Also On: PSN
Developer: Clever Beans/XDev Studios Europe
I really, really wish that I liked When Vikings Attack more than I do. I mean, it tries so hard to be likeable. It's got a cute art style, a nice sense of humour, and gameplay not too far removed from what you'd get in the Katamari or Mutant Blobs series. In theory, it should be right up my alley.
Unfortunately, that's just not the case. When Vikings Attack may not be that far removed from Katamari Forever or Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack in terms of what you're expected to do — you absorb your surroundings (or, in When Vikings Attack's case, people), you get bigger, you keep doing that until you're an enormous blob (or, in this case, mob) — but in terms of execution, the gulf is enormous. Where those games are able to keep things interesting without ever changing anything up too much, When Vikings Attack runs out of steam pretty quickly.
It's hard to put my finger on exactly why this is the case. As I said, it's got a lot going for it. The game looks really nice, with bright colours and a Wallace & Gromit-esque style. The score is great, and bounces along at a jaunty pace. The humour is perfect, with fake PSAs (warning of, obviously, vikings) thrown in that leave no doubt as to the game's British origins.
Which brings me back to the gameplay. I hate to label the game as repetitive, since it's not as if those Katamari games have changed much over the last eight years. But there's really no other way to say it: When Vikings Attack does get repetitive awfully quickly. Every portion of every level basically boils down to "run here, throw stuff until no more vikings show up, run forward to the next area and repeat". Even if there are little tweaks here and there — This section has tubes to throw things through! That bomb makes vikings join your team! And look, two bosses! — you never feel as if you're about to do something new. As a result, it all starts feeling stale pretty quickly, regardless of how aesthetically and aurally pleasing it may be.
And that's the key thing. Fun graphics and a good soundtrack can help make a good game even better. As When Vikings Attack demonstrates, however, no amount of either can cover up a massive lack of content.