Berzerk Ball 2 – Distance-based, Smack-A-Geek-In-The-Face-across-a-large-open-space action
I would like to make it perfectly clear that I do not by any means condone real-life violence towards ‘geeks’, ‘nerds’, ‘dweebs’, or any person who just so happens to be referred to with such derogatory titles. In fact, my moderate visual impairment requires me to wear glasses (which is definitely one of the criteria of being a geek and/or nerd, isn’t it?) and I have been known to enter into day-long marathons of Battlestar Galactica and other such US TV shows, often getting through six to eight episodes at a time before even thinking of stopping for a break.
It would seem counter-intuitive therefore to enjoy the playing of a game which entails the launching of a create-your-own geek into the air with excessive, violent, and comically-exaggerated force, the whole aim being to rack up as much distance as possible in order to gain various rewards such as experience points and the occasional sprinklings of in-game currency. Regardless of how I should feel about such a game in light of my considerably nerdy appearance and demeanour which equals that of a socially-awkward penguin, I almost immediately took a shine to ‘Berzerk Ball 2’, a distance-based ‘launch-em-up’ from the treasure-trove of alternative entertainment that is Berzerk Studio. This game packs both literal and figurative punch in some seriously substantial quantities; stay tuned to this page to discover the various reasons that have compelled me to begin the review in such a positively chipper manner, and to find out why I am about to go on and sprinkle the review with various congratulation and commendation of the game. Or play the game yourself; it makes no difference to me.
Those who are familiar with the distance game genre will likely have touched upon such titles as Smack the Penguin and Kick Your Boss, which involve the forceful manipulation of items (such as penguins or bosses, for instance) across what you hope to be large distances in order to receive rewards, upgrades or simply the commendation that you have the ability to hit things further in the fictional flash-based world than you can in real life. In the case of ‘Berzerk Ball 2’, the target being violently forced to suddenly travel these lengthy distances is a geek character of stereotypically unfavourable appearance (which you actually get to customise for the ultimate nerd-bashing experience tailored to your specific needs) who gets treated with disrespect and unbelievable disregard for his personal welfare (not to mention his desire to not be hit over the head with various weapons) when you choose one of six available characters to take a dangerous object to his World of Warcraft-loving, games workshop-frequenting face. Of course, the main object of the game is to achieve the greatest distance travelled by your geek/nerd as is physically possible with the tools you have available: it is this selection of tools, the number of variables involved and the outrageously silly and violent manner in which the geek/nerd reaches his final destination which sets Berzerk Ball 2 aside from its distance-based, flash-powered counterparts.
Pimp my Nerd?
One of the first features of the game that distinguishes it from other less imaginative distance-based titles, and one which is most obvious from the outset, is the level of customisation afforded to the player in regards to the whole gaming experience; specifically, you are gifted the opportunity to alter the appearance of your geek/nerd as you see fit (from a predetermined and limited selection of garments, of course). Upon selecting the member of your team whom you will be using to apply unreasonable force to an unsuspecting geek, you are able to change the appearance of said geek before you finally go out into the big, wide, violent world and get cracking with all this geek-smacking. You are able to select from a variety of heads, torsos and legs with the left and right arrows, some of which you are required to unlock by surpassing various distances during your geek’s unplanned journey through the sky in the main game.
You can also save up to twelve customised geeks which you can quickly select later should you not be able to wait the extra few seconds it takes to customise him from scratch before you practically smash him into certain oblivion. Although a seemingly minor feature, the provision for ‘chic-ing your geek’ if you will (most of you won’t), is something that sets it apart from more basic distance games such as Smack the Penguin, whose comparatively primitive and rigid structure doesn’t quite compare to the high number of variables offered to the player in this game. If you can find another distance game where you can make your victim have the head of a manga character, the body of a dinosaur and the legs of a man wearing no trousers, then I certainly want to hear about it.
Contributing to the flexibility of the gameplay experience in ‘Berzerk Ball 2’ is the option of selecting from one of six characters which will be performing the actual hitting of the geek, which are collectively referred to as your ‘team. By this definition, the act of applying physical violence towards those referred to as ‘geeks’ has escalated from being simply a ‘game’ to having the status of ‘team-based sport; I’m not sure who’s drawing the line here, but it certainly isn’t me, because I eagerly made my selection and moved on . You are given the choice of one player out of a team of six to use at any one time; that’s right, you get a whole team of disgruntled individuals to unite in the practice of nerd-based assault, and they apparently all have something against intelligence and individuality, since they are all as eager as each other to get the most distance out of their geeky victims. Your hitters of choice have some decidedly ridiculous names which probably resulted in them being picked on when they were younger, leading to their desire to form an alliance against anyone with a hint of intellectual promise. Your team consists of Etienne, Marcus, Lachhh (unfortunately, the three H’s are intentional), Ballon (possibly French, but definitely not balloon), Bed (nothing to say about this one) and V-P (which I assume stands for Vice President, of pain).
