I know what your thinking! Nice Bambi reference, right? To tell you the truth, this seemingly out-of-place adjective is the most precise way to describe the feeling I get when I come across a TRULY AWESOME game out of nowhere! What I classify as “truly awesome” may not be the same as others, but it all comes down to one simple idea that I feel we can all relate to: does it invoke a strong emotion?
In regards to Volgarr the Viking, that would be a resounding YES! Released September 13, 2013 by Crazy Viking Studios, Volgarr the Viking is a hardcore, 16-bit 2D platformer that hearkens back to the brutally difficult games of the arcade’s golden age. Black Tiger, Final Fight, Bad Dudes, and now…Volgarr the Viking! This game is exactly what I’ve been waiting for!
The first thing I noticed is that its opening is similar to Altered Beast, in that our titular hero is risen from the dead to do battle by a deity floating in a blood-red sky! Not quite “rise from your grave“, but NO LESS EPIC! By this point, I’m thinking “OK! This is gonna be awesome”, but this was not the end of my “twitter-paintedness”!
I should mention that once you beat a boss, you can walk left and skip a world, but you may not get the best ending! This has not been tested on my end at the time of this writing. Warning delivered. Moving on…
The first level landed me in what appears to be a Mayan-style rainforest. Volgarr starts his adventure next to a blue shield emblazoned with an actual hammer on the front. What happens when you pick it up?
This was the precise moment that I realized I was playing something gritty, unforgiving and oozing with viking manliness! The simple act of picking up this shield prompts Volgarr to launch a flaming spear full speed ahead, taking out EVERY enemy unfortunate enough to be in the line of fire! The best part? This shield is indestructible and allows you to charge up your spears to recreate that epic first throw after getting it, so don’t lose it!
Going further into the level, I discovered that the reptilian enemies scale up the mountain to join the fray in certain areas. Just keep moving and take out everyone in your way, as these guys will endlessly respawn!
Where have I seen this before?
It was then that I was reminded of another punishing arcade game from my childhood: Rastan! To give you a little background, Rastan is an arcade game released in 1987 by Taito, where you play as a barbarian hellbent on killing a dragon. Along the way, you encounter reptilian monsters and mythical creatures, such as harpies and chimeras. If you haven’t yet, check out Rastan! You won’t be disappointed!
By now, I was hooked! I had to keep playing! Volgarr has a variety of attacks at his disposal, such as a downward thrust, a slashing, spinning “double” jump (which also gets you more air mid-jump), a standard frontward slash, and his spears, of course! Spears also serve as platforms when thrown into walls to reach higher areas, or as blockades to stop enemy projectiles coming from above!
So what exactly are you up against here? Enemies are varied and attack in droves, hostile plantlife and wall traps relentlessly spit projectiles, and bosses are ginormous and challenging! How ginormous and challenging?
GOT STOMPED ON MY FIRST TRY!
As of this writing, this is the only boss I’ve gotten to, but I honestly can’t wait to see the rest! Bosses and enemies alike are rendered beautifully and will push you to your limits! At least you have unlimited lives, right? A nod to Ninja Gaiden, perhaps?
Luckily for our hero, he has access to other power-ups besides the epic Hammer Shield. Subsequent power-ups include a helmet and a flame sword, but you can forget about picking those up if you lose the Hammer Shield. You start every level with the Wooden Shield, and if you’re barehanded when you reach the next chest, you WILL get this item! Can I get a “NOOOOOOO!“?
For the audiophiles among us, an excellent score that truly makes you feel like you’re on an epic adventure beautifully complements it all! The music matches the environs perfectly, and disappears exactly when it needs to! I haven’t encountered a flat spot in the ambiance yet, and frankly, I’m not worried that I will. The music truly plays like a labor of love!
Should You Buy This Game?
DAMN STRAIGHT, YOU SHOULD! With beautiful visuals, ambient music and brutal difficulty, I’d recommend this game to anyone who: 1) remembers going to the arcade, getting stomped, and having a blast doing it, and 2) enjoys platformers! For me, getting better at an insanely challenging game is a rich, rewarding experience that simply can’t be recreated in the newest iteration of Angry Birds or some other brainless tripe. There’s no comparison!
Considering the fact that it’s available on about every conceivable platform (usually for under $10, depending on your location), there’s no reason NOT to check out Volgarr the Viking! I’m giving this one my CLOWNY STAMP OF APPROVAL! TWICE!
Lumpz the Clown OUT!