When I first became aware of When Vikings Attack, around the time of E3, I somewhat dismissed the title; It looked gloriously stylish and visually different to a lot of other games on the market, but I wasn’t immediately sure what exactly I would be playing. My first thoughts, based perhaps a little too much upon the project’s name, were that this would be “another tower defense title” – How wrong I was.
When Vikings Attack is the first release by North-West development studio Clever Beans.
After a bit of research I’d discovered that the two experienced chaps behind the studio have previously worked on the likes of Spiderman 3, Juiced, James Bond & Blur – an enjoyable and varied portfolio.
This alone gave me a great deal of interest in how When Vikings Attack would turn out.
Clever Beans – Martin Turton & Andrew Newton (with a little help from their friends), are aiming their sights on bringing fun and originality back into gaming – And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
When Vikings Attack is a rambunctious romp through a 1970’s-esque Northern England, inexplicably overrun by hordes of Vikings.
One can only assume word has spread, and that the beardy Norsemen are on a mission to pillage these fair isles of Space Hopper’s and Raleigh Chopper Bicycle’s (whilst enjoying the sounds of Bowie on their Walkman, naturally.)
… Perhaps not.
Split into a traditional stage-by-stage playthrough, called Quest Mode, and various Battle stages, When Vikings Attack’s gameplay is a ludicrously enjoyable mix of dodgeball, bowling & old-school brawler, all rolled up into 15 beautifully designed and fully destructible environments. Naturally, each is littered with weapons of all shapes and sizes.
You play as an ever increasing angry-mob of townsfolk, trying to rid their streets of Viking invaders.
The two-button control scheme means that although When Vikings Attack is both fast and frantic, it brings an organised kind of chaos, and as such, is really easy for virtually anyone to pick up, play and enjoy.
In it’s simplest form, you move from area to area decimating waves of Vikings using the left stick and the O button to launch projectiles; Almost everything you can imagine from your surroundings becomes a missile – from beehives to beach-huts and phone boxes to police cars.
Obviously, larger items can pick off more of the naughty Norse attackers, but that’s no problem – If you’re mob handed enough, anything goes.
The only other controls you make use of are the shoulder buttons, allowing you to rotate an object to it’s widest side – thus causing maximum impact, and X, the dash button.
This dash adds the game’s strategic element, and quickly becomes a life saver; Not only does it allow you to dodge a low flying traffic cone or beach ball, but it also lets you barge into an enemy crowd, stealing their weaponry.
The most important use of dash however, is as a counter attack – If timed correctly, you can catch thrown objects without sustaining casualties, and quickly propel them right back towards your unsuspecting foes.
Still, describing When Vikings Attack is difficult – It’s somewhat reminiscent of Hudson Soft’s Bomberman, or Capcom’s Powerstone – if that particular title had a Viking bowling mini-game.
The cell-shaded art style brings the assortment of wacky neighbourhood characters and their surrounds to life brilliantly (they look particularly good on the Vita’s OLED display), and the very talented Jamie Finlay has added a layer of undeniable British-ness humour with the game’s sounds.
It’s worth noting that on both the PS3 and PlayStation Vita, When Vikings Attack is running at a constant 60 frames per second and in full native resolution.
With stages ranging from busy high-street intersections and perilous inner city rooftops to the Zoo or even the Viking marauder’s very own longboat, there’s enough variety in the comical environments to keep the gameplay relatively fresh here – each area has it’s own quirks and tactical advantages, such as warp-pipes or soft walls you can bounce weapons off – all of which help to ensure you pummel the final Viking in the way only a super-stylish northern English Barber carrying a hot pink limousine can.
If you’re buying When Vikings Attack for the single-player Quest mode though, you’re doing it wrong. Each and every part of the game can be played with up to four players simultaneously, and absolutely should be.
Quest mode is smashing fun if you grab a friend and take it on co-operatively, and of course, there’s the 20 different VS mode areas if you’d rather flex your pecs in a competitive fashion. This is definitely the most enjoyable way to play, and will keep you coming back for more.
There are three different competitive modes to choose from – The familiar deathmatch affair that is Last Man Standing, a team deathmatch mode (Vikings Vs Vigilanties), or the slightly off-kilter objective based Gold Rush mode, where you must complete 5 particular objectives – such as making a kill with a spinning object – to win the round.
Dissapointingly, at the moment, during 4 player online modes, I’m experiencing quite a bit of server side lag. Hopefully this is just a teething issue as the game goes live, and can be ironed out. Local 4 player is still quite terrific.
Cross-Buy, Cross-Play, Cross-Save, Cross-The-Ocean travellers – When Vikings attack has all the good stuff.
You get the PS3 and Vita version for your £7.99 and they work together seamlessly. When I first booted the PS3, it grabbed my save from the server automatically, and prompted me to continue my quest, with no interaction whatsoever. This is some sort of Scandinavian witchcraft – I’m almost certain of it.
All in all, When Vikings Attack is a hoot. There’s a few niggling issues with the online side of things, such as the aforementioned slowdown and the inevitable rage-quiters, but aside from that, this game is simply an abundance of good, clean, if not clean-shaven, fun fun fun.
There’s collectables and tricky challenges to keep you coming back to the slightly repetative single player Quest, but it’s the accessibility and styling of When Vikings Attack that means it really does shine as a stupidly glorious multiplayer party game – One which willl have you screaming at the TV in equal amounts of joy and despair. Highly recommended.