Each of these characters in turn have particular ‘skills’ advantages, with each of them possessing a base level of five skill points in areas which vary according to the particular teammate; areas such as strength, air-time and stamina are just a few of the attributes that you can upgrade to increase the performance of your team member (these areas are given special categories which can be upgraded, the details of which are discussed below). You are able to play as any one of these above characters at a time, and are able to upgrade their individual stats by earning experience points in the game which raise your hitter’s level: one experience point is awarded for each instance of levelling up, being capped at a maximum of four level increases per hitter.
The format which the actual gameplay takes is at its core rather similar to any other distance game; you have an object which you must click to launch into the air at a specific time, your judgement of which affects the trajectory and power at which the object is launched and therefore the resulting distance travelled. The trajectory and power with your geek is launched is decided by a trusty needle-point indicator, which fluctuates rapidly until the player clicks and stops the needle at a fixed point; the point where the needle stops decides firstly the trajectory and then the power of the shot. The second you click your mouse to decide the power of your shot, the geek is launched into the air: this is where the game mechanics cease in their similarity to other distance-based games and deviate quite dramatically from the expected format of your average catapulting title, however.
During the aerial journey of the recently-launched geek, you are able to take further action which will enhance the distance travelled by your geek by a considerable amount. Rather than the final distance being decided the moment you click to launch the object (as with many other distance games), your hitter somehow (explanations aren’t needed in the world of flash-based fiction) follows the geek on foot by running furiously behind him; this apparently gives you the opportunity to hit repeatedly smash your geek mid-flight as he bounces haplessly off the ground and back into his forward-momentum, giving you the chance to greatly increase the total distance travelled by quite a considerable degree. The number of times you are allowed to do this is of course subject to limitation such as the number of extra hits you are allowed (which increase according to your level/particular attributes), the various objects acting as obstacles and also your stamina, which is itself one of the attributes you are able to upgrade. One of the most addictive aspects of the game (and indeed the whole aim of the game in general) is in the act of playing in order to earn enough experience points to upgrade your skills, attributes and weapons, which in turn allows you to hit your geek further into the distance: this ingenious cycle of gameplay is as addictive as it is entertaining, and is sure to have you playing for tens of minutes on end.
The reward-based gameplay even hooks you in further by offering you the promise of earning achievement trophies for your efforts in performing various magnificent feats in certain categories, like reaching certain ridiculous distances with your geek, breaking various flight-speed records, and achieving various medals during the mini-games, an aspect of the game which I am about to briefly describe to you.
Like Regular Games, Only Smaller
Following in the invisible, figurative footsteps of most games in this day and age, whether they be flash-based or running on your mobile device, Berzerk Ball 2 offers up a little action on the side in the form of some mini-games, which are gradually unlocked depending on your main-game progress and are available for your perusal and playing delight in the ‘challenges’ section. Don’t worry, the main game won’t mind that you’re seeing the mini-games behind its back, and you can hop freely back and forth at your own leisure between the two since they are two separate arenas which have little bearing on each other in terms of the overall adventure. There is some crossover to the main game, however, and it serves to benefit you greatly, since playing the mini-games can allow you to earn increases in your ability to earn money and experience points in the main game. This connection between the two gaming arenas is of particular assistance to you when you have reached the experience points cap on all six players in the main game, since you can still continue to earn stat points from the mini-games even after exhausting your ability to earn experience points in the main arena (this is when you know you are getting good at the gameplay).
Venturing to the ‘Challenges’ section of the adventure too early on in your main-game progress will initially fill you with hopeless sense of disappointment; this is due to the fact that the mini-games are initially not available for you to play and actually have to be unlocked by achieving certain distances with your geek during the main game. Boy, this game is just full of incentives to be the best geek-smasher you can possibly be, isn’t it?
During the main game, you may astutely notice some tiny padlock icons which are situated at various intervals on the distance bar; these are the relative distances you must reach and surpass in order to unlock the mini game that corresponds to each of the padlocks. This is easier spoken than in action because of the relatively disadvantaged starting point at which you begin the game. At the precipice of the game, you possess only the pathetic ‘Terrible Machete of Muscle’, which is relatively weak and offers little in the way of stat point increases. You can reach the first few milestones by not doing very much and simply persevering with the limited supply of weapons and items available to you.
With each with each game you unlock, however, comes an increase in the distance you must travel in order to reach the next one, with the final mini-game being situated so far in the distance, I’m beginning to wonder whether it actually exists or if it has simply been put there to taunt you as you desperately try to achieve the unachievable. This is what I thought about the milestone previous to this one, however, and indeed the one before that; I simply persevered and found that with better weapons and luck charms, the next checkpoint is as mightily achievable as the last, and the only limiting factor is how much effort you are willing to put into the game. Even then, the final mini-game is still quite the tough nut to crack. Either way, it is indicative of the game’s addictiveness that I am still trying, since I would equate my burning desire to unlock the sixth and final mini-game with the Terminator’s compulsive drive to eliminate Sarah Connor in the original (and best) movie of the entire series of Terminator titles.
