Developer: Clever Beans
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Recently, my hometown hosted a month-long, city-wide cultural festival known as the Preston Guild. On the night of the finale, after an electric performance from awesome Anglo-French percussion/firework fusion bonanza, Les Commandos Percu, I unwittingly walked into one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.
As a local amongst a 150,000 strong crowd, all desperately trying to find an exit route, I made my way to a lesser-known exit from the regal park, underneath a beautifully constructed Victorian railway bridge. As I edged nearer, I could see that the organisers had erected a 10-foot-high barrier on the path beneath said bridge. Still, I’d got this far; I may as well ask if I can just nip through. A dapper man in a navy blue suit informed me that the barrier was not arbitrarily blocking the path, but was blocking off access to a Cultural Olympiad event called Abandon Normal Devices.
Cheekily, I asked if I could have a quick look, citing my involvement with the Guild’s PR department as a God-given right to gain access. Long story short, he let me in and I ended up partaking in a silent disco with a bunch of men and women in gorilla costumes under an old railway bridge.
The relevance of this outlandish anecdote, you ask? Well, the reason I enjoyed that most ludicrous of nights was because I wasn’t expecting it; I merely chanced upon it with no preconceptions and just enjoyed it. A similar story is how I came across my Eurogamer Expo 2012 game of the show - When Vikings Attack! No dancing gorillas in this one, though.
How do you drum up interest for a lesser known, downloadable title at an expo? Position it next to one of the most played games of the weekend and lure in unsuspecting, bored-of-queueing punters, of course. As we waited for All-Stars Battle Royale, a booth became free. Without looking, we sat down, expecting to play Sony’s flagship beat-em-up, but were treated to an equally fun brawler.
The game is wonderfully simple. Each player controls a group of tiny characters – kind of like in Pikmin – and charges around a plethora of arenas, throwing bits of scenery, big or small, at each other. If you hit an enemy enough times – or just once, particularly hard – you’ll eliminate them from the game. However, if you manage to merely knock them down, they will sprint away from their team and defect to yours. Cowards.
The aim of the game, as you would imagine, is to eliminate all enemy players before time runs out. You control the group with the left stick, pick up and throw items with the square button, and dash/catch enemy items with the X button. It’s true that When Vikings Attack!‘s brilliance is in its simplicity, but it really begins to shine when the stages get busier and more complex, owing much of the fun to the game’s brilliant physics engine. This is the most fun we had at Eurogamer, period.
Something that was blindingly obvious to observers at the Expo was the huge focus on online multiplayer, but When Vikings Attack! reminded us how fun local multiplayer can still be. One player used the PS3 controller and the main screen, whilst their opponent had their own Vita. The game isn’t split-screen, though, so it would work equally well by just using two DualShocks on the big screen. Watching the reactions of players as they wiped out five or six minions at a time was genuinely amusing, and this downloadable title should definitely be on the radars of PS3 and PS Vita owners alike.
When Vikings Attack! will launch before the year’s out.