Monday, November 2, 2009

The Lost Vikings (SNES) Review

These days, just about everyone is familiar with Blizzard Entertainment due to the overwhelming popularity of their World of Warcraft franchise. But, before they became the Goliath of the PC gaming industry that they are today, they were a fairly small-time developer that went by the name of Silicon & Synapse. While working under their previous name, Blizzard released a side-scrolling puzzle/platform game called The Lost Vikings for the Super Nintendo—a game that was somewhat overlooked upon it's initial release in 1992, and continues to receive similar treatment to this day. To put it simply, The Lost Vikings is, hands down, one of the premiere 3rd-party titles in the SNES' library that needs to be discovered by any and all self-respecting classic gamers!

The core game design is rather simple—you must reach the end of each level with all three vikings (Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout) in order to move on to the next stage. However, if a member of the team falls during battle, you are still given the opportunity to explore the level with the vikings who remain standing, allowing you to better prepare yourself for the next time around. Each of the trio can take up to three hits from the baddies before becoming nothing more than a pile of bones (or four if you are able to locate certain items in the level that give you extra health). There are also a number of obstacles that you will need to avoid (fire, water, electric beams, etc.) that will instantly neutralize the vikings upon contact.
Aside from the fact that there are three characters controlled by either one or two players, this may sound like your typical platforming affair. However, what truly sets this game apart from the pack is the fact that each of the vikings possess a completely unique skill set:
- Erik the Swift is, quite obviously, able to run extremely fast. This allows him to build up a head of steam before smashing into a weakened wall in order to knock it down. He is also the only viking with the ability to jump, which will come in handy on numerous occasions.
- Baleog the Fierce is equipped with an unlimited supply of arrows to fire with his bow, as well as a sword. The sword does more damage than the arrows will (unless you locate the fire arrows), but the arrows will be used for more than just combat. There are often switches located in impossible to reach places that can only be activated by one of Baleog's arrows.
- Olaf the Stout is, undoubtedly, the most useful of the three vikings. He holds nothing but a shield, but you will find Olaf leading the way in almost every level in order to ensure that Erik and Baleog remain unharmed. Besides using the shield to protect himself and the others from enemy attacks, Olaf can also raise it above his head, serving two purposes: 1) it allows Erik to jump on top of the shield, granting him access to otherwise unreachable platforms/items, and 2) it allows Olaf the ability to slowly glide down to the ground after walking off the ledge of a platform. If either of the other two vikings are to fall from a height, they will lose a portion of their health so, needless to say, Olaf's measly shield isn't so measly after all.
On top of all this, the puzzles in this game are incredibly well thought out, particularly later in the game. The first few worlds will be a bit of a cakewalk for most experienced gamers, but once you get to the final two or three worlds, expect your patience to be tested. Not only will you be taxing your brain in an attempt to solve each of these puzzles, but you will also be asked to perform some of your tasks in a fairly narrow window of timing, testing your reflexes as well.

The Lost Vikings' visuals are really nothing to write home about. While there are no major complaints in the graphic department, there's just not much there that is begging for your attention, and thus, you get a three sentence paragraph about them from me. They're pretty much exactly what you would expect to see from a game in the 16-bit era.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, despite it's small number of tracks, is outstanding. The only problem is the fact that there is only one song per world, so if you happen to get stuck on a level for an extended period of time, some of the tunes will begin to grow a little tiresome. However, there is not a single dud in the bunch, and you will be left with nothing but fond memories of these hip-hop tinged gems. (The only reason I use "hip-hop" to describe the soundtrack is because there seems to be an emphasis on the drum beats in this game, something that wasn't necessarily all that common in the SNES era).

The Lost Vikings is a game that has been overlooked for far too long and, if you've never had the chance to play through it before, now is as good a time as any. The good news is that you should be able to pick up a copy for under $10 without any trouble at all. Randy (the other reviewer here at TTG) and I have beaten a pretty good number of games together over the years, and we both agree that beating this game gave us the greatest sense of accomplishment upon completion. If you're in the market for an incredible cooperative gaming experience, look no further than The Lost Vikings.

Overall Score: 8.1/10 (If you're looking for a game that is going to both rack your brain and test the reflexes of your thumbs, you can't go wrong with The Lost Vikings. There are far too few puzzle-platformers out there, let alone 2-player ones, so don't let this one pass you by.