Dude, You’re Getting Blood on the Scenery
The entire length of the area into which you are able to launch your geek is quite considerable; his momentum does not simply stop dead the moment you reach the end as I first thought, since the active area of play is split into several aesthetically-different sections which load once you reach the end point of the one previous to it. After the initial 40, 000 units of distance, you enter the ‘Icy Catastrophe’, which is a delicately-frosted landscape whose beauty is just waiting to be spoiled with lashings of your geek’s arterial spray and various bodily fluids which I can only assumed cease to be internal when considering the sheer annihilation that he is subjected to.
Once you reach the frozen landscape’s concluding portion, you move onto Nuclear Catastrophe, a backdrop which is heavily contrasted with its frozen counterpart. Marred with a radioactive glow and with scorched ground seen throughout, this landscape is decidedly more ominous than the previous two. The differing scenery is almost entirely superficial, however; functionally, they are no different from each other, aside from perhaps more flying creatures in the air to bump into and retrieve screws from. It would have been nice to see some area-specific differences in the actual gameplay such as a variety of the creatures you encounter and their benefit to your flight path, your score and your power meter (discussed below). Expansion on this particular feature would have served to further increase the replayability of the game and offered a little variation in the gameplay itself, as opposed to existing as a purely aesthetical fluctuation which offers very few extras in practice.
As with most distance-based catapult games, controlling the action is pretty much a simple point-and-click affair. Before launching your geek, you must use the mouse to stop the constantly-moving height indicator and then to stop the pointer which indicates the strength of your swing; upon clicking the mouse to decide this, the geek is hit and launched into the air. The game affords you some mid-air hits depending on the hitter’s level and skill attributes, which are also controlled by simply left clicking the mouse. The requirement that you use the keyboard to control the action is all but absent from Berzerk Ball 2; due to the reliance of the game on menu navigation when you are applying your various upgrades to your hitters/teams, mouse-based control truly is the most sensible option for controlling everything due to its simplicity and ease of use for beginners. With no need to learn the various button assignments often required of the player in your average flash game, you can simply load the game and click your way to this highly-specific genre of entertainment.
Now, far from your standard game of the distance-based genre, ‘Berzerk Ball 2’ allows for the development of your hitters and the team to which they belong with the inclusion of an experience-points system. Accumulated simply through the playing of the game as it is meant to be played, experience points allow for the levelling up of your team and also your particular hitter after the dust and blood settles from the propelling of the geek in each round; collecting a sufficient number of experience points to fill the ‘Team XP’ bar sees your team level increase by one and therefore your hitter increase his or her level as a result. With the quantity of experience points you rake in being directly proportional to the distance you manage to squeeze out of your geek, the qualitative improvement of your team of hitters is reliant upon your performance; the better you perform, the faster you will improve. The higher the level of your team, the greater quantity of experience points required for levelling up. It is a simple system, and is certainly not lacking in effectiveness, and has resulted in my investment of time into the game being at an embarrassing level considering that I am approaching the age of 25.
Along with each level increase comes the generous gift of a single stat point which you can be used to treat yourself to a slight upgrade in your choice of one of the nine skill attributes that give your hitters the edge on their unsuspecting and somewhat greasy opponent. The experience points system is of course not new to gaming: it is a system which forms the basis of many games of the role-playing genre in order to give the player a quantifiable goal which they can feel they are working towards, and it fits remarkably well in this instance; it functions as a system which gives the player an incentive to continue investing their time, while simultaneously increasing your hitter’s efficiency, power, stamina etc. and making the game altogether more fun to play. The improvement of your individual hitters is capped at four increases in level, whereby it becomes more efficient to choose the next hitter and develop his or her stats in order to make your team a more well-rounded unit, capable of delivering the best possible mix of stats and therefore distance travelled by the unfortunate geek on the receiving end.
When it comes down to it, the more you play, the better you will become at stopping the trajectory/power indicator in the correct position, and the better/stronger your team will become as a result of gaining all the precious experience points you possibly can. The experience points system in this case is a win-win-lose, with the lose I am referring to being on the part of the geek who is getting repeatedly smacked around for the far-from-noble purpose of our entertainment.
