What do you get when you cross Stick it to the Man with Castle Crashers? I sincerely doubt anyone would guess Zombie Vikings, but here we are. Borrowing common gameplay elements from beat-em-up side scrollers like Castle Crashers and combining them with the twisted minds over at Zoink Games works out wonderfully in this charming (albeit bizarre) title. In an attempt to quantify the wackiness offered by this game, let’s lightly talk about the story and how it starts. Right away players are introduced to Odin, who is busy forging a new war staff. After receiving a visitor and losing a very important item, Odin decides he should use some water (magic?) and some chanting (also magic?) to raise four Vikings from the dead (Thor was busy). These Vikings are tasked with retrieving what Odin has lost and they begin their adventure.
If that doesn’t sound strange enough, let’s analyze these four just a bit more. First there is SeaGurd, a stout man with a large beard and a tentacle arm… and a squid (octopus?) for a belly. Next up is CawKah, a petite female Viking who is versed in the ways of crows (and ravens) so much so that she has wings that can replace her arms at times. GunBorg is next and the largest of the four, using her inflatable muscles to explode and deal high damage to everyone around her. Finally there is Hedgy, a zombie Viking hedgehog that can speak. To be fair, I’ve never seen anything more unique and was unable to fault the game on originality in anything other than combat style, but we will cover that later. To add to the uniqueness, Zombie Vikings is made to look like it is made up of paper cutouts and is very reminiscent of Stick it to the Man. Add the goofy and often hilarious dialogue of each of the characters and you’ve got yourself a good time so long as you like having fun and have a sense of humor. Despite looking like they are made of paper (and being zombies), our heroes are surprisingly lively.
I did say I had an issue with the combat, however. To put it bluntly, the basic combat can get remarkably boring if players only use the most simple tactics to get through each level. To remedy this, the game offers not only special moves, but also attacks that can only be executed if the correct button is held for a certain amount of time. For example, a player could simply mash X to make Hedgy fly around the battlefield slicing every which way and doing moderate damage. Or they can hold X for just a moment and release to do a spinning attack in place that does higher damage. Or they could even hold X long enough and unleash a flurry of spinning slashes that carries Hedgy all over the place in record time. This can be applied to special attacks (Y button) as well and create a whole new variance that I did not expect from the game upon my initial play session. On top of this, players can use blocks, parries, dodges, dive kicks, and even a throwing system to deal with their enemies. If a player presses B, they will pick up whatever is in front of them, whether it is a random item, projectile, small enemy, or even an ally! Using this system, players can work together to string together crazy combos or reach places they can’t reach on their own.
Players will need to be familiar with all these combat techniques if they want to fight in the game’s Versus Arena. In this optional mode, players will be pit against one another in arenas to determine who is the best. Whether this means a fight to the undeath or a strange twist on soccer is decided by the arena chosen, but is always goof for a laugh when wanting to take a break from the story mode. If fighting one another doesn’t appeal to you, the story mode is completely geared toward cooperative play and is very flexible with character choice. Whether you would like to take the game on solo, with a friend, or with a whole group of four, Zombie Vikings can accommodate with ease. Taking of Zombie Vikings story mode is not a quick and easy task however as there are several levels and most offer more than what is encountered on the first playthrough.
With optional side quests and tons of gold available in many of the levels, players will be teased into replaying stages to find new content and make even more gold. This gold will be used to buy equipment such as new swords and magic runes that can change a character’s speed, health, damage, or defense. Some pieces also offer interesting effects such as higher backstab damage in exchange for lower overall damage. Unfortunately, this equipment feels redundant to buy early on as much of it barely helps and players can expect to unlock more from the next level or two . Either way, playing through the game’s levels is kept interesting with new elements and level types being thrown in once in a while. Throw in some boss fights and most players will be content with the variety offered by the levels alone.
Personally, I could not find a fault in Zombie Vikings besides a bit of repetition but even this can be avoided if the player chooses to make use of all the systems they have available. With co-op available for the story mode and versus from the arena mode, players should always have a mode they can play to fit their needs. Spread throughout all of this is a bizarre and funny world that is fit to keep most coming back just to laugh some more. Filled with interesting levels, comical characters, and several ways to play, Zombie Vikings allows players to have some good old beat-em-up fun.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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