When Vikings Attack Review
Game: When Vikings Attack
Developer: Clever Beans
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita
There is a lot of love for the Vikings amongst the Godisageek crew, and I am not talking about the Minnesota based gridiron franchise. I am talking about the Odin worshipping, longship riding Norsemen who were so successful at pillaging their way across Europe and beyond back in the day. The very same crew who included in their number the potential spellcheck nightmare Cnut the Great, and whose “blood eagle” form of execution remains one of history’s finest and most gruesome ways to defeat a foe. In gaming terms, there have been relatively few Viking-related games. The Lost Vikings was a highly entertaining puzzle platformer, and Erik the Viking was a classic text adventure based upon erstwhile Monty Python legend Terry Jones’ book. Viking: Battle For Asgard was perhaps the only video game to trade on the much vaunted violent tendencies of the rapey Scandinavians recently, and was a fun hack and slash action game.
The latest title to draw upon the wildmen from the frozen North is When Vikings Attack. With a name like that, I was expecting perhaps a tower defence game, or a bloody tale of carnage set in ancient times. I was rather wide of the mark, to say the least.
For reasons that are never properly explained, a very quaint, cel-shaded 1970s England has come under attack from hordes of marauding Vikings, who spill onto the streets, through the countryside, rolling farmland and even into nightclubs. I suppose it makes a change from zombies. You take control of a mob of civilians, moving as one entity, whose job it is to repel the invaders by any means necessary. In-game, this means picking up any nearby object and flinging it at the groups of Vikings. Think of it like bowling, with the enemies taking the place of the pins. The aim is to take out as many of the foes as possible until they are reduced to nought. A traffic cone may put a small dent in the swarm, whereas larger items like cars and telephone boxes, which you can pick up when your mob is big enough, are capable of knocking down an entire gang of Norsemen in one hit.
Public service broadcast-style tutorial videos introduce any new techniques or game mechanics as you work through the main story mode of the game. You learn about how members of the public can be assimilated into your crowd, and how certain types of people, if collected, can have status effects on your party (such as increased speed or strength). You are introduced to special items, such as the bombs, which come a little later in the game, as does the way that you are able to catch items that the Vikings throw at you in mid-flight and throw them back, or steal items from an opposing mob (which comes with a satisfying “YOINK!”).
Progress unlocks new stages which have obstacles and pitfalls, as well as parts of the scenery that can assist you in your Viking bloodlust. Bendy traffic lights and street signs allow you to rebound projectiles. A factory stage has warp pipes which can be used to initiate surprise attacks, whilst a precarious trip to the main entrance of a hospital requires that you carefully avoid the approaching blue-lit ambulances as they screech to a halt at its doors. One level even takes you to the top of a council estate block of flats, which you can fall off of, and made me feel right at home. Normal Vikings are pretty puny but new types of enemy, such as those clad in suits of armour, are drip fed to you and every area comes with a boss character. The bosses range in size and ridiculousness, starting out with a much larger Viking who has a shield you can bypass by rebounding projectiles into his back, to a floating airship that fires its own barrage of ordnance, that needs to be caught and thrown back.
It is all staggeringly simple. You have one button to pick up and throw stuff, and another to perform an evasive dash, however, this is also used to intercept items being thrown at you (dashing straight into an item will catch it in mid-air) and to steal objects from other groups. You can use the L and R buttons to add curve to your thrown missile but this isn’t a game about such precision, it is about frantic, do-or-die survival dodgeball.
Developer Clever Beans have done a terrific job at taking a simple, playable game and making it attractive; wrapped everything up in a charming cartoon style, in a begotten England which is full of clichéd characters (doctor, nurse, farmer, etc) that delight with their little sayings and cute costumes. It looks and sounds fantastic, whether that means the hilarious “ooh, me back” as you pick up a park bench, to the detail in some of the backgrounds and the many bug eyed characters that populate the settings.
As a package this is surprisingly good value, too. It features cross platform play and means that if you purchase the game for the PlayStation Vita, you get the PlayStation 3 version gratis. There are plenty of main levels to complete, all of which feature challenges (such as scoring a specific number of points, or finishing a level without losing any of your mob) and a nice difficulty curve. The multiplayer is an absolute riot, whether you are playing ad-hoc, or against others online. I found myself in an hour long session with another PSN denizen who was playing the game with a friend sharing his login, meaning a three-way dance of death that was a joy from beginning to end. I wasn’t able to ascertain what combination of consoles my opponent was using, but the match was seamless with no lag and no let up in action, with the first player to win seven matches being declared the victor. It is incredibly easy to drop in and out of a game, and there are different modes such as a “last man standing” mode or even co-op play of the main story mode, which is an excellent inclusion.
VERDICT: A simple idea, carried out with aplomb, When Vikings Attacks is a hoot, a multiplayer game that is not a million miles away from joining genuine classics like Bomberman and Powerslave bonus corker Death Tank. It is a game that allows you to switch your brain off and rely on your reflexes and the satisfying feeling of knocking down a bunch of Vikings with a Stonehenge-style monument. My one criticism is that it does start to feel repetitive after a while, and the nature of targeting can be a little gung-ho, don’t expect finesse and FPS-levels of aiming, but then this isn’t aimed at serious online gamers, this is one for you to throw on with your mates after a beer buzz, to play with the kids, or to have some enjoyable online fun with during a coffee break.