As if the prospect of sending a geek on his way in a brutal fashion with a variety of weapons wasn’t already enticing enough for you bloody-hungry, geek-loathing rapscallions, Berzerk Ball 2 includes a little extra feature which may tip the balance of the game from being ‘moderately violent’ to ‘outrageously brutal’; this feature is the ‘Ultimate Smash’ manoeuvre, and it certainly packs some punch. Activated by getting your geek to smash into a sufficient number of creeps/creatures along the way to fill up the power bar (located on the bottom left of the screen), the ultimate smash is activated by clicking directly on this said indicator bar and unleashes a world of pain for your geek. Once you have activated the Ultimate Smash move, your hitter intervenes in the geek’s passage through the air, smashing him upwards and unleashing a devastatingly over-the-top, Mortal-Kombat style beat-down on the geek, sending him flying at a speed great enough to cause a fireball to form around him. The length of the journey depends on your ‘Bruiser’ statistic, with the distance your geek travels increasing proportionally to the number of points you have attributed to this particular stat.
The Ultimate Smash is simply another function which helps you to prolong your geek’s journey: you can alternate between using your limited number of regular hits with using this move, depending on how quickly you manage to fill up the power bar, but make sure you don’t neglect to use this feature, since it can propel you quite a significant distance, allowing you to avoid any obstacles or hindrances to your lateral progress which you would otherwise certainly encounter if you were to rely solely on using your regular weapon-smashes alone.
A feature which will take up much of your time when playing the game (apart from the act of repeatedly whacking the geek standing in front of you), and one that much of the entertainment value of the game is based on, is the development and expansion of your skill stats. Gained through the acquisition of experience points and the resultant levelling up of your team/player, you are able to add to your statistics a mere one point at a time; once your hitter has been capped at the maximum of four increases in level (and therefore 4 stat points), you cannot gain any further points with this character, and you are advised to bring another hitter into play in order to maximise your team’s efficiency and gain the highest possibly quantity of experience points possible.
Should you be in the situation where you are positively kicking yourself over the way you have distributed your experience points among the various stats, then you should probably stop for a second and take advantage of the option to redistribute your previously-acquired stat points from scratch. You are charged a small fee of screws for the privilege, but it pays to be able to go back and build up some stats that you may have been neglecting to strengthen, or to base your distribution of stat points around new items which you may have in your possession. With the choice being entirely up to you, you now have permission to continue kicking yourself over the fact that you were originally kicking yourself over a problem which did not exist in the first place.
Now it’s all well and good for me to blabber on about the stats function of the game, but as a reader, you cannot fully appreciate the concept without being fully furnished with ins and outs of the full repertoire of individual statistics that give your hitters and indeed the game itself its competitive edge over its...competitors.
Hairy Knuckles: Adding points to this attribute will increase the strength of your hitter, packing more punch into every hit you manage to land. An increase in power results in your hits dealing enough damage to increase the speed and therefore the distance travelled by the geek. I found this stat to be among the most important to strengthen because it is one of the few stats which directly effects the speed and distance travelled by the geek.
Iron Man: Increasing this stat will do nothing but good things to your stamina. Your stamina directly affects the frequency at which you are able to hit the geek; an increase in this stat will allow you to recover from each swing of your weapon more rapidly, letting you squeeze in more hits per round than you were able to muster previously. Look for the exclamation marks on the left of the screen which indicate the level of your stamina.
Rebound Master: This stat increases the severity of your rebound when hitting the creatures (called ‘Creeps’ which often run quickly on the floor beneath the rapidly-ascending and alternately descending geek. This attribute can effectively increase your distance by a substantial degree and can give you that little extra unexpected distance when cannot hit your geek again quickly due to depleted stamina.
Creep Magnet: Encountering more creeps along the way is the only effect of this stat. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of increasing this attribute; when raised in conjunction with the ‘Rebound Master’ stat, you can considerably increase the distance travelled by your geek, since he will encounter more creeps on his journey and be less likely to lose momentum by simply hitting the ground.
Party Animal: Only functional when the teammates are unlocked, Party Animal allows your team mates to contribute to the spoils of your geek’s journey through the air.
Crazy Collector: This handy stat increases the amount of experience points and money that you rake in on each round. This results in a more profitable journey for your hitter; the increasing of this stat can result in an accelerated levelling up process. This is one of the more essential stats to focus your attention on when dividing out the stat points which you earn from levelling up.
Bruiser: Violent by name, brutal by nature: the Bruiser stat increases the amount of time which your geek will travel while aflame after being subjected to the ‘Ultimate Smash’ move. This is another one of the available stats which can directly affect the length of your geek’s journey, so careful consideration should be given to furnishing your hitter with this valuable stat.
Like a Boss: This stat increases the efficiency of your teammates which, like ‘Party Animal’, can only used if your teammates are unlocked.
Greasy Stuntman: Makes your geek more lubricous, decreasing the loss of speed suffered by your battered geek as he hits the ground. This is yet another one of the available stats which can expressly increase the distance travelled by your geek.
Weapon Power: While this is not a stat that can be freely increased with your hard-earned experience points, it pays to direct your attention to the relative power of your weapon since this makes a considerable difference in the power of your strike and therefore the potential to make your geek travel substantially further. In my experience of playing the game, the purchasing of weapons with relatively higher weapon power (125 or above) stat served to massively increase the distance I could make the geek travel.
