Review: When Vikings Attack (PSN/PSV)
Title: When Vikings Attack
Format: PlayStation Network Download – PS3 (573 MB) / PSV (573 MB)
Release Date: November 6, 2012
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Clever Beans
ESRB Rating: E
When Vikings Attack is exclusive to the PlayStation Network and PS Vita.
Both were used for this review.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 293 of the podcast.
‘When Vikings Attack’ held a lot of promise, but we didn’t even realize that until we were persuaded to play it at E3 this year. A couple of us were a bit reluctant to try it, but after we did, every one of us loved the experience. Additionally, they’ve brought us something that satisfies many of the things that we always ask for with a game like this, choices.
Along with a surprisingly fun and challenging campaign (that can be played singularly or in co-op) is the biggest draw, multiplayer that can be played locally on the PS3, online with the Vita, and cross-platform between both of the consoles, oh yeah, and cross-buy, so you get it on both platforms at the same time. Beside the fact that you can’t have 4 people on the Vita version at the same time, both versions are virtually identical.
Gameplay is simple, you control a group of characters, signified as your group by a circle that surrounds all of the members. The more members that are in your group, the heavier the objects that you can pick up, and the better chance you have of finishing the round. You find objects spread throughout the screen that can be picked-up and hurled at your opponents, which if the projectile connects, can take out some or all of the group members in their circle.
OK, it’s not simple, because when you begin to learn some other nuances and abilities, the game becomes something so much more strategic and frantic. If a projectile is hurled at your group, you can use ‘X’ to dash out of the way, or if your skills are more advanced, you can catch that object and throw it at someone else. Problem is, if you’re holding an object, you’ll lose it if you dash. You can also steal a team’s weapon by dashing-in to them, which can just get frustrating when you’re aiming-up a shot. There are even more aspects of this carefully crafted Rock-Paper-Scissors system, and when you finally learn everything that’s there, you’ll realize how truly superb this games design really is.
The campaign isn’t just tacked-on either. It can act as a tutorial of sorts, but the difficulty definitely rises as you progress through the levels, and the story takes you through a myriad of locales that all add a unique aspect to your strategy. What I expected to be pretty standard instead became a challenging and extremely fun experience that roped me in very quickly.
Visuals are excellent in every way, with rich colors, smooth animation, and fun character design. There’s a cartoony flair that not only takes some of the visceral feel away, but that also puts this game on a level that makes it instantly recognizable. There are a bunch of characters available throughout the game, and luckily some that can give your team a special power like faster movement are easy to tell apart because of the unique characteristics of each class of character. Also, I love the inset closeup of the characters that appears in the corner of the screen when something happens to them.
There’s definitely a uniqueness to the visuals, and it’s pleasing on both platforms. Even with 4 teams playing, the color differentials do a great job of making sure that you don’t lose your team in the action. In other words, the game looks great.
While I was playing the campaign, I was actually at a friend’s house, killing time before a Halloween party. During the game, random characters will run into the scene, and if you can get close enough to one, they’ll join your team. When they do so, many will offer a quick greeting, and do so in very British accents. I personally didn’t really think about it, but as I played-on, I’d hear the others a couple of room away start to mimic the quotes from these characters, followed by laughter from everyone else. That’s when I started actually listening to the game, and that’s when I started laughing even more. The music is fun and fits the action on the screen too.
Online is where this game shines, and it does enough to blind you with how good it really is. Unfortunately, it’s really tough to describe why this game is so good, and most won’t realize it until they actually play the game. There are 3 main competitive modes, a Free-For-All, Vigilantes vs Vikings, and Gold Rush. Gold Rush is basically a free-for-all. but the teams also try to meet certain goals to earn gold. Free-For-All is pretty self-explanatory, and Vigilantes vs Vikings assigns a side to each team as they fight for supremacy. It was funny when the others I was playing with didn’t realize that they were also taking their teammates out during the matches, so there’s much more strategy involved in this mode. Some match options can be tweaked, but the default settings are pretty great as they are, with matches only taking 1 minutes each. This keeps everyone engaged, even if they get knocked-out right away, and jumping to new stages happens quickly as well.
Some of the venues are downright crazy too. We came across a hospital setting, with ambulances screaming into the parking lot randomly. Anyone in its path were mercilessly run down by the hulking vehicle, which brings another layer of complexity. Also, there are a couple of levels with moving conveyors in different configurations, the rooftop of a home, and my favorite, city streets with controllable traffic. Yup, throw an object or dash at a specific traffic light, and if you do it right, the speeding traffic will take your opponents out for you.
It’s the obvious amount of long hours that were spent on tweaking the gameplay, controls, and levels that make this such a treat to play. We even had a friend older than me, who doesn’t play videogames, tell me that he enjoyed the game quite a bit. To me, that’s an incredibly rare thing to attain, and it’s telling as to how good it really is.
Also, if anyone saw our interview from E3, my biggest fear was that the game would hit without voice chat, but that’s not the case here. Voice chat is fully supported on both platforms, and the host even has the choice to control some options at the player level.
One last feature that is really unique is the fact that all 4 players can sign-in with a profile that exists on the console. I couldn’t test this fully with our debug PS3, but all 4 profiles that exist on it were available for any user to use. The host always gets the profile that’s logged-in though, but that makes perfect sense one you think about it.
I’ve really tried to find a negative about this game, but I’m going to have to leave that up to the folks that get paid to review games, because I just can’t find one. When Vikings Attack is a fantastic game from beginning to end, with an amazing level of control, fun, chaos, and fun. I can’t speak highly enough of this game, and it’s definitely a must-buy. Kudos to Clever Beans on a true gem!