Most games portray a mass invasion in one of two ways. They either put you in the shoes of the one unlikely – but eventually all powerful – saviour of humanity or they put you in charge of the whole resistance. When Vikings Attack is a little different: it puts you in charge of a riot.
You don’t get sophisticated weaponry or a research budget either. You get bales of hay and picnic tables. No launch codes for these missiles, you’ll be hoisting them above your head and using your mob’s collective arm power to propel them towards the baying hordes of Viking warriors who have, almost inexplicably, attacked your little corner of rural tranquility.
Sometimes success comes down to one remaining team member.
When Vikings Attack is a cutesy, cartoon-styled, multiplayer-focused war of attrition. It couldn’t be much simpler to control. One face button for throw, one for dash.
The shoulder buttons allow you to rotate the item your mob has hoisted, automatically, above their heads and the left stick controls movement and aim. On the face of it, there’s not much to it. But don’t let the simplicity of controls belie what is quite an adaptable little game.
The campaign mode is a series of stages, each set around a common theme. You’ll control your own little mob against waves of Vikings as you move through the arena’s different stages towards a climactic boss battle. You can choose to allow your game to be open to the public, in which case you might be joined by other players, or to lock it down to invite-only. If there’s more than one player, and some of the end-level bosses almost require it, the game is cooperative but each player gets an individual score to rank them at the end.
Because all of the action takes place on single-screen stages, you can also play all of the multiplayer modes – campaign or dedicated modes – locally. With up to four players, the multiplayer side of the game is the most hectic but it’s also obviously the most enjoyable way to play. Whether you’re competing in the Last Man Standing or Vikings Vs Vigilantes modes to simply stay alive or in the Gold Rush mode to meet certain task-based criteria while beating your opponents, multiplayer is the way to play this game.
Even the Quest Mode allows local or online assistance to cooperatively carry the fight to the Viking invaders. In fact, going it alone can be a real hindrance to making progress at certain points. Some boss characters carry shields which severely limit the risk of damage from the front. You can see how being able to flank these enemies would make beating them a lot easier.
So, in broad strokes, the game is very simple in its mechanics and controls. Just about anyone could pick this up and within a few seconds, they’d know what they were doing and they’d be able to compete with anyone. There are a couple of tricks to really understanding how to get the most from When Vikings Attack, though. The dash mechanic is more useful than it might appear at first glance. It allows you to catch items thrown at you without taking any damage and it allows you to bounce into another group and steal whatever they’re carrying. Given the variation in weapon types, this can be extremely useful.
Environments are cute but you won't get much chance to look at them.
Another layer of complexity is afforded by the different weapon types. Most of what you throw will be everyday objects but there are a number of rocket types in the game too. The simplest just explodes, inflicting splash damage, but you’ll also find others, like the paint projectile that will convert whoever it hits and send a number of their mob running over to join your side. This can be incredibly handy for bolstering your numbers in a hurry rather than waiting for the panic-stricken reinforcements that sporadically run across the maps.
It’s not just about the more showy projectiles, either. Sometimes the ordinary items can be devastating if used correctly. For example, throwing a post box, end on, at your enemy might take out a fair few of them but if you hit the shoulder button and rotate the post box so that its long side faces the enemy, you’ll have a chance at hitting the entire group and clearing them out completely. Of course, the time it takes you to rotate the object might be enough for your enemy to launch something into you, causing you to drop your weapon.
- Simple mechanics make it very accessible.
- Subtleties mean you can develop your skills.
- Lots of multiplayer options mean plenty of scope for enjoyment.
- With such simple mechanics, it can get repetitive.
- Some bosses are almost impossible without help.
When Vikings Attack is not without its issues. Almost impossible bosses when you’re going solo end up frustrating and there are a fairly limited selection of levels to play through which could probably work harder to differentiate themselves. If you’re on your own, this can get quite repetitive quite quickly. But this game is clearly supposed to be played with friends and in those circumstances, it can be hugely enjoyable. Add to that the fact that this is a Cross Buy game with Cross Saves and interoperability between the PS3 and Vita versions – you can play against people on the other device – and it’s a fantastic package for the £7.49/€9.99/$9.99 price tag.