Welcome to another jaw-dropping edition of the Randomizer, where every day is like Christmas for me. Well, except for the fact that none of of my gifts are wrapped, and I already own all the stuff I’m getting. And that’s it’s March, not December. So, really, nothing like Christmas. But there is the element of mystery, of not knowing what you’re getting. So there’s that.
So for the last little while, I’ve been teaching myself how to use video editing software. I think I got the gist of it, as the process is relatively simple. My goal is to make this series onto YouTube. I hope it transitions well, so I really hope when it comes out, you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like to help in any way, as I still have no earthly clue what I’m doing, any bit will be very grateful.
Okay, let’s hit the button and see what we get this time. Come on, big money, and no whamies!
Ooh, interesting. Two popular shows, “Lost” and “Vikings”, together at last! This one is The Lost Vikings for the Super Nintendo.
Ah, the S.N.E.S., my favourite console. So many good memories, playing Super Metroid, Zelda: A Link to the Past, countless hours of Super Mario World, and Super Mario RPG. Sadly, this game isn’t among those memories. I’ve heard of the Lost Vikings before, as many of my friends mentioned them in passing, but I never had a chance to play it. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the game online, and even heard it was a fantastic game by many people. It even made it to a list of 1001 games you must play before you die. So why not? Now is a good time to try it out and see what’s so amazing about it.
The game came out in 1992 on both the Super Nintendo, and the Sega Genesis, and was redone for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. The game is also available on battle.net for free to play. It was developed by a company called “Silicon & Synapse”. And I know what you’re thinking, because I said the same thing. “Wow, what a silly name for a video game company”. The company must have thought that too, because they changed it a couple of years later. You might have heard of them. Blizzard Entertainment. Yes, that Blizzard Entertainment. The company that made an empire, creating game series’s like Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft, Hearthstone and the game changing MMORPG called World of Warcraft. Blizzard started off making ports before creating their own games, like this one and Rock and Roll Racing. So it just goes to show you that even mega companies started off small before making it big.
Lost Vikings center around 3 proud, noble Vikings. There’s Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce and Olaf the Stout. In the opening cut scene, we see that all three have wives and children to take care of in the frozen tundras of 11th century Vikingville. The cut scene shows up a quick glimpse of the skills and abilities each one is capable of before we even get a chance to touch the controller. I always love when games give you an idea of what you can do beforehand, so you have a clue what to do going into the actual game.
All seems well in their little living Valhalla, when suddenly, all three friends were captured by the evil alien with the silly name, Tomator, emperor of the alien Croutonian empire. The three amigos are to be thrown into an intergalactic zoo where the attractions are humans from various time eras. And it’s up our Viking comrades to escape and traverse to different times and locations to get back home. It’s a weird premise, I know. But it’s so batshit insane that it helps with the charm.
Each Viking has a different move set and abilities to conquer the potential terrain. Erik moves faster and can dash and jump. Baleog can attack with a bow and arrow and a sword. Olaf carries around a shield that can protect the team. And this needs to be said right off the bat. Olaf’s shield is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen in a video game. This wooden shield, about the size of Olaf himself, is so strong, that it can absorb a blast from a futuristic laser gun and walk away unharmed. It can also reflect an attacking enemy from advancing past our armored brethren, thus protecting the entire party. If you point the shield to be above Olaf’s head, it can be used as a platform for Erik to jump on, and if you walk off a cliff, you can float down with Olaf like a parachute. This thing has more uses than a Slap Chop. It’s right up there with Scrooge McDuck’s cane in DuckTales as the most versatile accessory to have. Not too bad, considering Viking shields of the past were made of lighter woods that shattered a lot easier, but built for easy carrying and one-time uses. (I think. I’m probably wrong. Viking history is not my forte.)
By the way, before we go any further, I need to confess something. The title screen is awesome. You have the three Vikings stand on screen looking as gangster as you can get. Then that title song comes out, and I love it. It starts with a typical 16-bit slow build, then vocals that say “kick it”, then breaks into hip hop jam, complete with vinyl scratching, “hey” chants and a catchy beat. The early 90’s did that a lot with title screens to make the characters seem groovy, funky, tubular, and all the other words used as levels in Super Mario World’s Special World. Ah, sweet nostalgic memories.
The game play is set up like a 2 dimensional puzzle platformer, in a similar style to the game Lemmings. You control one Viking at a time to traverse through a square shaped level with a set path to the end spot. You can use the L and R shoulder buttons to switch focus to each Viking. But be careful, because you can leave an ally alone and defenseless, and he can be vulnerable enough that all it takes is one baddie to sneak in and attack, and it’s game over. The objective of each level is to safely get all three guys, using their individual skills to band together, to the designated exit door, usually on the opposite side. Each stage is littered with mini puzzles, such as locked doors, elevators, pitfalls, movable blocks, and creatures of various durability. Each character has three pips of health to work with, however a lot of traps and monsters are one-hit kills, so be on guard. I ended up having Olaf lead the expedition each time, that way anything that charges forward will have to meet with his +1 magical shield of awesomeness.
Each character has inventory spots to collect health items, keys and bonus items. To use the item, it’s just a simple press of the X button. Some of the items are pretty clear cut, like anything that looks like food replenishes health, and keys and bombs are pretty self explanatory. Some of the icons aren’t really clear what they represent, like the pair of shoes that show up that end up being gravity shoes so you don’t float into deadly spikes. You can trade items among each partner, but the process is quite convoluted. You have to have both characters very close to each other, then you press select, then highlight the item, press B, then move the item to the Viking in question, then press select again. It’s not really a gripe, but more of an annoyance.