The concept of beating a geek with your bare hands may be too much to bear for some players, or conversely may not quite be violent enough for other borderline-psychotic individuals; whether you are a prude or a fans of savage brutality, you will be most delighted to discover that Berzerk Ball 2 offers a selection of weapons available for both winning during the game and for purchase at any time you wish to part with your money. It is a collection that can best be described as being wonderfully excessive, and could easily rival the melee-weapons capabilities of a small army or that of a clandestine militia force. As one of the many incentives offered by the game to keep your likely-fluctuating levels of interest (if my temperament is anything to go by) at a maximum, the possibility of being able to collect different weapons along the way is simply too much of an opportunity to ignore. As mentioned above, the ‘Weapon Power’ stat is what gives the weapon its relative clout, and you are fortunately able to upgrade your weapon at frequent intervals as you acquire and purchase them throughout the game. Weapons are available to be both freely purchased with in-game currency, and can also be won by colliding with special mid-flight items called ‘Spider Items’. Whichever method you use to acquire your weapons throughout the game however, it pays to possess the weapon with the highest ‘Weapon Power’ stat that is available to you.
Beginning with the ‘Terrible Machete of Muscle’, you will encounter a plethora of offensive, outrageously-named weapons of ever-increasing advantageousness in your mission to launch the geek as far as possible into the air. The weapons available to you range from weaker items such as a devil’s pitchfork or the grim reaper’s scythe, to more damaging implements of needless violence such as the comical caveman’s club and the ‘Bling Sword’, whose name made me cringe just by the simple act of reading it out loud. Regardless of the weapon you choose, the main aim is to possess the tool with the highest weapon power possible in order to maximise the force applied to the geek and the resulting distance travelled. Each weapon possesses its own individual advantage in terms of increasing various stat points when equipped. For example, the Dino Bone has the Weapon Power of 115 and increases the ‘Iron Man’ stat by 2 and ‘Greasy Stuntman’ by 5: this means that various weapons of the same power can still produce different effects and advantages to your hitter. It is simply a case of experimentation, and I can assure you that you that this weapon system provides impressive variety and almost exponentially increases the addictive nature of the gameplay.
Lucky Charms (but Not the Kind You’re Thinking Of)
Before I continue, I must sadly break the news that I am not talking about the much-loved combination of tiny, colourful marshmallows and crunchy, oat-based grain pieces that are the cereal; this much should be obvious. Instead, I am making reference to the inventory items which, much like the weapons in the game, are either purchased with screws or gained through obtaining spider items on your geek’s swift journey into the world pain caused by the rapid rising and falling of altitude, with the cold, hard floor acting as the primary liaison between the two. These lucky charm objects take several physical forms such as lucky 8-balls, shiny Ankhs, lucky number 7s and even the ridiculous poo-stamps, which I am sorry to say are exactly as they sound (picture a radical redesign of a British postal stamp, only in place of the Queen’s head sits a picture of a turd, the likes of which you would find in any questionable-looking joke shop). Sorry, novelty cereal fans, no yellow moons or orange stars in sight, and you can forget any shooting stars for that matter!
Regardless of the charm’s appearance, their basic functions remain the same which is to enhance the number of your various stat points by a quantity that is specific to each particular charm. The cheaper charms obtained in the beginning of the game give you only minor additions to your stat points, but with progress comes greater rewards, with charms you obtain subsequently offering greater and greater value to your stat points. The enchantingly-named ‘Sturdy Poo-Stamp of Fortune’, for example raises your Hairy Knuckles, Crazy Collector and Like A Boss stats by three, five and four points respectively. Each stamp you purchase or win (through obtaining spider items) throughout the game increases the points of differing stats by a varying number of points. You are able to equip two charms at any one time in order to produce maximum increases in your number of stat points; the points increases caused by holding the stamps are also cumulative, so holding two stamps that raise the same stat point can do so by a considerable degree. The massive number of different possible combinations of stamps is one of the things that makes the game so enjoyable to play, creating the potential for each path your geek travels to be entirely unique.
When it comes down to it, these lucky charms are simply another form of item obtainable within the game which serves to boost your performance in various ways. The behaviour of your geek in the air and when he strikes the ground is specific to the stat points you possess at the time, which greatly vary according to the different charms you have equipped. Since stat points are one of the main stays of game-mechanics that ‘Berzerk Ball 2’ is based on, the lucky charms are simply user-obtainable ways of shifting the various mechanics of the game in your favour. Make no mistake about it, this system of gameplay is addictive, and it is unlikely that I will cease playing the game until I have unlocked all the charms which are available.
Just Cough Up the Scratch
As with many games that wish to keep your attention and persuade you to return to them frequently, Berzerk Ball 2’s in-game economy rests on the borderline-feudal currency system of screws, and to a lesser extent, metal bullion in order to allow you to purchase in-game items. Why screws? It’s difficult to tell, but the fact that they are chosen to be the currency for the game is merely another symptom of the fantastical madness of the game in general, and I for one bought into the insanity.
