Creative restraint is one of the best things about indie development. Keeping gameplay hooks to a minimum allows smaller studios to execute on an idea fully, providing us with fun and cohesive experiences. Some hooks, though, just aren’t compelling enough to fill up an entire game, no matter the amount of iteration.

I feel like this is Berzerk Ball [$.99] in a nutshell. It has a fantastic suite of rewards systems, but it’s ultimately a shallow game that offers a lackluster campaign and doesn't bring meaningful new ideas that bring anything to the “press a button to launch something” genre, which has been done to death on the App Store.

But I’m not here to harp on how much Berzerk Ball leaves much to be desired conceptually. Instead, I want to turn your attention to its reward systems because I think they’re a brilliant spot of design that gives the game longer legs.

Backing up, Berzerk Ball is a game about hitting things. The goal is to launch a flesh-and-blood "geek" as far as you can by hitting him with a violent object. It isn’t rocket science; you pick an avatar, line up an accuracy and a power meter, and then tap the screen to whack the geek.

The geek then sails through a randomly generated level, perhaps colliding into various bits of the environment that can either stop him cold or propel him even more. Later, you’ll get the ability to hit him multiple times after the initial launch, adding even more distance.

The coolest rewards systems actually inform your play, and the RPG leveling mechanic delivers in spades. Each avatar has core stats that can be bumped up by experience points earned from whacking the geek. Slowly, as you play, accumulation of EXP becomes the focus instead of basic scoring, which I gather is the actual point of the geek-launching endeavor.

In part, this is because the effects of a level-up are quick and palpable; you feel the new power and it effects how you approach hitting the geek. Hilariously, more EXP also means more opportunities to earn even more EXP with bigger and bigger hits. The system sort of feeds into itself.

Also, there's no risk involved in EXP gain. You'll never lose your levels, no matter how poorly you perform. You're constantly building in Berzerk Ball, which is pretty cool feeling that keeps you playing.

Not following me? Think about this in the context of a popular MMO like World of Warcraft. Fans get wrapped up in the social elements and raiding, sure, but for the humans playing the game, WOW's appeal is the race to the top: the EXP points.

And, really, there's no meaningful repercussions to failure in WOW, either. You lose a few armor ticks or whatever -- no big deal when compared to possibly losing entire levels like in other MMOs, which is probably a small reason as to why WOW is so damn dominant.

Leveling is powerful -- who doesn't like actively making something better? -- and Berzerk Studio absolutely NAILS this mechanic in its latest  iOS release, adding much more to the overall experience. It's really surprising to me when I think about how much time I've spent in this game despite the fact that I recognize it doesn't have that much to offer. Hats off to these folks for making it work.

I’d also like to make a quick mention of the achievements system, which also kind of scooped me up and had me doing stupid stuff in order to earn them. There’s been a lot of writing over the years about the effectiveness of achievements, so I’ll spare you the high-brow crap, but I will say this: what’s employed here will probably keep you hooked.

And look, I’m not the kind of guy that reflects on a game like Berzerk Ball. It’s not a particularly thoughtful project. After all, it’s premised on bloodying a nerd by drilling him him with shotguns, axes, and the sort. But it managed to grab me in a way that many of its brethren -- flash game or not -- and does so with a keen understanding of how to reward players for their time.

  • Matt Greene

    This is what made Crackdown so fantastic for me. If they didn't have a level cap I would probably still be playing it. In for one.

  • Bobwocky

    What's the point of this article?

    • Adams Immersive

      It’s making note of a particularly engaging type of reward mechanism.

    • Jay

      Argh, I clicked "Like" instead of "Reply". My reply was going to be, "To demonstrate how a low-quality game can result in a low-quality article." I hope someone goes back through the article and edits it to fill in the missing words and re-word several sentences for clarity and smoothness.

    • Eli Hodapp

      We usually post about games we like. If you read it you'll discover why we liked it.

  • BazookaTime

    Thanks for posting about this game, I missed it some how. Picked it up and I agree 100%. This game is super addicting and the leveling system is fantastic.

  • CodeRed

    Could you explain some more about the level up system? What perks do you get for leveling up? How do you FEEL the leveling up affecting your avatar, etc

  • Steven Got Snowdon

    Brilliant game which should have been given more recognition upon release. Deserves to be in a decent position on the AppStore, especially seeing as its 59p and provides a good few hours of entertainment. With a brilliant soundtrack.

    Was worried about its release initially as I thought they'd go with the daft decision of the flash game which had purchases to get more crystals, but thankfully its all achievement based and (whilst quite challenging) you can gain all of the achievements and unlock all the crystal-based items/weapons. m/

  • alex

    I just need Retina support and bugs fixes. That's all.

  • kiki

    WOW GREAT GAME! Its simple and stupid....but I cant put it down....guess you can never go wrong with nerd bashing! Inside the game, it says I can get my own geek comments published in the next update. I have written a review with my geek does this work? When is the next update? How does the selection process work? More details about this contest would help.

  • freedog

    I picked this up a few weeks ago. Funny-ass game more than anything but the gameplay is actually good. iphone needs more humorous games like this. Nice to see an article on it because the game has gotten too little attention so far.

  • Hoodlumpr

    I honestly kept coming back to the browser version of the game on, now that I can take it with me anywhere I hardly get anything done!

  • Luc Berro

    Add me on GameCenter for achievements 😀

    Gamecenter ID : OxyTech

  • Mickey Slater

    This is a game that has been repeated many times over the years.. its not really new or that exciting but yes can be addictive.

    Armor games has been making a version of this game for years now and just updates the theme/graphics and re-releases it every 9 months or so and sadly i play it again.

    the last couple versions of it i remember playing are..
    one with a hedgehog, one with some anime girl.. and most recently one with a paper airplane [ ]

  • monster

    So in a nut-shell, adding RPG elements makes everything better?