There is no saving in the game, but there is a password system, and it’s incredibly easy. There’s only 4 characters to remember, and some of the passwords are abbreviated words to make it easier to remember. I think it’s a very smart way of doing it. There is a save state in the Game Boy Advanced version, but that means you can’t go back and do the levels again.
The graphics are really bright and beautiful, with a style that matches a colourful cartoon. I’ve always been a fan of this style of 16-bit sprites, so it looks amazing to me. Every object looks detailed and clear as to exactly what it’s supposed to be. And all the animations are cartoon inspired, like falling and being dizzy, which are really funny to look at. After each stage, you get some funny dialog among the friends, that either break the fourth wall or just sound anachronistic, like referring to the movie Aliens. If you died or give up a stage, you’re treated to a beautiful screen of a Viking funeral by a shoreline. The weirdest visual I saw was the screen wipe. It’s like an expanding circle coming in from the right in a spiral formation. And it does this for every screen transition, from entering a new level to exiting the current level. It’s really weird. I guess curtain wipes and star wipes would have been too cliche and silly looking.
So, from all this praise, I’ll bet you thought I loved this game, right? Well, here’s the thing. As much as I love the unique characters, the fun settings and the great gameplay, I’m sorry I have to admit this, but the charm wears off really fast. After a while, you notice the puzzles tend to be relatively simple. If there’s a monster, send in Baleog. You need to jump, send in Erik. All other inquiries go directly to Olaf. And 90% of the time playing all three guys were huddled in the same location, because I was switching and walking so many times. And with no way of controlling all three at the same time, you have to tediously walk down the same corridor three times. There’s not really a lot of times where they were separated to a single path where they will find a different way to get to the exit.
The music is pretty and fits the stages really well. But here’s where I have a problem with the music. It’s repetitive. As there are different worlds, like from space to pre-historic, and each world is sectioned off into different stages, and each world has different music. But all the stages in that world have the exact same song playing. This can make the songs get really dull really fast. If there were two songs and each stage went back and forth with which tune they played, or if there was a pitch change or something, it wouldn’t be too much of an issue. For example, there’s an Egypt stage, and the first stage is outside a pyramid, and each stage afterwards is inside the pyramid. But it’s the same 2-minute song looping, and it’s not a very catchy song after the fiftieth time you heard it. It got to a point where you start to dislike the songs more as the game progresses. Not every song is bad, but it gets old fast.
There is a two player mode, but it’s not really well designed. You’d think that making it split screen can make the game extra efficient. Instead, the game focuses on player one only, and if player two wants to move around, he has to be on the same screen as player one. It’s a really stupid way of doing it, in my opinion. If I wanted a partner to help me solve the game, I’d want that partner to scout ahead to other areas while I branch off and look for the right way to victory. Of course, when you think about it, that idea contradicts a Norse proverb: The man that walks his own rode, walks alone. (It probably means something else, but it’s still so beautiful)
Lost Vikings has 37 levels total on the Super Nintendo version, and comes with 4 bonus levels on the Genesis, which I don’t own, so I have no idea how easy or hard they are. Some of the stages I encountered are pretty easy, and some of them are infuriatingly difficult. And you can easily die to the final step of completion, and then you have to start all the way to the beginning of the stage. And one of the key factors that soured me further is the fact that all three Vikings must make it to the end, but you can have one die and the mission continue without issue. Why? Why did it wait until after I get to the exit to inform me that all three must be alive to succeed? From what I’ve seen also, there isn’t much in terms of finding trinkets or bonuses to entice exploration. That’s a serious letdown for a game that focuses more on puzzle solving platforming than combat based platforming.
You know how a lot of people bring a newspaper to the bathroom, or their phone to play Temple Run or some variation of Bejeweled? Well, I have the same affinity for Lost Vikings. I like the game, but only in very small doses. I really get bored playing the game for longer than an hour or so. After that, it starts to become a chore. And it definitely feels like that when I start getting annoyed on a single stage, when I have to do a level over and over again, and one misstep can force me back to the beginning and repeating the same annoying process.
I’m not saying that Lost Vikings is bad. Far from it. It has an imaginative story, controls great, it has a beautiful aesthetic, and the game has well designed and very memorable characters. And the dialog is very funny and entertaining to read how they talk to each other. And fourth wall jokes and modern references give it a nice charm to it. In fact, I still recommend trying the game out for yourself. And since it’s free on Blizzard, as mentioned before, you can’t go wrong. But the gameplay is where it really loses me. I like puzzle games, but this game got on my nerves really fast. It’s not bad, but it’s not a title that I’ll be looking to finishing any time soon.
Now, before I go to bed, I need to barricade my bedroom with as many wall spikes and armed guards as I can. Then I need to fill the moat with alligators or something. Because once this gets public, I’m sure I’m going to get invaded my many people on boats, with big pointy horns on their hats, ready to ax me because I didn’t give this game a positive enough review. Hell, it’s a Blizzard game, so I’ll be expecting Diablo to enter my room and steal my soul, or something. Or get backstabbed by a blood elf. Damn Horde.
Until next time, thank you for reading the Randomizer, and I’ll be seeing you.