The primary unit of currency in place of the pound, dollar, yen or euro, is quite literally the humble screw. This is by no means a metaphor for anything deeper (the game isn’t exactly awash with layers of meaning or philosophical subtext; it’s about hitting geeks after all), I literally mean screws, the likes you would find holding together a piece of furniture, holding up a shelving bracket, or scattered atop a work-surface in an untidy DIY fanatic’s garage extension. The currency can be used to purchase a generous range of weapons, items and metal bullion within the game. Screws can be readily accumulated by your geek on his speedy yet violent journey across the scenic landscape; the amount of currency you are likely to accumulate in any one level is really only based on the level of your ‘Crazy Collector’ stat point, with a higher level resulting in the higher frequency of your encounter with big fat wads of shiny, practical screws along the way.
The secondary system of currency (in a manner of speaking) in the game is the use of metal bullion; in true Olympic style, you are able to acquire gold, silver or bronze bars with which you can have weapons or luck charms made (depending on which metal you possess) by the blacksmith, who is accessible from the general map menu of the game. Bronze is usually forged into weaker weapons and more basic luck charms which offer relatively little addition to your experience points. Silver and gold items are considerably more worthwhile, however, yielding some of the more high-end weapons and beneficial charms which substantially raise various stats specific to the charm you have equipped. The question of how you can come into possession of the bullion requires an answer which is two-fold: firstly you can pick them up during the main game; they are an item of considerable rarity, however, and you will fail to find yourself picking them up all too often (there’s a reason they are called ‘precious’ metals, after all).
The second fold of this two-fold answer is that you can acquire a bit of these valuable chunks of metal in the daily spin of Berzerk Ball 2’s equivalent of the wheel of fortune, the snazzily-titled ‘Daily Wheel of Steel. You are afforded a spin on this allusion to the real-life game show once per calendar day, with the prize varying according to where the indicator finally stops. You will most often find yourself winning only a single piece of bronze, but it’s better than a smash in the face with a machete, right? Save that kind of treatment for the unfortunate geeks in the main game, or indeed for the psychiatrists that will eventually become concerned about your fondness for instigating gratuitous violence against people who are different than themselves.
In all, Berzerk Ball 2 is mightily generous with its in-game currency system in that it doesn’t immediately isolate players who may be less than enthusiastic about parting with their physical, real-world currency in order to further their online gaming activities. This is so because even though some aspects of the geek game require the use of the in-game currency such as weapons purchases and the purchase of bullion metal, you can happily proceed through the game without parting with any of the your country-specific cash. In fact, you can get by just fine by accumulating the number of screws required through playing the game alone. Repeated hitting of the geek and collection of screws will see you slowly amass a significant quantity of screws, the number of which greatly increase with the development of the ‘Crazy Collector’ stat and also the possession of lucky charm items which also increase this stat. Admittedly, this process is considerably more time consuming than simply engaging in an online monetary transaction, and with the logic of time being equal to money, isn’t spending hours playing the game to accumulate screws just as costly as actually spending money?
Actually, no, it isn’t. I am as reluctant as the next penny-pinching gentleman with an aversion to monetary generosity to part with my cash; this reluctance positively skyrockets when there is no hope of receiving anything in return which I can physically hold in my hand after the transaction, and I know of many people who feel the same way. It made me look upon the game with significantly more favour upon discovering that players are not obligated to purchase in-game currency with real money in order to receive the full benefits of the game and reap the full benefits of its entertainment value. All aspects of Berzerk Ball 2 remain open to even the most frugal of participants; if unwilling to flash your cash for the purposes of fast-tracking your flash-based adventure, you simply have to work harder for longer in order to amass the necessary in-game currency to buy your way to the high-end weaponry.
Having mentioned the blacksmith a few times, I would have hoped that the brief information about him would be self-explanatory, but he really does deserve his own section, since he and his forge are a significant part of the process of bulking up your inventory with view to getting the most power and stat-point increases as is possible from your lethal and lucky acquisitions. Located on the central map menu is the ‘Forge’ area, which is where you go when you are in possession of some bullion, which you may have been lucky enough to pick up on your travels in the up-and-down madness of the main game, or which you are able to pay for (however reluctantly) with your dollars, pounds, euros or various non-fictional currency you can think of.
If you’ve got some precious metal, the blacksmith is the man you go to; he will create an item whose quality and power is proportional to the type of metal you have. Bronze gets you some pretty useful stuff, but gold will have you laughing all the way to the next comic-con with the sheer power and usefulness of the weapon forged from it. Visiting the blacksmith and having him do a little light forging of various implements will also reward you with ‘blacksmith XP’, which are experience point specific to the blacksmith who will level up as you collect said points; you will find the quality of the items will increase with each level he gains, regardless of the metal you use. I enjoyed the blacksmith facility, since it is quite simply a quaint venue for the user to visit in order to turn their spoils into useful objects with which they can further their geek-smashing career. Having to visit the forge creates an enjoyable sense of purpose and continuity between the main game and the rest of the map. Failing that, it simply adds another dimension to the game, helping to make it more than just a distance-based catapult game, and creating a sense of adventure that the player would be more likely to want to invest his or her time into.
