Review: 21st century Britain is invaded by 8th century Vikings, and they forgot to bring their weapons. With such a dizzyingly high concept, can WHEN VIKINGS ATTACK! possibly live up to its premise?
Just in case you think I’m having an acid flashback, I feel like I should explain it again. This is indeed a game where weaponless Vikings invade modern Britain, and the only way to rid our green and pleasant land of these pillagers is to rally together and throw park benches at them. I suppose leaving it to the police would have been an option too, but I’m certain that plot wouldn’t be half as much fun.
The game is a simple one. You start off as a singular person, only able to pick up small objects, but as you progress through a level, more and more people will join you, enabling you to pick up much heavier objects as a group. These objects – ranging from a traffic cone to a tractor – are then tossed at the massing marauders in order to wipe them out. The Vikings themselves operate in exactly the same way, and any time you’re hit by their projectiles, people from your group will be knocked out, thus restricting you to smaller objects again.
The characters too are all individual and frequently hilarious. Some will adorn your posse with special abilities, for example recruiting a jogger will increase your groups movement speed, or a baseball player will give you a better throw. The dialogue rounds it all off a treat too, and hearing a man with a thick northern accent compliment a little old lady on her aim as she lobs a stretched limo at a bunch of Vikings is just something you don’t get enough of in video games these days.
Over the course of the 15 levels you’ll visit farms, carnivals, museums and even city streets complete with speeding traffic. There’s always something new to see, and it must be noted that it looks fantastic. At a glance it’s devilishly casual, but every level introduces a new ingredient and it becomes a surprisingly tricky little number. Crucially, like many games of this ilk, it’s near impossible to stop playing.
That’s really the point of it of course, and it absolutely succeeds. It’s difficult to describe exactly why it works so well, but there’s something immensely satisfying about it that’s just not tangible at first. Quite literally, in some cases. The game – despite being made for the Vita as well as the PS3 – has completely eschewed any touch-screen or motion controls, for example. Not having things like this shoehorned in for the sake of it ultimately shows that Clever Beans haven’t had to compromise their ethics, and simply made a game that is fun to play.
Feeling a bit Thor
Of course, some satisfaction is as obvious as it is gratuitous. I can’t think of a time when launching a picnic table at a group of Norse explorers wouldn’t be fun. But it’s the way that it’s never allowed to get old that really lifts it above the rest of the “casual gaming” assembly. Every time you’re about to put it down, another facet is introduced that’s even more strategic, interesting, or just plain funny, and another half an hour of your life melts into the ether.
Though perhaps the casual gaming moniker might be a bit harsh here. Certainly there are only three buttons to learn, but there’s plenty to do with them and I’ve certainly had to concentrate more on passing a level here than I have many a first-person shooter of late. The game’s simplicity is nothing if not a positive in this instance.
This is especially evident when a bunch of other players turn up. Be they friends or otherwise, the addition of players dropping into a game only adds to the carnage. Up to four people can play at once on any combination of Vitas or PS3s, often leading to scenes beginning to resemble the height of the Brixton riots. It’s a wonder the little Vita can keep up when there are wall to wall characters chucking everything they can get their hands on at each other, but I didn’t note a single dip in frame rate.
Add a handful of collectibles, some frenetic 4-player versus modes and a more than reasonable price-tag, and there’s very little to be said against the game. The only gripe I really had was the relentlessly cheerful music. The kind of grating, comedy trombone music that would be more at home in a dreadful ’50s musical.
Still, it’s a small price to pay for such a fun and polished product. It’s hyperactively engaging and so much more than its overly-lauded pick up and play contemporaries – I’m looking at you, Angry Birds. When Vikings Attack is a game that knows its place, and exceeds its own expectations because of it – all the while with its tongue bursting through its cheek.
When Vikings Attack!, by Sony and Clever Beans, is available now for PS3 and Vita.