Games like: Rastan, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Battletoads, Magic Sword, Altered Beast
The indie game scene is much like the dawn of video games in history. It’s such a new platform for companies and unknown territory that anyone can dip their toe in and give it a try. Now, this is not the first game from Adult Swim Games, popular branch of Cartoon Network, (Fist Puncher), but anyone new to getting into indie games will see some familiar faces that they probably would not have expected to see. Volgarr the Viking, developed by Crazy Viking Studios and published by Adult Swim, adds to the very small, but growing, hardcore difficulty platforming games in the indie gaming market.
In this day and age there’s really only two different kinds of games: those that you can play to have a good time and those that make you smash your head against the wall and when you finally beat it, it’s an amazing accomplishment in your gaming career. Games like Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins or Battletoads have been designed to separate the men from the boys; the women from the girls. The swamp monsters from the thing that’s in Cloverfield. (Have you seen that movie? Totally crazy.) These types of games are designed end to end to make you rage quit and throw your controller across the room. To put it on your shelf so you and your friends can talk about just how crazy hard it is and then move on to play something like Madden or Mario Kart. No, these games, and Volgarr the Viking included, sit upon a pedestal lined in gold and gems laughing at you from up high as you squander your video game time with those that pale in comparison. Volgarr the Viking demands your respect and if you don’t give it, it’ll take it from you, your girlfriend and forget to put the toilet seat down just for good measure. All hail, Volgarr.
It must have been my lucky day on Steam because Volgarr was another game I would not have heard about if it weren’t for some ten percent off coupon sitting in my inbox. Again, I’m not sure where it came from or if anyone else got one, but I was happy to apply it to a new copy of Volgarr. Install went clean and I was up and running. The game starts off in a windowed mode which is nice. Gives me a chance to make adjustments to the screen resolution or not. Sometimes when I fire a game up it’s to kill time while waiting for friends to contact me online. Having it windowed gives you chance to kill any other programs you might have running so you can get a clean run of Volgarr.
Firing up my Xbox 360 controller, you are presented with no menu, no intro, no nothing. You are asked to rise from your warrior god and move to the right to start your adventure. (Moving to the left will jump you to where you last hit a checkpoint provided you can even make it to a checkpoint. More on this later.) There’s no long drawn out tutorial levels. You do have a few lines of text that float across the screen that gives you a little direction as to how to overcome a few different objectives but that’s it. And let me tell you, it’s a breath of fresh air. I don’t mind tutorial levels in a game to give me a chance to figure out what the hell I’m doing, but there’s a fine line you walk when it becomes handholding or the huge elephant in the room. Then there’s those that give you nothing and there’s some many possibilities that you are kind of lost the entire time dying due to ignorance.
Right when you get into the action, you are immediately presented with a familiar feel: that of a hardcore platformer. Button mashing your controller to swing your sword and watching as your enemy is destroyed in a million different pieces spewing blood everywhere. It’s extremely satisfying to take out one of the lizardmen or a merman. The jumping and platforming aspects feel great, very well polished and let’s face it, it’s fun. You can use the directional pad or the analog stick to move Volgarr around, “A” jumps, “X” will swipe your sword and “B” is set for your spear. The spear is really interesting because it doubles as a ranged weapon and as leverage to get up to a higher level. Tossing it into the wall will let it stick and you can jump on it as a step to jump again. A pretty neat idea. Plus it gives you some great game design to help you figure out the purpose of the spear and not just cram it down your throat. You also have a defensive roll that’s set to your right bumper that I’m not really going to go into because it ends up as being as worthless as the slide in Megaman 3. Only using it because the level design makes you.
Now, no game would be complete without some crazy power ups, right? Volgarr is no stranger to power ups. And much like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, your power ups double as your hit bar. Starting off, you are suited with only a sword and shield. The shield can be used to block attacks from certain enemies depending on the enemy type. Scattered throughout the levels are wooden chests that house your weapons. First you’ll get a new shield that protects better than your wooden one. After that is a blue helmet with horns that looks super sinister. Finally you’ll be entrusted with a flaming blade. With this sword, your attack points jump up one. Enemies that would normally take two or three hits to die now only take one or two.
From here you’ll journey through the jungle, swim through the aquatic and battle skeletons in the graveyard. At the end of each level you’ll face a boss. Most of these bosses are bigger than life and are extremely well adapt from your traditional platforming boss battles. Patterns, patterns and more patterns. Know when to jump when not to jump. And this game is brutal and will make you pay for it every single time. The enemies along aren’t too terribly difficult but knowing what’s coming will better aid you in staying alive. There are a few times where you will get hit simply because you didn’t know an enemy was waiting for you to strike. Is this fair to the gamer? No, but that is the whole idea. Volgarr will make you slam your controller to the ground time and time again. There are multiple paths and different endings for each run and speed runners will find challenge until realizing that the game can be completed in around 30 minutes. For the rest of us “normal” gamers, you won’t. Beat it that is. You won’t. This game is just like Ghosts ‘n Goblins but with a viking feel. Everything about the game is precise and well calculated. It’s just waiting for someone to punish themselves in a try to play through it.
Volgarr the Viking is extremely colorful and bright. The enemies seem to come out of nowhere sometimes. Every sound is extremely detailed. With every swing of your sword it feels real and natural. Satisfying, even, when hearing the body parts of your enemies burst into a blood and bits. Some of the bigger explosions even give your controller a rumble which I think is the first time I’ve experience that with an indie game. The music is very tribal. Lots of drums and strong brass. It creates a very raw atmosphere. A fun atmosphere.
There was only one thing about Volgarr that I disagree with. It’s not the difficulty setting, I love that. If you are being surrounded by enemies, on both sides, Volgarr is a little slow to attack left and right. If you attack to the right then move to look left, he will moonwalk to the left still attacking to the right. Then a split second later he will turn left and attack. I don’t know how many times I’ve been hit due to this issue. I don’t know if it was by design or just something that was overlooked. The game is written to be constantly pushing enemies at you if you stand in one place. Being surrounded will happen more than once especially in areas that have multiple levels where they can rain down towards you. A little annoying, but there’s so much more here to help me overlook a small issue. But it will cause you a few hits from time to time. Let’s face it, the only way you’ll get any good at this game is by playing the same levels over and over again.
Volgarr the Viking is a hardcore arcade action platformer that puts in you in the shoes of a mean looking viking set out to kill everything in his path. Collecting items add to your hit meter much like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Volgarr creates an atmosphere for rage quitting. An extremely fun addition to the likes of Super Meat Boy and Blood of the Werewolf. Only serious gamers need apply. It’s a difficult setting that is well worth the time, effort and broken controllers.
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