Should you find yourself lacking in sufficient monetary funds (real or make-believe) to be able to afford the many weapons and lucky charm items that are available within the game, the alternative way of acquiring them is through the acquisition of ‘Spider Items’. During your time bouncing on the floor, you frequently come into contact with ‘creep’s which litter the ground; occasionally, one of these creeps will be carrying an item, which is relinquished to you should you be lucky enough to squash one with your greasy geek of hefty weight. When it comes down to it, ‘Spider Items’ is just a fancy name for the objects you find during your geek’s time spent smashing into the floor during each round. When you navigate back to your inventory, each spider item you collect appears in your collection as either a weapon or lucky charm. These items are similar to the weapons and charms that you can purchase via the miracle of the screw, but are only obtainable by being found during the actual levels; similarly, you cannot find the items which you can purchase in the shop scattered throughout the levels.
Spider items are not just an effective way of augmenting the choice of weaponry and items available to the player; they have the effect of bridging the gap between the non-paying user who is unwilling to put in the time to earn large quantities of screws and also gives some variety to those who have paid for their in-game currency who simply want a bit more variety in their inventorial supplies for their money. Paying for screws and/or bullion in the game simply enhances the amount of bang you get for your buck (the buck in this case being both literal money and the time you spend playing) and allows you to spend less time repeatedly hitting your geek over and over, which is what you would have to do in order to accumulate the large quantity of screws that you have the option of paying for.
Additionally, for the more fiscal Berzerk Ball 2 fanatic, you most certainly do not lose out on any significant parts of the game by relying on spider items and collecting the screws during the game by playing it the ol’ fashioned way (you never had to pay for items in flash games in my day!). In fact, two users playing through the game, of which one is paying and the other being fiscally prudent, will have agreeably similar experiences, but the experience will simply be lengthier for the penny-pincher. The free user could arguably get more out of the experience, since having to invest a greater amount of time into gameplay will inevitably lead to more extensive knowledge about the whole thing, particularly concerning the correct and most efficient combinations of the weapons and luck charms on which a majority of the gameplay is based.
I feel I should be a little critical of the process of navigating through the menus, because the act of navigating to your home section from the menu of an active game is a little clumsy and not entirely intuitive, often taking longer than it should to reach your destination, particularly if said destination is the map which allows you access to the rest of the game’s features. Just try to go back to the main challenges menu whilst being engaged in one of the said challenge’s gameplay; instead of being able to revert back a step to the challenge selection screen, you are taken back to the general map. It may seem like a very minor flaw, but when your frustration is peaking during one of the more difficult challenges, it really doesn’t take much to rub you up the wrong way, and the clumsy-feeling menu system really raises the blood pressure enough to become medically unhealthy. This being said, the menus in ‘Berzerk Ball 2’ are a drastic improvement on those in the original; the menus in the sequel are simply lacking in fine-tuning and refinement, if at all.
Noticeable (yet still minor) flaws are abound in the game, such as a few of the text boxes just not being quite large enough to fit all the text in: this can be seen when trying to read explanation of the pictures which represent your stats, with some of the text explaining the team-based stats being cut off before the sentence finishes, leaving you without a sufficiently explanatory description of the very function of the thing that the game is trying to describe. The flaw does not affect the gameplay, but it certainly leaves the game looking quite unprofessional from an aesthetical standpoint, and makes you wonder about the quality of the proof-reading and testing that took place before its release. Perhaps this blemish in game that is otherwise of mostly excellent standing could be forgivable if not for the frequent spelling mistakes and grammatical inaccuracy witnessed throughout the menus and descriptions. Maybe these blunders are a deliberate inclusion in order to reflect the bone-headed lack of intelligence that is symptomatic of your typical angry, overcompensating gentleman with a chip on his shoulder when it comes to ‘geeks’, ‘nerds’ or simply people that are more intelligent than him. If these mistakes are intentionally present as a joke, I must have missed the punch-line, since it is not a gag that lands very well when playing the game.
It isn’t my place to lay heavy criticism on the soundtrack of any piece of media, but I feel that the music of ‘Berzerk Ball 2’ warrants some further description. Though there isn’t anything wrong with the fiercely fast-paced music track which provides backing to the action, it is the repeated looping of this furious music which tends to get a little irritating at times. The music is so irritating in fact, that even the atheists among you will be thanking various higher powers for the option to control the volume and sound effects of the game separately from the settings menu. Conversely, any player of religious belief would call into question the existence of any God that would allow the repetition of this music for more than a few minutes. Simply navigate to the settings menu and quash the assault on your ears by popping the slider swiftly to the left. The game instantly becomes more enjoyable to play, allowing you to remove your ear protection devices and/or disable the mute function on your speakers.
