Review: The Lost Vikings (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we try to work as a team as we play the Sega Genesis game The Lost Vikings. We find out how well this puzzle game plays.

This game was released in 1992. The game was also released on the SNES, but for now, we thought we’d try the Genesis version to see how it plays.

The game follows three vikings, Erik, Balog, and Olaf. These three vikings just want to use their unique abilities to go hunting every day so they can feed their families back at the village. Unfortunately, one fateful evening, a space ship appears above their village and kidnaps all three. It turns out, the evil Tomator is collecting various interesting specimens to build up his zoo. Trapped on board the space ship, the three characters must work together as a team to make their escape and return to their village.

One of the defining features of this game is that, unlike many other games out there, you actually take control of three characters instead of one. This may sound really complex, but you only control each character one at a time.

While most games give the main characters either a limited set of moves or simply every super power imaginable, this game doesn’t function that way. Each character has their own unique skill. Combined, each skill allows players to get through the entire game.

Erik has the agility moves. He can not only run fast, but also jump very high and for very long distances. This is extremely useful for items hanging up in the air or traversing small gaps and pits. In addition to this, Erik can use his helmet to charge at weak walls. The practical effect is that he can bust up small parts of the scenery to allow players to get to where they need to go.

Balog, meanwhile, is all about offence. His main weapon is the sword which can easily allow you to bash various enemies. In addition, Balog carries a bow with unlimited arrows. Not only is this extremely useful for attacking enemies at a safe distance, but also tripping switches at a distance as well. As long as you can see the arrow, you can fire the arrow until it hits a wall.

Finally, there is Olaf. Olaf is almost strictly defence. He carries a massive shield which can be used to block virtually any attack. He can keep his shield in front of him or raise his shield above his head. Either way, if its defence you need, Olaf has it. In addition to this, Olaf has an interesting glide ability. If you raise your shield and walk off a cliff, you can glide harmlessly down and at an angle. This allows Olaf to enter dangerous crevices when the need arises.

Normally, opening cut scenes features boring plot points. In this game, however, it serve as a great demonstration for the basic movements you’ll be using a lot in this game. As mentioned a number of times, each character must work as a team. Either this means use of two characters at a time or all three. There are small stretches where you simply use one character at a time, but this doesn’t happen all that often.

One example is having Olaf walk up to an enemy and let that enemy attack his shield. While the enemy is distracted, Balog can walk in just behind the shield and attach either with the sword or the arrow to take that enemy out. A small “RIP” tombstone will appear for a brief period indicating that the enemy has been successfully dispatches so you can continue on with your journey.

One can spend hours and hours explaining the different character combinations and moves, but the generally gist of it is that there are a lot of combination moves you can pull off in this game to accomplish various goals. Some of these combinations are necessary and not demonstrated by the intro screen, so you’ll have to be prepared to start thinking creatively with your characters.

Along the way, you’ll encounter a number of different enemies. Most enemies will simply be unique to the world they come from. Some enemies are easily dispatched while others will give you an interesting challenge. So, there are platforming elements to consider.

Also along the way are various level features. One level feature is the teleport. As you can imagine, teleporters instantly transfer you from one part of the level to another. One thing to keep in mind is that there are a few teleporters that are a one way trip.

Switches help you manipulate various features in the level. Sometimes, they activate small objects while others open up holes in the floor. Most, however, activate doors. Some switches simply force you go over to them and press them while others may require a quick little arrow to manipulate.

In addition to this are bubbles and elevators. Elevators allow characters to move up and down floors with the use of the up and down arrows. They can transport any number of your characters at a time. Bubbles, meanwhile, only travel up and eventually pop. So timing can be essential with these. There are a few elevators that also only travel in one direction as well, but they aren’t all that common in the game.

A few other notable features are ladders and trees which allow you to climb. Fans can blow you in various directions, and crushers can, well, crush you if you aren’t careful.

Also along the way are items. One such item is food. You can pick up various fruit and small bits of meat. This allows you to replenish your characters health by one dot for a maximum of three. Meanwhile, the large steak will grant a character full health.

Bombs, meanwhile, will destroy objects, enemies, or weak floors. More often then not, they are meant to destroy various objects to allow you to get to the next area. Just drop them and run away before they blow.

