusual, with regard to games of the period, in that there is no way to kill him. Otto can go through walls with impunity and is attracted to the player character. If robots remain in the maze Otto moves slowly, about half as fast as the humanoid, but he speeds up to match the humanoid's speed once all the robots are killed. Evil Otto moves exactly the same speed as the player going left and right but he can move faster than the player going up and down; thus, no matter how close Otto is, the player can escape as long as they can avoid moving straight up or down.
The player advances by escaping from the maze through an opening in the far wall. Each robot destroyed is worth 50 points. Ideally, all the robots in the current maze have been destroyed before the player escapes, thus gaining the player a per-maze bonus (ten points per robot). The game has 64,000 mazes, and each level is designed to be more difficult to finish than the last. It has only one controller, but two-player games can be accomplished by alternating at the joystick.
The game is most difficult when the player enters a new maze, as there is only a short interval between entering the maze and all the robots in range firing at the player. For the beginner, this often means several deaths in rapid succession, as each death means starting a new maze layout.
Another memorable feature is the action of the robots—unlike adversaries in most other contemporary games, Berzerk's robots are known for being noticeably stupid, killing themselves by running into walls or each other, shooting each other, or colliding with Evil Otto. Since they shoot from the right and from the top, it is advantageous to shoot them from around walls coming from the left or from the bottom. This creates a substantial disadvantage for the second player for beginning players, since the second player starts on the right side of the screen. This can be corrected by exiting top or bottom on the first screen and then exiting right on the second screen. From then on, the second player can go left to right like the first player starts out. Anybody who can get through the second screen without losing a life consistently and who understands the left-to-right advantage no longer has a disadvantage for starting second. Thus, in championship play, a two-player game can be used without problem.
As a player's score increases, the colors of the enemy robots change, and the robots can have more bullets on the screen at the same time (once they reach the limit, they cannot fire again until one or more of their bullets detonates; the limit applies to the robots as a group, not as individuals).
Two different versions of the game were released. In the original version, the sequence goes as follows:
Dark yellow robots that do not fire
Red robots that can fire 1 bullet
Dark cyan robots that can fire 2 bullets
In this version of the game, after 5,000 points, Evil Otto doubles his speed, moving as fast as the player while robots remain in the maze, and twice as fast as the player after all the robots are destroyed.
The revised version, which had the much larger production run of the two, features a longer color sequence after the cyan robots:
Green robots that fire 3 bullets
Dark purple robots that fire 4 bullets
Light yellow robots that fire 5 bullets
White robots that fire 1 fast bullet
Dark cyan robots that fire 2 fast bullets
Light purple robots that fire 3 fast bullets
Gray robots that fire 4 fast bullets
Dark yellow robots that fire 5 fast bullets
Red robots that fire 6 fast bullets
Light cyan robots that fire 7 fast bullets
To balance the greatly increased threat from the robots in the second version, Evil Otto's pursuit speed remains at its normal level—half or equal the player's speed—throughout.
In both versions, a free man can be awarded at 5,000 or 10,000 points, set by internal DIP switches.

Alan McNeil, an employee of Universal Research Laboratories (a division of Stern Electronics), had a dream one night involving a black-and-white video game in which he had to fight robots. This dream, with heavy borrowing from the BASIC game Robots (Daleks in the UK), was the basis for Berzerk, which was named for Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series of science fiction novels.
"Evil Otto" was named after Dave Otto, security chief at McNeil's former employer Dave Nutting Associates. According to McNeil, Otto would, "[smile] while he chewed you out." He would also lock McNeil and his fellow employees out of the building to enforce a noon-hour lunch, as well as piping "beautiful" music into every room.
The idea for a black-and-white game was abandoned when the color game Defender was released earlier the same year to significant success. At that point Stern decided to use a color overlay board for Berzerk. A quick conversion was made, and all but the earliest versions of the game shipped with a color CRT display. The game was test-marketed successfully at a Chicago singles bar before general release.

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