- Lost Vikings, The
- Norse by Norsewest: The Return of the Lost Vikings
Not too long after the release of the original Lost Vikings, Blizzard had made it big with games like Warcraft, one of the RTSes that would go on to shape the fledgling genre, and Diablo. So much so, that the box for the SNES version of this game specifically says it was by the guys who did Warcraft. Surprisingly, though, even with all that success, they would go on to make one more Lost Vikings game before focusing on the PC market entirely. The SNES version was released extremely late in the console’s lifespan, probably explaining why an enhanced version was made for the current consoles of the time. Besides the name change, they’re more or less the same game with some visual enhancements.
After the events of the first game, Olaf, Erik, and Baleog went on to resume their usual Viking lives. While they’re out on a fishing trip, however, the evil Tomator once again brings them aboard his spaceship. His ship suffers a sudden power failure, and the Vikings steal some gadgets from one of Tomator’s robots and make for the nearest transporter. Once again, they have to make their way through 31 levels across time and space to make their way home.
The basic gameplay concept is the same as the first game. You have three characters, and it’s your goal to bring them all to the end of the level. Lose any of them, and you’ll have to do the level again. To aid you in this task, you can use and combine your characters’ abilities in different ways to get through each obstacle. Everything works pretty much the same way it did in the first game, although there are a few new things.
All the Vikings have new gear, and with it, new moves to go along with all their old ones. Erik can double jump to reach high places and smash blocks above him. He can also swim underwater, which is especially useful since the other Vikings still can’t. Baleog traded in his bow and arrow for a bionic arm, which he can use to hit enemies and pick up things from long range. To make the homage complete, he can even swing across gaps, although only from certain swing points, sadly. Olaf can shrink himself to fit through tiny passages, and, well, to put it bluntly, fart to give himself a boost while gliding and to bust blocks below him.
Much like the original game, there’s five different worlds, each split into a number of levels. You go from Transylvania, to a pirate ship, eventually ending the game in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where you get into another fight with Tomator. Sadly, however, there are more levels made out of candy. There’s a few new level gimmicks involved as well, like ropes your characters can climb hand over hand across or pull themselves up onto.
The other major addition are two new characters, Fang the Werewolf and Scorch the Dragon. You’ll never have more than three characters in your party at the time, but in each level, you may have some of your characters swapped out, or end up having less than three. Fang can attack at short range with his claws, and he has Erik’s jump. Unlike Erik, he can perform a very Mega Man X-esque wall jump. Scorch can fly upwards, although he gets tired quickly, and he can glide down from high places safely. He can also shoot long range fireballs.
The new moves and the new characters are nice, but something about them feels a little lacking in creativity. They can both jump, for one thing, and instead of having some new power, they just attack. Not that their attacks aren’t useful, it just would have been nice to see something a little more innovative. The new powers on the Vikings are nice, though, even though they all feel so much more specific in their use than the old ones did. It all feels very “see this thing, use this Viking”. Not that the first game didn’t do it, but here it feels a little more blatant about it.
There’s still a ton of dialogue, and the game still never takes itself anywhere close to seriously. The post-death conversations are still there, with lines like one of the characters complaining about how sequels are cheap ways for video game companies to make money when they’re out of ideas. The irony is smoldering.
There’s actually a way to suck so hard that the game takes pity on you and gives all your characters whole new powers. The first level of the game is more or less a straight line, with no enemies or hazards. However, there IS one way to kill off a Viking in it, and if you find it, the game will grant all your characters new powers. Erik will now be able to throw fireballs out of his hands, Street Fighter style. Baleog can hit enemies with a forward leap as well as going into a slashing frenzy. Olaf can turn into a skull, which kills the nearest enemy. Fang steals another Street Fightermove by electrifying himself, hurting all enemies near him, and Scorch gets infinite flying time. If that weren’t enough, you unlock a level skip feature. It’s basically a cheat mode with a really obtuse way to unlock it, but it’s still pretty awesome.
The Super Nintendo version of the game is pretty decent, and the art style is closer to the first game. The music, although the instrumentation is a little fancier, has the same style as the first game, although, sadly, it’s missing the Matt Furniss-ness of the Genesis version.
Norse by Norsewest, the version made for the CD systems, is more of a remake than a straight port. It has all the same levels and features as the SNES version. The graphics and sound, however, are completely different, and not always in a good way. Since old-fashioned spritework probably wouldn’t have flown on Sony’s console, everything is now pre-rendered. This looks alright for the stages themselves, but the characters themselves are done in a super-deformed style. It looks especially bad up close, like in the new FMV cutscenes, where the Vikings end up looking more like Muppets than human beings.
On the plus side, all the dialogue is now voice acted, and they got together a pretty all-star cast for the game. Among the voice cast are Robert Paulsen, Jeff Bennett, Frank Welker, Tress MacNeille, and Jim Cummings, who, surprising nobody, voices the bad guy. He also voices the tutorial messages, in the smuggest sounding voice you’ll probably hear anybody give a tutorial in. If you’ve watched pretty much any cartoon at all in the ’90s, you’ll recognize at least of them from their first line, and it really helps a lot towards the whole cartoon vibe. The music is also entirely different from the SNES version, or either of the two games entirely.
The biggest issue is that it feels like they barely did anything at all to do anything with the CD format. Sure, the voice acting is nice, but there’s nothing you haven’t seen in the SNES version. The game doesn’t even save to a memory card, something which was downright criminal for a game made in 1997. There’s no new levels, characters, or anything of the sort. It’s too bad, it would have been nice to see a new world with the extra disc space. As for which version you should go for, is a matter of personal opinion. The Super Nintendo version definitely looks better, but you might prefer having the voice acting of the CD version. All the CD versions are more or less identical, although if you play the DOS version, you’re really going to want some sort of gamepad. Sadly, all the CD versions are missing the secret powers completely, so if you try to pull off that trick, nothing will end up happening.
The sequel isn’t a bad game at all compared to its predecessor, but the problem is that the concept just doesn’t feel as fresh as it did in the first game. They try to put in some new ideas, to be fair, but they all feel like remixes of the old ones. Still, if you enjoyed the first game enough that you want more of it, you’ll probably end up liking it.
Besides the two Lost Vikings games, Olaf also makes an appearance in one of Blizzard’s other early games, Rock N’ Roll Racing. He’s a secret character that can be unlocked and played with using a cheat code, and he’s one of the best racers in the game.
After the second game, Blizzard would end up moving onto the PC market, leaving the Vikings behind besides the one subpart port for the Game Boy Advance. They haven’t forgotten them completely, with Olaf, Baleog (mispelled Baelog), and Erik showing up as cameos in World of Warcraft, and there’s a hidden arcade game in StarCraft II called The Lost Viking. Sadly, it’s just a simple shoot-em-up that has nothing to do with the actual characters.
HG101 Blog The Making of The Lost Vikings.