Monday, January 06, 2014

Review: Völgarr the Viking (Game)

Do you ever long for the days of 16 and 32 bit systems? How about the tough as nails games that catered to the Genesis, specifically? Well then you're in luck, Völgarr the Viking is a 32-bit retrospective action/adventure platformer that not only looks the part but plays like it too. This game marks the first release for Crazy Viking Studios and it has won various awards since it's release date not long ago. Is this critical acclaim justified, or has Völgarr the Viking defiled the sacred name of the Genesis?

Genre: Retro, Action, Adventure, Indie
Developer: Crazy Viking Studios
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release Date: September 13th, 2013
Play Time: Skill Dependent
Price: $11.99 USD
Platforms: PC

Official Website



                                      











Rating: 9.0/10







Do you ever long for the days of 16 and 32 bit systems? How about the tough as nails games that catered to the Genesis, specifically? Well then you're in luck, Völgarr the Viking is a 32-bit retrospective action/adventure platformer that not only looks the part but plays like it too. This game marks the first release for Crazy Viking Studios and it has won various awards since it's release date not long ago. Is this critical acclaim justified, or has Völgarr the Viking defiled the sacred name of the Genesis?

That box art, wow! That is some epic, surprisingly accurate, extremely nostalgic craft right there; they even got it right down to the red stripes going along the left side. Just one look at this cover and you know that you're in for a Genesis-specific type of retro game. Not only is there legendary box art, but also a full color manual available for download with the game's purchase; this is amazing in itself as so many physical games today come with little to no manual at all, back in the day Genesis had some of the most colorful and artistically designed manuals. Needless to say, Völgarr the Viking is not for the weak willed or easily frustrated. The player assumes the role of Völgarr, a viking warrior who has answered the call of Odin to head into battle against hordes of monsters in ancient Midgard.


Like most classic games of the 1990's era, the story must be uncovered by first reading the manual, which also comes with detailed outlines of each world. We learn that Völgarr had fallen in battle to an immense number of foes while defending his homeland, and that Odin has restored life to him so that he can complete one task; break the seal so that he can slay the wretched dwarf Fáfnir, who was transformed into a poisonous dragon due to his overwhelming greed. After many years of laying dormant with his trove of gold and riches, Fáfnir has begun disrupting Midgard and Odin fears that his rising influence may cause chaos beyond just the earth realm.

The game broods a hellishly tough onslaught of enemies across the span of seven worlds. Each of these worlds includes a boss that boasts their own unique attributes and weak spots. Völgarr's peon adversaries include skeletons, lizard men, fish men, spiders, poisonous plants and more which the player will go up against while dodging traps, pushing against gusts of wind, avoiding falling into spikes, jumping from rope to rope, performing multiple platform jumps and a plethora of other taunting hazards. The designers state there are over forty enemies and traps present, and that is both felt and recognized throughout the lavishly populated worlds. Your greater foes will be screen filling and artfully unparalleled in their construction and each of them create a sense of immensity.


From the very start of the game when Odin commands "Rise, my warrior", the player is filled with a staggering sense of nostalgia. These words and the manner in which they are spoken, as well as the screen position, are immediately reminiscent of Altered Beast; another insanely tough game for the era. The 32-bit graphics are magnificently rendered, and they use hues that convey a sense of morbidity. This grim overtone is brought further to life by the wonderful amounts of blood and gore that are incorporated; each time the player dies they will be greeted with Völgarr's shattered bones and exposed muscles, and each time a rival is hit their life essence spills onto the screen. The backgrounds, foregrounds, platforms, traps and objects that fill each map are thoughtfully designed and implemented; no level is structured or designed the same. Each world comes with its own set of foes, none which reuse the same model with another skin, they are all individually crafted and unique. To further enhance these worlds the game comes accompanied with an orchestrated soundtrack of epic proportions. While the player will find themselves facing the same level time and time again the musical score rarely becomes tedious, and when it does the game is fit to be played to the sounds of metal music from your own personal library.

The controls can be somewhat difficult to master, but there are a modest amount of attacks that Völgarr can perform; his standard attack is swinging his sword, he can also throw spears and charge these spears up to do more damage, when he jumps once he can do a downward stab and when he double-jumps he automatically performs a spin attack. With a little bit of effort and patience on the part of the player these moves can be mastered and formed into combos eventually. The player will also have to learn how to successfully use spears as platforms, use Völgarr's shield to block incoming attacks and projectiles, and dodge roll. Since Völgarr has no life bar the idea here is the same as in Ghosts n' Goblins, in that with each hit a piece of your armor is taken away. Luckily Völgarr is more well dressed than Sir Arthur, but this is also dependent on how many pieces of armor is found by the gamer. The primary armor power-ups consist of a shield, helmet and flame sword, with each hit taken the character loses the most powerful piece that they've acquired until they are shieldless and vulnerable. Further power-ups include Mjölnir, which gives the player the luxury of being hit once without losing any armor pieces and then it destroys all foes on screen. These special types of power-ups are hidden in walls and floors, so keep a keen eye out for them.


The levels increase gradually in difficulty, it will take the player some time to master each stage and progress to the next. The only real down fall to Völgarr the Viking is that there is a concerning lack of checkpoints. The only time you will not find yourself reset to the beginning of a level after losing all of your power-ups is when you advance to the next screen of that world; typically two screens per level, not including the boss screen. If you lose on the boss you are reset to the second screen of the stage.While the lack of checkpoints can be tedious, the game play is surprisingly addictive and fun even after countless deaths. If there were more save points then it would take away some of the difficulty from the game, which is opposite of what the developers were trying to achieve. And like most Genesis games, once you quit the game the next time you load it up you will begin from the very start of the game; while understandable due to the retro nature of the game, this may put a lot of players off. This makes the gamer have no choice other than to master each level if they wish to see more than the first world time and time again. Another concern is how easily the final boss is defeated, but maybe that is a reference to Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.

Völgarr the Viking is an epic platforming adventure that will send any 1990's gamer into a fit of sentimentality for their favorite games from ages long past. The story to the game is defined, the game play and controls feel like that of the ancient Genesis console, the graphics are wonderfully illustrative and the difficulty is one that keeps the player coming back for more rather than becoming exhausting. However, this game will only appeal to a certain market of people and those that prefer to advance in their games quickly will lose interest. For the rest of us there are endless hours of game play ahead to be enjoyed and relived. A must play for the hardcore Genesis loving retro gamer, you can pick Völgarr the Viking up for $11.99 on Steam.

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