Review: When Vikings Attack!

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Mix a little horde mode with a dash of brawler, add lots of environmental objects to be thrown around and you start to get the idea of what When Vikings Attack! is about.  But why Vikings?  Zombies are cliche.  Pirates too boat bound.  Ninjas are too sneaky.  Vikings are big, brash and easily one of the most underutilized caricatures to grace video games.  So what made vikings leave their homeland to invade a modern world?  The final level (a challenging but worthwhile boss battle–no spoilers here though) explains it, but getting there is half the fun.

The game starts out in a rural farm area and continues through fourteen additional levels.  Each level is a unique setting ranging from factories, malls, museums, or busy downtown streets to carnivals and zoos. Within each level there are distinct sections and all end with a mini-boss battle of sorts.  Mobs of vikings enter each area and proceed to pick up environmental objects to throw and cross innocent civilians. Playing as the innocent civilians, you must move around the screen to pick up objects and throw them at the ravaging vikings. Some objects are too large to pick up with only one or two civilians and so moving around to get random loose civilians to join in your mob is key to pushing back the waves of vikings.

To add to the chaos of constantly moving groups of civilians and vikings and objects being picked up and thrown around, the game offers a chance for up to four players (local or online) to join in the madness. Building on the promise of Cross Play, When Vikings Attack! doesn’t care or indicate when players joining the game are on either a Vita or PS3, so playing the game for a quick round or two of crazy brawling with groups is easy.  Getting a group of players and then beginning a game is quick too which is nice.  Load times are short and the overall duration of any level is fairly short as well.

Challenges for each story mode level add to the replay of the game, but I found them to be a bit daunting. Each level has three challenges: time to completion, high scores and least amount of civilian casualties. Trying to beat a specific score is not the hardest thing to do, if the game did a better job of explaining how to get a higher point multiplier.  It seems that scores are based on how many vikings are killed, based on the size of the mob they form.  Or maybe the point multiplier is based on the type of object used, or if the object was spinning (which is an option that isn’t explained well but performed by rapidly pressing R1/R), or if it ricochets off of a sign post.  

At any rate, points can be multiplied, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to boost my score and the game doesn’t offer any clear explanations.  Trying to beat a time is dependent on avoiding being hit by objects thrown by vikings (or catching them when possible), in addition to making sure that vikings are hit with the largest objects to ensure they die in one throw.  Unfortunately, the larger objects aren’t always around and vikings can move out of the way or catch objects thrown at them, causing levels to take longer than the challenge set.  Keeping civilian casualties to a minimum sounds easy, but often times the vikings get in cheap shots because more than one mob appears on screen during any part of a level and keeping an eye out for both groups, avoiding objects thrown by them, finding objects to throw (and in some levels–avoiding environmental dangers) makes keeping civilian loss at a minimum down right impossible.  Fortunately, challenges are optional, not a requirement to completing a level.

In addition to the Quest mode, When Vikings Attack! also includes three Vs Battle modes.  Last Man Standing is a basic free-for-all battle mode.  Vikings vs Vigilantes pits teams of players against one another in a similar free-for-all confrontation.  Gold Rush is a variant of Last Man Standing in which players earn gold medals for taking out the opponent through five unique kill types.  Once all five kill types are earned, the battle is over.  Basically this type of game can go on and on (which it did for my son and me during our session with the Vs mode) because the game doesn’t give a clear explanation of what type of kill each medal is expecting in order to be earned.  The Vs mode can be played with a mixture of local and online (and of course Cross Play with Vita and PS3).

One thing to note when playing Cross Play, game invites sent from the Vita to PS3 (or vice versa) don’t work.  This is something I ran into with Foosball 2012 earlier this year and seems to be a limitation on the two hardware standards and not so much a missed opportunity by the developers.  While I don’t mind playing public matches, I’d prefer to play Cross Play without necessarily having random strangers hopping into my game.  Getting my son (who was logged in with his PSN ID on my PS3) to join my Quest Mode while I was playing on the Vita proved to be a bit more of a hassle than I would have preferred.  

Cross Play also allows progress to be saved in the cloud, but the instructions for doing so aren’t explained particularly well.  Progress on the Vita seems to automatically save to the cloud, but loading up that save on the PS3 doesn’t happen unless Quest Mode is started by playing an Open Public match.  When playing for the first time on the PS3, the game asks if you want the progress to be saved in the cloud but indicates all progress will be lost if choosing that option.  Fortunately, what the message means is that previous progress made on the PS3 will be lost and not what has already been saved to the cloud from the Vita.  It’s a minor thing, but one that, like many other things in this game, could have been better explained.

While it may seem like I’m being overly critical of the game, When Vikings Attack! is a fun little title.  Each level has a ton of detail and it is obvious that Clever Beans has put a lot of time into bringing this game out for two systems and making them work together without any truly glaring problems.  The art style is whimsical and adds charm to the civilians and vikings alike.  The music is subtle through the game and adds to the overall charm as well.  Once the final level is completed and the credits roll, a wonderfully fun song plays conveying the intentions of the vikings.

Even with the minor issues I have described, I did enjoy playing this game. When Vikings Attack! may not be a deep experience, but it is a fun pick up and play title that offers a decent variety of story and versus modes for local and online play.  The fact that the game is Cross Play and Cross Buy across PS3 and Vita is a definite plus, however there are certain drawbacks to consider before throwing your cash at this one. The free PS3 demo is a good place to start.

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Pros:
+ Cross Buy and Cross Play title, with local and online multiplayer
+ Fast loading and quick levels make for snackable gaming
+ Challenges offer serious replay for those who are up to the task
+ End credits song is a lot of fun

Cons:
– Doesn’t do a good job explaining how to do things
– Cross platform invites don’t work
– Game is relatively short if challenges aren’t sought after

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 and PS Vita via PSN
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Clever Beans
Release Date: 11/6/2012
Genre: Action
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-4 (local and online)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.