I’m all for a loud, sexy party but this is ridiculous: slide volume into nothingness for your own sanity.
One final point which I feel must be made about the game is one which is based on an astute observation from my girlfriend (contrary to what many of you may believe, she is real, and she likes/is good at playing video games in general) about the gameplay itself. Having had a few goes at smashing the hell out of the geek, she asked me whether she was doing well or not, and if she was even playing the game itself correctly. I stopped for a second and found that I couldn’t give her a simple answer without making extremely detailed references to various aspects of the game of which I was already familiar, which I was only able to draw on because of the literal hours I have spent playing it.The point here is that to a new user who isn’t aware of the intricacies of the gameplay and what constitutes ‘progress’ in terms of what you are supposed to be doing in order to advance through the game , it isn’t altogether clear if you are doing it right. For all they know, the simple act of smashing the geek in the air and letting him land is all there is to it.
It’s easy for the seasoned gamer to scoff and utter something along the lines of “isn’t it obvious?”, but to a new and unfamiliar player, it is not immediately apparent that the procurement of maximum distance while simultaneously amassing items to advance your ability to do just that is what the game is all about. Am I doing it right? Is he supposed to bounce like that? What is a reputable distance to achieve? What are all these creatures flying in the air, and what the hell do they do? You are given instructions concerning how to launch your geek in the beginning, but no information about why the things that are happening, are well.. happening. You can often go for up to a minute without actually touching the keyboard if your geek hits the right bounces, which invites the question of whether you are indeed doing things right, or whether you should be intervening more frequently. In the absence of definite reference points and indicators to highlight what constitutes actual progress, the player is essentially in the dark until they have been playing for a sufficient amount of time to figure it out for themselves; by this time, some players may have given up entirely and left the game to gather dust in their temporary internet files folder.
With my gripes about the game firmly in the open, perhaps you will be willing to overlook them and chalk it up to being simply a few minor goofs. One can acclimatise to poorly-designed menus and simply learn to work around them; it also isn’t a difficult task to overlook any minor spelling mistakes or text-box issues. Errors are present much like in any game. You could fall on the harshly critical side and say that the above errors are a little more on the unforgivable side, but only if you are the type of person who enjoys combing through every individual goof, mistake and minor blunder that may befall any piece of media during consumption by the intended audience. The presence of some minor errors that have slipped through the net is an expected occurrence which forms part of the process of designing, producing and releasing games; as long as they don’t affect the gameplay (which in this case, they do not), then let’s just chill out and enjoy the damn game.
The aesthetics of the menu system within the game actually give a sense that the game is a lot more substantial in content than it actually is. Far be this from a criticism of the gameplay itself; quite conversely actually, since the game’s home menu looks like that you would expect in a lengthy RPG game, with the various sections set atop an overlay of a map. The map is simply an overview of the various geographical locations of the game, which is comprised of the main arena where all the nerd-knocking takes place (entitled the ‘Play Ball’ section), the forge in which the blacksmith resides and where you can have all of your bullion transformed into precious weapons or luck charms, your ‘Home’ in which you can check through your team, stats and weapon/charm inventory, and finally the challenge area, which is home to the various mini games. The menu being set out in this manner makes it feel like a tightly functioning unit with individual games, challenges and side-projects together forming more than simply a sum of their parts; the whole thing feels more akin to a sporting adventure game, albeit a bloody and massively illegal one.
Berzerk Ball 2 offers everything that other distance-based games cannot. It gives you variety, choice, customisation, and the ability to develop your abilities in order to hit your geek over further and further distances – it is bar far the most relevant and fun ‘geek game’ to be available online. Should you find yourself tiring of the main ‘whack a geek’ premise of the entire game, then you can go a-holidaying into the wonderful stadium resort and take on the various challenges in order to spice things up a little, and also to further your main-hit-a-geek-game progress with XP points and cash benefits. Wonderfully easy-to-collect money (screws) and power-ups make the buying of in-game currency with actual money merely an optional extra for the player, and not a requirement for enjoying the game. There is no sense of exclusivity as is felt with many games which favour the paying player by restricting much of the functionality of the game to those who have handed over their cash. Berzerk Ball 2, while probably not appropriate for all (or perhaps most) ages, will certainly entice, entertain and enthral most of those that experience it. I occasionally worry that the disdain shown towards the ‘geek’ within the game is indicative of some deep-seated resentment that resides in the creator’s mind, but since the game is so entertaining, I’m willing to push this worry down to the back of my mind where it will likely erupt at a later date in a wildly inappropriate and inconvenient context.
Quantitative reflection of game’s likelihood to entertain: 85/100