Also On: PC
Loki has stolen his father Odin's eye and he must be stopped at any cost. Loki's brother, Thor, even makes a cameo. No this isn't the latest Marvel Avengers' storyline; it's Zombie Vikings. Once Loki is on the run with his father's eye, Odin is left with no other option but to reanimate viking corpses to find Loki and return the eye (I'm not totally sure why anyone in his army wasn't good enough to take down Loki). That is pretty much all you need to know in this side scrolling beat 'em up created by Zoink!, of Stick it to the Man fame. The beat 'em up genre is one that is not nearly as popular as it was in console generations past. So I had some hope in this under the radar title to quench an old school urge I haven't had satisfied in some time. Unfortunately Zombie Vikings left me thirsty.
At the start of Zombie Vikings you're given the option of selecting one of four different characters, each with their own special ability and style of attack (my favorite, Seagurd, has an octopus creature in his stomach area which reminded me of Krang from TMNT). You also get to select a power up item (more health, extra damage, etc.) and your weapon which can include a cat on a stick, skunk's tail sword, candy cane sword, dead fish sword and much more. As you can tell with the some of the weapons I listed, this game doesn't take itself very serious and it has a pretty good sense of humor. The jokes sometimes fall flat but for the most part I enjoyed the humor the game offered and it was actually one of my favorite parts of the game. The humor is really featured in the included fully animated, voiced over cut scenes, which is definitely a rarity in side scrolling beat 'em ups.
The game plays like a traditional side scrolling beat 'em up but in the graphical style of something like Paper Mario (2D characters on a 3D plain). Like many successful arcade beat 'em ups of decades past, Zombie Vikings allows up to 4 players. This is achieved through either local co-op or online play. Unfortunately, even with multiple attempts I could not find anyone (outside of staff) to connect with online. This genre of game, I believe, is best when played with others and not being able to play online with others detracted from my overall experience. After I told my friends I needed help stopping Loki, but it wasn't a Marvel game, I didn't have any volunteers to come by. But I did play a bit of the game with my wife. This actually ended up happening out of necessity but more on that later.
I really enjoyed the early levels of Zombie Vikings. That was before I realized every level going forward was going to feature the exact same enemies I have been fighting and my interest started to wain. (I will say that the boss fights were somewhat unique and helped me push through.) I found myself forcing my corpse to get to the end of the game and it just seemed like it would never end. I understand putting in a lot of levels and giving players bang for their buck, but with the amount of repetition in Zombie Vikings it would have been beneficial to shorten the amount of levels a bit.
Then I arrived at Unicorns vs. Butterflies. No this isn't some weird fetish fantasy match up, this is the cause of my high blood pressure and rage. In this level, you compete in a soccer style game where you take a gnome character and have to score goals by throwing him in a giant fish's mouth. Sounds easy enough, and it was in a stage earlier when they introduce you to this mini game and had you play against two enemies. But of course they decided to kick it up a notch and this time the game will consist of your team against four enemy players. The problem lies with what if you are a lonely zombie? One vs. four and first to ten goals wins the match up.
Before I go into my frustration of trying to play one on four, let me first say that ten goals is way too much to play to in a game that is a beat 'em up… this isn't a sports title. The first inclusion of this mini game was more than enough for me. Now for the frustration: I could not beat this level by myself. The gameplay is broken, if by some chance I was able to get past all four of my adversaries, I would throw the gnome at the goal and I would say it had a 20% chance of actually going in. After over half a dozen attempts at this level solo (and scoring maybe four goals at most) I had to call to the bullpen. My wife jumped in to help even the odds, and with her help we were able to claim victory. I would love to see someone beat this stage with a single player because I don't think it can be done. (YouTube video links are currently being accepted.)
Zombie Vikings is listed as a one to four player game and to have a stage that appears to be broken while using a single player is inexcusable to me. In the tradition of beat 'em ups, the game should be quick, accessible and fun. Zombie Vikings is not quick, somewhat accessible and rapidly turns from fun to frustrating. I can't recommend a purchase here unless you have three to four people on standby willing to take down Loki as a team. Even with a full squad of undead at the current price point of $19.99 it's still a questionable purchase. If you want your Beat 'em up thirst quenched, I would stick to a classic like something from the Streets of Rage series or something more modern like Castle Crashers.