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If you love retro games, you need to check out this killer Mega Man throwback

The characters of Berserk Boy pose together.
BerserkBoy Games

Every year, like clockwork, I end up playing one retro-style 2D game that gets its hooks in me. It’s not that I harbor a lot of nostalgia for the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis; it’s just that indie developers have gotten very good at both replicating and modernizing the fun of old-school platformers. So far in the 2020s, I’ve had a blast with Cyber Shadow, Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider, and now, Berserk Boy.

The debut title from the aptly named BerserkBoy Games, the new retro release is a throwback to classic Mega Man games — something that’s probably clear from its title alone. In it, players shoot their way through colorful 2D stages filled with evil robots, platforming challenges, and special abilities that can help make mincemeat out of bosses. Sound familiar?

At first glance, Berserk Boy may look like another dime-a-dozen pixel art throwback. While it might not offer much in the way of innovation, it does bring something crucial to the table: speed.

Berserk Boy air dashes into an enemy.

In addition to taking notes from Mega Man, Berserk Boy feels equally indebted to Sonic the Hedgehog’s old Sega Genesis adventures. Movement is slick and fast-paced as I can quickly dash through the air and grind on rails to zip through levels. That’s important because those levels are meant to be replayed thanks to abilities. When I get a drill form, I’m able to go back to old levels and dig through patches of dirt to find hidden secrets. That can be tedious in a retro-style game that’s beholden to the clunky movement of old games, but the hyper-fluid mobility makes backtracking a breeze.

That’s matched by some equally fast and satisfying combat. I can use my air dash to smash into enemies, allowing me to chain between robots and even use attacks for a bit of platforming. I also have an array of elemental forms at my disposal, all of which can be flipped between quickly with a radial menu. Each offers its own gameplay twist, like a ranged ice form that’s all about chucking kunai or close-range firepower that lets me drill into enemies. Much of my enjoyment has come from quickly switching between forms mid-battle and watching enemies explode in a colorful explosion of detailed pixel art.

Berserk Boy shoots an enemy with missiles.
BerserkBoy Games

Even writing about Berserk Boy now, I find it hard to convey what separates it from other recent retro releases. Everything sounds by the book on paper, and it certainly left my head quickly after beating it, but I’m engrossed in it whenever I pick it up. Even when dipping into it casually to double-check a few features for this write-up, I found myself losing track of time as I blew through enemies. Even with decades of big-budget advancements in video game tech, nothing beats the simple spectacle of watching a robot get reduced to a fountain of chunky pixels, I suppose.

Berserk Boy launches on March 6 for Nintendo Switch and PC.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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