Picking a simple premise for a game can be enough to make the most basic of efforts entertaining for hours. Just look at Angry Birds, Plants Vs Zombies or Calling All Cars - the latter being the best PSN game you’ve never played.
When Vikings Attack comes at us with its own simple mechanics aiming to be easy to pick up for the masses. Throw in multiplayer, cross-play with the Vita and extra characters to unlock and it’s clear that the developers think the game has a shot. These ambitions spiked my interest and after five minutes, I thought this could work. Sadly, after 15 minutes, it got boring. Half an hour later and it felt like all possibilities of enjoyment were driven from my very soul.
The premise of the game is simple, is a little offbeat. Vikings are invading 1970s Britain and the best way to take them out is to team up with your fellow Brits and throw large items at them. You control a crowd with the analogue stick and grow by picking up stray panicking folk. The bigger your mob, the bigger items you can throw. While you start with buckets and cones, soon enough you can lob cars, baths, great white sharks and more.
Items are thrown with the circle or square buttons and you can dodge with the X button, which can also be used to catch items thrown by the Vikings. Aside from a spin button that lets you twiz an item around before lobbing it, that’s about as complicated as it gets for you. Unless you count chuckable bombs later on as complicated.
You’ll be throwing items at crowds of Vikings who gang together the same way you do, so they can throw bigger items at you too. The main difference being there are loads of them. There’s nothing to indicate how many enemies are remaining, you just have to keep going until you’re allowed to progress, making it feel like a long day at the office with a broken watch. A few citizens will give you speed or strength boosts which can make progress easier, but they’re all too rare.
It takes a while for any sort of variety to enter the fray. Sadly, it’s usually more of an annoying obstacle. A factory level features giant scrolling production lines to slow you down or drop you off edges. The worst offenders though are the city sections where you have to dodge traffic, which you can affect by hitting traffic lights. Traffic collisions hurt both you and the Vikings, but despite being able to play with the signals, any kills you get by luring the Scandinavian yobs into a traffic trap don’t award you with points or go towards the invisible total of kills required to complete the stage.
The settings themselves are varied enough to stave off utter rejection and the throwable items change to match the location, but seeing as the mechanics remain largely the same, it hardly seems to matter. Boss fights are usually just big guys with extra health, but there were a couple that involved redirecting enemy fire which worked well for the few minutes the fight would last.
What we essentially have here is a title that should have only had ambitions to be a mobile phone game; it just doesn’t have enough to warrant a regular download price purchase (£7.99) or more than five minutes of your time. The scoring system fails to encourage any sort of combo scoring too; making attaining the lofty high score medals an unrewarding chore.
The Vita version that comes bundled in when purchasing the PSN version offers some respite, before succumbing to the same problems. It’s not all bad though; your save file transfers automatically as it’s saved to your PSN ID. Meaning I played a few levels on PS3, turned it off, then was able to resume progress on my Vita. I loved how simple this was, no manual save file transfers or USB cables. So, good job there at least.
The game looks almost as good on Vita as on PS3, with only the moving characters on screen coming off a little worse, as their textures appeared a bit fuzzy. You can use your Vita as an extra controller when playing PS3 multiplayer too, either looking at the Vita screen or just using it for inputs while looking at the TV. No lag or latency to speak of, so again, another point for the Vita.
You can play through the campaign in co-op locally or online but to be honest, it was still a very shallow experience with friends, especially seeing as you can accidentally take each other out, making life difficult in the tighter areas of the game. If you can take care to avoid being a hindrance to each other though, you might get through it quicker – meaning you can play something else.
Competitive multiplayer options are offline only (Vita-PSN support is there though) and sadly fail to be the game’s saving grace. Modes are very samey and the one where multiple goals have to be reached to win are woefully unclear. Unsurprisingly, the winner was whoever could throw items at their opponent more successfully. Just like the rest of the game.
- Good fun for about ten minutes
- Vita Cross-play functions are easy to set up and work brilliantly
- Looks nice
- Gets boring too soon
- Lack of variety
- Disappointing multiplayer
The Short Version: Pick up stuff to throw at Vikings. Don’t get hit by their stuff. Repeat until you cry. When Vikings Attack lacks that killer moreish hook and replayability factor to keep you interested in its simple premise. It’s best played in very small does, during TV ad breaks for instance. Chances are you’ll be looking for something else before long though.