Homerun in Berzerk Land
Okay. Look. If you're reading this, chances are you're on the Internet. If you are, you hate other Internet users. It's just a natural law. If you've ever watched a YouTube video, you've seen the kind of detritus some people pass off as opinions. When a video of a zebra farting is riddled with comments about conspiracy theories, well, something is clearly wrong with the world, and there's nothing you can do about it.
That's where Berzerk Studio's new hit-people-with-things simulator, Homerun in Berzerk Land, comes in. Using elements from their various other games, your goal is simple. Take a short, blunt object, and a passing geek who epitomizes everything bad about the Internet, and hit him. Hit him as hard as you can, and see how far he flies. It's simple, satisfying, and surprisingly fun, if inappropriate for kids.
The controls are simple: at the tee, you're presented with two gauges, one for the angle of your hit and one for the power of your hit. Click your mouse when the moving indicator is at the angle or power that you want the geek to travel. If you get it just right, your character exclaims "Killer Shot!" and gives you a big thumbs up. Once the geek's on his way, you have the opportunity to hit him again when he hits the ground for a Power Smash, sending him back into the stratosphere. After that, there are many random objects, culled from Berzerk's various games, that will either send him further along in the air or stop his progress dead. While he's in the air, he can hit either a cash sphere or a bee. Cash spheres, surprisingly enough, give you cash, which can be exchanged for goods between levels. Bees change his flight path by a few degrees depending on where he hits them. If he's travelling at a fast enough clip, it can make his trajectory shallow enough that he'll fly for ages before hitting the ground.
Analysis: That's the underlying goal, of course. Make the geek fly as far as he can before he stops in a bloody pile of gaming t-shirts. We've seen this before, in games ranging from turtle shotput to Japanese bicyclist tossing, but Homerun in Berzerk Land's production values put it ahead of the pack, along with a surprisingly deep customization system.
There's also a leveling system, where the number of feet the geek travels adds a certain amount of experience points to your chosen character's level. At each level, you can spend points on strength, accuracy of the meters, or ability to control the geek's flight. Although you can use the arrow keys to slow the geek's flight or speed him on his way, at first it's fairly ineffective. It's only when you upgrade the power that it becomes useful, and then you'll wear the right button on your keyboard out.
Each character (you start with three) has its own strengths and weaknesses. You can level each of them separately, as the game keeps a save file on your hard drive keeping track of what you've done. Sadly, though, items don't carry across characters. You also gain diamonds by getting achievements, which can be exchanged for unlockable secret items. All in all, the customization level of the game allows for some pretty powerful min/maxing, enabling you to send the geek into lower earth orbit. It's fun, but sometimes can work against you. As I leveled characters I often found myself waiting impatiently for the geek to stop flying so I could hit him again to collect more money and experience. If you game from multiple computers (say, both at home and at work) then you can sign up for a free account with GamerSafe, which transfers your save files across computers and allows you to challenge friends.
The graphics and music are some of the most polished I've seen in a Flash casual game, and certainly the most polished of any fly-to-the-right genre game. The violence is cartoony and visceral without being gory, and the art style is well-designed so I never had a trouble telling things apart.
If, like me, you have some unresolved rage issues against the Internet and a lot of time to sink into a compelling Flash game, then Homerun in Berzerk Land is the game for you. Just be careful. Like any addictive substance, the first taste is free. Then you're hooked.