There is also the four arrow object. This is basically a smart bomb. If you use it, the screen will briefly light up and destroy every enemy on screen.

The shield object adds a blue dot to the end of your health. This is good for taking a single hit without incurring additional damage.

Fire arrows will allow your to light Balogs arrows for the entire duration of a level. These arrows can destroy objects, kill tougher enemies in a single blow, or kill otherwise indestructible enemies.

Probably the bane of a lot of players existence are the keys. Throughout most levels, there are locks with three different colours: red, blue, and yellow. As you can imagine, each lock has a key with the corresponding colour. Find the key, collect it, and use it at the lock to open locked doors. There is the odd level here and there that actually changes things up and requires you to find other objects that serve as keys, but for the most part, it’s the three colour keys that you need. Do note that there is at least one level that has more than one set of each coloured keys and doors, so beware that levels do get pretty complex after a while.

One thing about the inventory system is that you can actually hand items from one viking to another. You are required to stand near another viking to do so, but you are able to hand off items from one viking to another. This can prove to be a critical feature somewhere in the game. Also, you can trash items with the trash can item in the menu screen. This is because you can hold a maximum of four items for each viking. If you max out your inventory, you simply won’t collect anything else.

The goal for each level is to reach the exit. As long as you get all three characters to the exit, you’ll beat the level and move to the next. There are a few exceptions to this rule, though. On occasion, the exit will actually be a time travelling door. This door will indicate the end of a particular world. Enter the door and you’ll transport yourself to the next world.

One thing I do like about this game is the fact that it takes a fairly novel approach to puzzle solving. The use of three characters that you toggle between does make you, as a player, think more. Not only do you have to consider the skills of each character and act accordingly, but you also have to think about where you plan on “parking” your character so that they won’t take damage. This can be a critical decision in certain parts of the game.

This, also, can be a critical weakness in the game. At times, micro-managing three different characters can also make for some clunky game play. The game requires you to make some quick changes in the middle of the action from time to time. A badly timed switch or a switch from one character to another can ruin your whole run through a level. So, there are moments when managing the three characters (and even their inventories) can be frustrating.

On a more positive note, the puzzles presented to players is surprisingly expandable. You’d think puzzles would get old and stale after a dozen or so levels, but this game has a way of keeping the puzzles interesting from beginning to end. Sometimes, it’s just manipulating some order of events throughout the entire level. In other instances, it is manipulating small amount of in-game physics to clear a level. This game has a way of keeping you on your toes.

A pitfall, however, is dying in this game. While it sounds great that the game pretty much grants unlimited lives, the problem is that this can soak up a lot of time retracing steps. You might find yourself completing a large level with carefully timed jumps and great skill. Miss that last step and fall on some spikes and you have to completely re-do the whole level. There are no checkpoints in this game (save for the start of a level) and that can make gameplay rather frustrating at times.

One final note is the fact that there is precious little actually expanding gameplay. Chances are, most levels will be completed one particular way. There may be the odd hidden passage that is optional, but the game is otherwise very linear. Complete the game and replaying the game will be, well, pretty much like the first run only you’ll know how to solve the puzzles more efficiently.

Generally speaking, while this game is not exactly flawless, there is some pretty good quality gameplay to be had here. The length of the game and the variety of puzzles you’ll encounter is actually quite well done. It is unfortunate that the game is mostly good for a single run through to be thoroughly enjoyed, I’d say that single run is still worth the journey. Micromanaging characters and the lack of mid-level checkpoints might be frustrating elements in the game, but the overall journey is still a good one here – especially with that dash of humour thrown in.

The graphics are pretty solid. While the special effects might be a bit on the primitive side, the environments and various characters are quite well drawn. Visually, it is an enjoyable and great experience.

The audio is pretty decent as well. The music is pretty good and the sound effects are pretty solid. So, I would say that the experience is quite positive.

Overall, the limited replay value, micro-managing the characters, and the lack of checkpoints might deter some players from completing the game. Still, there is a lot of great qualities this game has going for it too. The puzzle variety, light humour, and expandable gameplay makes this game worth playing. The graphics are great and the audio is pretty solid too. An overall good game to play.

Furthest point in game: Made it to level 38 out of 42.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 76%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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