Swedish developers Zoink games responsible for the comical puzzle game Stick it to the Man, have teamed up with Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal writer Zach Weinersmith to create a humorous beat-em’-up featuring a wacky cast of undead Vikings. Zombie Vikings borrows the same distinguished art style as their previous title along with some of its comedic stylings. However beneath the surface lies a lot of repetitive and shallow gameplay that takes some of the appeal away from this charmingly designed brawler.
Our journey begins at Asgard where its ruler Odin is adding glitter to his latest tool of destruction. Enter the immature prankster Loki who makes off with Odin’s remaining good eye. Peeved with Loki’s joke he resurrects four Viking warriors and tasks them with retrieving it. Taking Odin’s stylish warship the undead band of heroes journey to various lands to track him down wailing on the forces of whomever the prankster is cowering behind. It’s an insane plot but it’s loads of fun with plenty of humour injected throughout it. Even the characters all have their fun quirky qualities from the queen of the crows Caw-Kaa who enjoys goth poetry to the half-human half-squid abomination Seagurd who is surprisingly the nicest of the group.
Zombie Vikings is advertised as a 4 player side-scrolling beat-em’- up and with friends the game is a lot more enjoyable. If you unfortunately don’t have any friends or just want to play alone don’t worry as you’re accompanied by something called a Unipig which fulfils the roles you’d normally need a coop partner for like throwing them at switches. At your disposal are your standard attack keys which can be combined together to form a short combo, a character unique special attack and a block. Beyond that you can then combine buttons and directions to pull of your typical dodges, parries, charged specials, dashes and ground pounds. The gameplay is nothing special and it’s lacking a lot of depth but it’s still enjoyable enough to play and the basic setup means that anyone can pick it up play.
Each level scenario is populated with waves of enemies that need to be pummelled before you’re able to take their boss head on and progress to the next location. Boss fights like most brawlers are by far the most entertaining levels offering a blend of puzzles and combat like using bombs and water spouts to knock out the spirit of the North Sea. It’s a pretty average setup and there is very little to deviate from that path. Zoink games have attempted to switch things up on occasion with running scenarios such as being chased by a giant worm and throwing in some throwing puzzle systems. Unfortunately though there’s not enough variation to hold interest for very long which is particularly problematic when there are over 25 levels to explore. After that then there are the odd couple of frustrating glitches. One such example had me respawn inside the worlds geometry while another had me locked in an arena like area where enemies failed to spawn.
The biggest let-down though is the character development. Before each stage you have a selection of weaponry and magical runes to equip to boost your base stats or add some additional skills, providing you have enough of in-game currency to purchase them. As you progress further through the game and complete side-quests more tools become available to you. Weapons boost your attacking prowess boosting damage, speed, knock-back or added stench damage. Runes on the other hand are more passive abilities such increased health, health regeneration and adding a double jump capability. Overall though they don’t really add much to the gameplay with most runes appearing to have little benefit and weapons appearing as nothing more than cosmetic changes.
The art style is by far the game’s best quality. It’s been designed to have a cardboard cut-out like feel to it and it even comes with janky animations that suit it perfectly. The characters are all beautifully drawn with a great deal of detail and environments are equally well designed to give a multi-layered effect where there is usually always something going on to catch the eye. As for the audio the soundtrack is very upbeat and sets the comical tone of the game and it features some great voice acting that really pulls the whole thing together.
Zombie Vikings is a solid brawler but it‘s a game that’s more style over substance. The amusingly over the top plot can is good fun and while playing single player it can be key to pulling you through some of the repetition. The lack of variety and frustrating little glitches unfortunately give the game an unfinished feel but with a good group of friends it can still be good for a laugh.
This review is based off a review code of Zombie Vikings provided by Zoink Games.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.